Idaho Holds First Elders' Retreat

January 06, 2014 | Eve Rusk

Fifty-two local church elders from almost half of the churches and companies in the Idaho Conference, plus many of their spouses, met at Camp Ida-Haven in McCall for the inaugural Idaho Conference Elders’ Retreat, Nov. 8–10, 2013.

By dinner on Friday evening, 92 people had arrived, enjoyed a delicious meal and started getting acquainted with other elders from across the conference. The atmosphere was relaxed, with an undercurrent of curiosity. Jerry Nickell, Baker City (Ore.) Church head elder, led a worship of music, including old favorite choruses, hymns and a few songs not as widely known. Carl Cosaert from Walla Walla University began his presentation on 1 Timothy based on his study for the New International Bible Commentary. He brought clearer meaning to many passages, on topics relevant to local church elders today.

Patrick Frey, Idaho Conference school superintendent, shared the importance of Adventist Christian education and some of the joys and challenges our schools are facing. John Rogers, Idaho Conference vice president for finance, showed how God has blessed the conference through finances and shared some of the challenges some organizations are meeting.

David Prest Jr., Idaho Conference president, closed the Sabbath with a vespers. He had thought to share a story, then changed his mind. Instead he asked the elders and their spouses to gather into groups of six or eight, mixing with elders from other churches. He posed two questions: “What is the greatest joy in your church?” and “What is the greatest challenge in your church?”

Lively, sometimes intense, discussion followed, as members of each group shared from their hearts. Connections were made, as elders realized that they were not alone in the kinds of challenges and joys that each church encountered. After sharing, each group prayed together.

Douglas and Darla Roe, Camp Ida-Haven ranger and director, shared the blessings of the summer camp season and expressed appreciation for the churches that sponsor their youth at summer camp. Prest, Rogers and Frey gave reports on things happening around the conference and answered questions.

The final event of the evening was a screening of The Blueprint, the third documentary of the Adventist Church by Martin Doblmeier. Those who saw it were treated to a view of Adventist Christian education through his eyes.

The cost to attend this weekend for the elders was only the cost of their time and travel. Part of the purpose was to show appreciation for the work of the elders, who can carry a heavy load in ministry to their local church. With pastors having multiple churches, or large churches only having one pastor, the office of elder is important to the health of a church.

Was it worth their time? One person commented on the evaluation form, “Thank you so much for putting together a program for elders. It’s wonderful to be appreciated for the effort we put into our church’s ministries.”

Another stated, “The topic was so appropriate and useful. I enjoyed interacting and praying with others.”

Allen and Janean Lewis, from the Weiser (Idaho) Church, commented, “We have been left with a lot of food for thought.”

The retreat was energizing for Prest as well, and he has already begun planning for the 2014 retreat.