From May 22 – 26, 2019, the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church in the North Caribbean Conference hosted a Church Elder Training and Certification program, at the St. Peters SDA Church on St. Maarten. It was gratifying to welcome more than 75% of the elders from the ministerial zone of Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba.
The 5-day event was enriched by input from several ministries (Ministerial, Youth, Family, Women and Children’s Ministries) and sought to satisfy the requirements of the Every Elder Involved (EEI) initiative spearheaded by the Inter-American Division. Resource personnel included: Pastor Jonas Arrais, Associate Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference (GC); Pastor Josney Rodriguez, Ministerial Secretary, of the Inter-American Division (IAD); Pastor Ammaran Williams, Ministerial Secretary of the Caribbean Union Conference (CARU); Pastor Anthony Hall, Youth Director of the Caribbean Union Conference; Pastor Royston Philbert, Ministerial Secretary of the North Caribbean Conference; and Mrs. Linda Ambrose, Women, Children and Family Ministries Director of the North Caribbean Conference.
The initiative has reached the second of three levels of the training and development program focused on empowering and providing tools to church elders for making disciples of others.
During one of his presentations entitled, Planning an Attractive Service for Visitors, Pastor Arrais highlighted the fact that the church service should be planned around times and features that are more accommodating to most visitors. He suggested that church leadership often simply follow traditions that are not necessarily the most effective. He also shared that solid leadership in the church was very necessary and that pastors should place a strong emphasis on the training of church leaders. Pastor Arrais reminded leaders that, “Jesus is our model and His ministry is outside the church.” His message came at a time when the Adventist Church is facing the challenge of losing too many of its members.
In his presentation entitled, Feed My Sheep, Pastor Rodriguez reminded attendees, “Members are more important than programs. The only reason the structures of the church exist, is to adequately take care of members so that they can, in return, be more efficient in sharing Christ with the world. Elders, after the pastor, are the front line leaders in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As such, focused and regular training is a necessity. If every church elder who assists pastors in shepherding the flock in each congregation could get more involved in making disciples and training active members in discipleship, the Church in Inter-America would grow stronger. We need you to be committed to going for more, for the kingdom. There’s a great challenge to have every member become a disciple of Christ Jesus and transform the thousands of churches in our conferences.”
“It’s about getting the 230 active church elders to preach the Word, nurture members, and motivate the ministries of the church into joining forces for a powerful revival, for the glory of God, and for reaching the community with the gospel,” indicated Pastor Royston Philbert.
A total of 89 elders were certified on Sabbath afternoon May 25, 2019. They represent almost 40% of elders around the NCC who will soon receive their 2018 certification.
Elder Clyde Smith, of the Mount Fortune SDA Church in Anguilla, who works faithfully alongside his pastor in the discipleship ministry, commented, “The certification [training requirements] have helped me grow a closer relationship with God and to be more intentional about testifying inside the church and outside the church as well, which has also improved as I prepare sermons.”
Pastor Ammaran Williams discussed a key component of the event, “This certification program allows for more integral work in the church, highlighting the role of the church elder as the right arm of the pastor. And, training and mentoring young people are important facets of the pastoral leadership of the church.”
Mervin Alexander, a church elder on Saba, shared his joy at being involved in training and developing young people, children, and adults to reach others, for the gospel. Saba has one congregation with 21 members who are preparing to become effective disciples.
As mentee John Landford, of the Cole Bay SDA Church on St. Maarten, stood among those certified, he expressed happiness at the fact that he belongs to such a large group of church elders who are passionate about their responsibility as spiritual leaders. John is one of many young church elders who are being mentored to serve alongside pastors in the discipleship ministry.
Pastor Anthony Hall clarified issues on divorce and remarriage and fielded scores of questions from attendees. Mrs. Linda Ambrose presented the children-safety aspect of the certification program.
Pastor Rodriguez expressed admiration for the commitment of NCC elders and concluded, “Getting every elder involved is about strengthening church elders to better minister in churches, keeping members active in discipleship, preaching the Word of God, and understanding their ministry in reaching out to their communities.