Council Retreat & Guidelines Material

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Fellow servants,

We have just come through a straining situation here that has highlighted our need to address some issues of council communication.  The first area we need to get refocused on is the whole issue of how we communicate concerns or suggestions to ministry leaders (paid or volunteer) in a supportive and empowering way so that we celebrate and nurture their gifts rather than simply analyze how well they are fulfilling a job description. That is more of a whole church culture thing that I am hopeful we as office-bearers will take the lead in.  But the other area we need help with is in how to receive concerns/suggestions from members about others in the congregation in the right manner, and how we should then discuss those concerns properly in council before actually speaking to the person(s) involved.  Issues of confidentiality as well as having proper respect for the unfied voice of council need to be addressed.  Many of us also wonder if anything at council discussions can be open to share with our spouses?

The resolution/reconciliation of the past month has brought us to a great place for tackling some of these topics. Council heartily agreed at our last meeting to have a "Council Retreat" (3-4 hours on Sat. Nov. 20th) where we can hopefully cast a vision for all those involved in leadership.  This will also hopefully provide a template for some introductory guidelines for incoming office-bearers in the future.  My hope is that this will be a positive and fun time for us to deepen our relationships as well as build on the general respect we have for one another.  But as the "new pastor" here I am especially mindful of my lack of experience and credibility in developing any material for this.  So, I'm wondering if any of you have "been there and done that" in some way, or if there are resources you can point me to.  Isn't there a "Council 101" class to complement the Roger's Rules of Order and the church order?  It would sure be great to get some useful feedback in enough time to plan well for our first Council Retreat together. And maybe we should all be planning similar retreats to avoid the conflicts that happen when we do not communicate as we should on a council level

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I recommend Effective Leadership in the Church from Sustaining Pastoral Excellence - see the appendix for good suggestions on using the material in a retreat setting.  3-4 hours is probably not sufficient time to work through the material but you could get a good start and carry it forward at future meetings.

Thanks Jim, I even have a copy of that resource in my files!  A good place to start I agree.  Have you ever hosted or led any such discussion?  What type of material for guidelines do you cover with incoming council members?  Thanks again for getting me started. Reese

As a pastoral intern at Geneva Campus Church in Madison, WI I led a council retreat using Effective Leadership in the Church.  The retreat was a Friday evening and all-day Saturday event -- three 2-3 hour sessions based on the material in the booklet.  At that church (where I also served as an elder and ministry leader over several years) we had an annual Council retreat, which included both ordained and non-ordained leaders in the church.  Another year we used StrengthFinders materials.  There was always plenty of time devoted to worship and prayer, usually with communion at some point -- I think this is vital and I will emphasize these things even more as I lead leadership retreats in the future.  Though there are lots of practical activities that can be accomplished on these kinds of retreats, the most important thing (it seems to me) is the spiritual renewal of the leadership.