Many people have commented about how ECO seeks to create an environment that continues to raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are many ways that this environment is encouraged within ECO congregations and presbyteries. One of the ways that I am thrilled to watch unfold among our churches is the hunger to have lay leaders flourish in their various and diverse ministries.
We notice the bar rising in something as simple as changing the nomenclature of “member” to that of “covenant partner.” By using the name covenant partners rather than members, we seek to express that church is not an organization or club in which you pay to join and get resulting benefits. It is instead a mission to which God has called His people to participate in with Him and with one another.
Also, expanded roles for elders and deacons are highly encouraged. Elders and deacons are unleashed to participate in ministry activities such as celebrating the sacraments in micro-expressions of church.
The way in which our ministry initiatives are designed to include elders and other non-ordained leaders is yet another example of flourishing lay leaders. Examples of ministry initiatives include the Becoming a Flourishing Church material as well as the way in which we structure Mission Affinity Groups to focus on the interaction between elders.
In addition, what we recognize is that when we raise the bar for potential lay leader responsibilities, we also need to raise the level of equipping that is given to those who are entrusted with greater responsibilities. There are several ways in which we seek to equip. For example, the Elder Leadership Institute (which has come under the umbrella of ECO) continues to be modified and expanded in order to meet the needs of a multitude of lay leaders. We will be making some more adjustments to ELI for the fall to include more ECO-specific learning to help elders and other staff live into the realities of what it means to have flourishing lay leaders.
One piece that we have been working on (and it has taken a little longer to develop the technical aspects than we had hoped!) was the development of e-courses through Flourish. We have finally worked with our developers to finish the website platform and are excited to be able to launch our first course! The course is called “Theology for Church Leaders,” and was developed by Rev. Dr. Mark Patterson.
Mark is the pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Ventura, CA and part of ECO’s Theology Task Force. He is a seasoned pastor and very gifted in making theology both comprehensible and applicable to lay leaders. We are thankful for his willingness to develop and deploy this important teaching to the larger body.
We are currently planning to develop more courses that will be available to everyone in ECO. Most of these courses will be self-directed in the sense that people can watch the material when they choose, and engage in the supplemental courses if they choose. However, some courses will be professor-led in cases where students might need to have verified the completion of work and receive feedback. An example of this type of teaching would be a polity course in which candidates for ministry would need validation that they have completed the material.
In the future, self-directed courses will have a nominal fee associated, so that we can continue to build new courses and maintain administration of both the courses and the website. Professor-led courses will need to have a higher fee so that professors can be compensated for student interaction and grading. Right now, however, we are offering Theology for Church Officers for free. You may obtain your free account to take the course at www.flourishmovement.org. We do ask for your patience as there may be glitches that occur as we launch this course on the website.
We look forward having you join us on the journey to equip flourishing leaders in and throughout our congregations! We pray that this online teaching platform can be just one of the many ways that God uses us as we seek to flourish as disciples, leaders and churches. I am extremely grateful to be on this journey with you and excited to see where God leads us!