A group of church elders from the Campeche Mission in the Southeast Mexican Union territory hold their certificates during the celebration event on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. They were part of some 1,350 local church elders who support the ministry of pastors throughout the hundreds of churches and congregations in the region.  More than 35,000 local church elders completed the annual certification program held throughout the. Inter-American Division since 2017. [Photo: Campeche Mission]

February 24, 2022 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter American Division News

“You are called by God and you’re a gift given by God to our church, to continue helping the church grow and mature,” said Inter-American Division President Pastor Elie Henry as he recently commended thousands of local church elders for their dedication and committed service in shepherding the membership throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) year after year.

Pastor Henry was addressing the more than 43,000 church elders taking part during a short certification online session meant to highlight the continuing education to equip, strengthen and train them to be effective leaders in their local church and to offset the limited number of ministers available in the IAD. There are over 23,000 churches and congregations throughout the IAD. Pastors could have five, ten, or as many as 24 congregations to oversee.

Inter-American Division President Pastor Elie Henry commends thousands of committed church elders who serve throughout 23,000 churches and congregations in the territory. [Photo: IAD Screenshot]

Importance of church elders

Local church leaders are the ones who consistently ‘build the body of Christ’ every week during the weekly services, visiting members, teaching the Word of God and ensuring that all members are discipled and growing in Jesus, said Pastor Henry. It’s been like that for nearly 100 years since the Inter-American Division was established in 1922, he said.

More than 35,000 local church elders completed the certification program last year, reported Pastor Josney Rodríguez, ministerial secretary for the church in Inter-America and main organizer of the initiative. The online program, held on Feb. 19, 2022, represented the closing of the annual certification program for church elders throughout the IAD since 2017, and the start of the new certification for 2022, he said.

“During the past five years we have been forming and working with thousands of church elders to closely disciple them, tend to their spiritual needs and motivate them and their families in sharing the love of Jesus in their communities,” said Rodríguez. It’s all about preparing a leadership that can transform, he added.

Pastor Jerry Page, ministerial association secretary of the Adventist world church, encourages church elders to ensure that they are filled with the Holy Spirit every day as they minister in their local congregations. [Photo: IAD Screenshot]

Caring for the members

“The church elder is not someone that ensures that the Sabbath program flows smoothly every week, but one that cares to the membership, analyzes their needs, and goes after each member to ensure that they pursue a close relationship with God,” said Rodríguez.  More than 5,000 churches have registered its members and have been closely following-up with each member and their family throughout the territory so far, reported Rodríguez. Leaders hope to ensure that more than 15,000 congregations will be closely catered to by 2023 throughout the IAD, he added.

The certification program has been about building a discipleship lifestyle, a culture within the church to bring members together in total involvement along with the leadership of each district pastor overseeing the spiritual growth of the church and its evangelistic efforts.

Pastor Josney Rodríguez, ministerial secretary for the church in Inter-America congratulates the East Venezuela Union leadership for certifying 10,574 church elders, the union with the most elders enrolled in the certification program in 2021. [Photo: IAD Screenshot

Recognizing the role of the church elder

So far, it’s been a thorough success to see the commitment of the church elders, pastors, conference/mission and union administrators working together each year in understanding and recognizing the vital role of the church elder in each congregation, according to Rodríguez.

Adventist World Church Ministerial Secretary Pastor Jerry Page challenged church elders to continue to serve like never before.  “I want to challenge you to be filled with the Holy Spirit to be the kind of elder who can really make a difference for eternity in the family, in the church, so we can see the revival in our churches,” said Page.

Eighty percent of Adventist churches around the Adventist world church are led largely by church elders each Sabbath, said Page. “We don’t have enough pastors for every church. What a responsibility and influence you have on these churches.”

Church elders from the Constant Spring Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kingston, Jamaica, pose for a group photo on Feb. 19, 2022. They are among  230 church elders across Jamaica who completed certification training in 2021. [Photo: East Jamaica Conference]

Studying and knowing Jesus

The certification program is important, said Page, “but it’s nothing if we don’t know Jesus and deepen our study and get to know Him,” he said. “Take time with God and ask how you can deal with circumstances in the church and broken relationships in the family or in the church, so that the church can be united in the image of God.”

Pray to have the mind of God, Pastor Page encouraged elders. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit to do God’s work.”

Union administrators spoke briefly during the online event to report on church elders being certified in their territory, outstanding elders who have reached the most baptisms in 2021, and exemplary churches that are closely nurturing and discipling their members across Inter-America.

Church Elder Mercedez Espinal of the Bella Vista Adventist Church in Azua Centro in the South Dominican Mission, shows off her certificate during the special event on Feb. 19, 2022.[Photo: South Dominican Conference]

The event also marked the start of the next level of certification this year with training under the IAD leadership as well as union leadership, he explained. This year the spouses of the elders join in the certification program—an added part that seeks to strengthen the church elder’s family in their dedicated service every week.

“We’re looking to continue to provide elders and their spouses with new skills so they can be prepared and equipped to continue teaching, ministering, preaching and administrating alongside pastors as they adapt to the challenges the church faces today,” Rodríguez said.

Church elders and their spouses from the Central Choco district in the Quipdó City in the Southwest Colombian Conference, show off their certificates after completing the training program. Some 1,200 church elders across the North Colombia Union completed certification in 2021. [Photo: Southwest Colombian Conference]

To learn more about Inter-America’s Every Elder Involved certification program, visit everyelderinvolved.com

To view the Inter-America’s online elder certification program of Feb. 19, 2022:

In English, Click HERE

In Spanish, Click HERE

In French, Click HERE

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