A month or so ago, at the regular gathering of the deacons of our fellowship, our conversation centered on addressing a certain leadership issue affecting our congregation. At the present time, other than myself Refuge has only one elder and our discussion that evening focused on how it is we grow that circle? "How do we disciple new or up and coming elders?" was the essence of the question. In the days following our gathering, I thought on that question a lot and then it occurred to me how we "do it" at Refuge at the present time. New leaders - be they deacons, elders or ministry coordinators - are groomed and fashioned by being in relationship with the leadership circle that is presently in place. At Refuge, the Deacons meet monthly to address matters of a practical nature of our fellowship and then later in the month Troy (our elder), the deacons and various individuals who are releasing or overseeing ministry and myself gather together to nurture and pray for one another and the fellowship we are a part of. Both gatherings are necessary. In fact, the "nurture gathering" is more important than the "business" meeting for if relationships are messy it is difficult to do the business of the fellowship. This is "discipleship" Refuge-style: relationship, care, nurture and ministry together be it the weekly worship gathering, the Service of Healing, the weekly gathering of The Focus or any other ministry venture we may be a part of.
In that monthly nurture gathering, more and more of which are held in someone's home, we pray for one another, encourage one another, speak prophetically into each other's life and generally strengthen each other in the work that affects us all. It's in this way that we mentor each other in what it means to walk in the Jesus-way. It's not a linear educational process. It's more "caught" than taught, as it were. I don't usually do any teaching (maybe I should) but in our sharing we usually "consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Heb 10:24) and encourage each other in this walk that he calls us to. It's not didactic. It's not "Me teach. You listen." It's not classroom work but it is a classroom of sorts. And in that circle of individuals we begin to recognize giftings and affirm each other in the pursuit of sharing those giftings so all may be blessed. Over time, love and trust develop and when those two factors are at work, congregational health is generated. Of course, it's not a perfect structure. It has it's shortcomings. But it's the one that we are employing currently to grow and "vet" new leaders.
|Duane with some of his current students|