Dear Presbytery of Western Colorado,
Over a year ago, our Session began a process of self-examination. One of the driving questions our elders felt needed to be answered was this one: Is an elder’s primary role to attend Session meetings, be a team moderator, and conduct the church’s business? After much prayer and discernment, they concluded that while those things are certainly important, their primary role as church elders must be spiritual leadership. To that end, they agreed to meet once a month, not in Session, but over lunch in a local restaurant (at their own expense, no less!) to begin a lengthy and soul searching process of defining what spiritual leadership should look like not just to themselves but to our congregation, guests, and the world around us.
For these luncheon meetings, the only ground rule was this: no discussion of church business. As they shared in this time of guided discussion here’s what happened:
• They began to understand each other as vulnerable people, as learning and yearning Christians, not just officers who make decisions, set budgets, and cast votes on various issues, i.e., “managers of the church.”
• They enjoyed a new sense of collaboration on things that truly matter. They are learning “to make the main thing the main thing.”
• They learned how good it is to enjoy each other’s company away from the church, to break bread, to socialize, to laugh , to brainstorm, to risk, and to think outside the Session box.
• Ultimately, their thoughts began to crystallize into a set of leadership principles, behaviors, and attitudes around how they need to interact with each other, our congregation, and all who visit our church. They learned that Spiritual leadership is just as much about the way you do things as it is about what you do. They call these principles The Elders’ Way.
Recently our elders stood together before the congregation to present The Elders’ Way by reading the principles one at a time. In the near future the elder’s will be offering a discussion-based Sunday school class on how they arrived at the content and wording of some of these statements. This act of transparency lends substance and commitment to what this document represents, and we are proud to share it with you. (Incidentally, two framed copies are also hanging in our church, one in a main hallway and one in our fellowship hall).
First Presbyterian Church of Durango has seen over a one hundred and twenty five year history its share of turbulent times, and we thank God for the renewed energy, vision, and discernment that inspire what we do to fulfill our current Mission: Know Jesus. Live in the Spirit. Join in the Father’s work. Thus, we want to share with you The Elders’ Way, and should you find it of interest for your own church’s leadership, we would be delighted to share more about our journey.
Rev. Beau Smith & the Elders of First Presbyterian Church Durango
The Elders’ Way
First Presbyterian Church of Durango
Through collaboration, meditation, and prayer, Session embraces the following principles to guide our elders’ leadership, behavior, and attitudes in what we do with each other, our congregation, and all who visit our church, which we see as a sanctuary for spiritual discovery, renewal, and growth.
In all that we do we seek first and foremost to follow Christ, to be grounded in the way of Christ, to work toward Christ’s love, peace, and joy in our church and in the world.
WE ARE OPEN AND HONEST ABOUT OUR MISTAKES AND THE MISTAKES OF OTHERS.
WE CELEBRATE THE POSITIVE VALUE OF OUR MISTAKES BY FAILING FORWARD, NOT WITHDRAWING.
WE VALUE DISCERNMENT LEADING TO CONSIDERED AND THOUGHTFUL DECISIONS, AND WE GRANT EACH OTHER THE TIME MAKE SUCH DECISIONS.
WE REMAIN POSITIVE, CONTRIBUTING ELDERS WHEN WE DISAGREE. WE ARE UNITED OUTSIDE THE MEETING ROOM.
WE ACTIVELY SEEK DIALOGUE WITH CHURCH MEMBERS, GUESTS, AND VISITORS. WE WANT TO LISTEN, NOT JUST HEAR.
THE GROUP (SESSION) MAKES IT SAFE FOR AN ELDER TO EXPRESS PAIN.
WE AREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR SAVING OUR CHURCH. GOD WILL DO THAT.
WE ACT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF OUR FAITH COMMUNITY, NOT PERSONAL AGENDAS.
AS LEADERS, WE ANTICIPATE ANXIETY AND TEACH FROM IT.
WE LEAD THE NEED. WE COMMIT TO SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP AS OUR FIRST CALLING.
WE ARE OPEN AND TRANSPARENT WHILE RECOGNIZING THAT CONFIDENTIALITY IS AN ELDER’S SACRED TRUST.
WE LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS, NOT ALLIES.
IN ALL WE DO AS ELDERS, WE PRACTICE THE 4C’s: COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION, COORDINATION, COOPERATION.
WE USE OUR IMAGINATION TO FIND CREATIVE, FAITH-BASED APPROACHES AND SOLUTIONS.