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These studies on Eldership in the Uniting Church in Australia were developed to fulfil a need for foundational training of elders in understanding their role in terms of the mission to which Christ has committed his people.
The initial five sessions were prepared and presented to the Elders of the Maroochy Parish in 1990. These have now been revised in the light of the new Uniting Church structure and Regulations which came into effect in 1999. The intention of the 1997 Assembly in these new provisions was that Elders be more closely and clearly identified with spiritual oversight of the mission of local congregations. Reportedly, the apparent and unfortunate effect of the changes has been a weakening of Elders' role in many congregations.
The new Regulations in fact intend Elders to have a strong role. Strikingly, the initial statement is that "The ministry of Elder is one of spiritual oversight, and may also be exercised in..." Within the Church Council, elders have "a particular responsibility to ensure that matters of spiritual oversight, pastoral care and the mission of the Church have priority in the work of the Church Council" (3.1.10). While there is now only one local Church Council, I believe it is imperative for the fulfilment of the Elders' responsibilities that they meet regularly (call it an "Elders' Fellowship" if you like). They are not a "Council" in the determinative sense, policy decisions needing endorsement by the Church Council.
The original five sessions were prepared under the old Regulations for eldership. The sessions still highlight those responsibilities of the Church Council for which the "particular responsibility" of Elders is required. A copy of the new Regulations as they apply to the roles of both Elders and Church Council are provided to be in the hands of all elders from the first of these sessions. Further sessions are planned to continue the theme of Eldership in the light of Mission.
The session material is presented here in PDF format. (Note PDF - Portable Document File - format can be read with an Adobe Acrobat Reader, available FREE from Adobe).

Regulations [PDF 22K] relating to Elders (3.1.10a) and Duties and Responsibilities of the Church Council (3.1.13).
1. Mission and Eldership [PDF 45K] "The elders in fact were the key spiritual leaders in the local area in ensuring the spiritual health and vital witness of the local Body of Christ."
2. Worship [PDF 39K] "In our first study we noted that the elders (in the early Church) in fact were the key spiritual leaders in the local area in ensuring the spiritual health and vital witness of the local Body of Christ. So, of course, part of our role is to help ensure that our worship together meaningfully honours God and leads into lives of obedience to him in the power of his Spirit."
3. The Going and Coming of the Church [PDF 31K] "All groups in the congregation (and in any wider link/cluster) need to be encouraged and challenged to consider their purpose and goals in the light of the Great Commission... We need to be thinking, not just about the valid roles that groups and activities may exercise within the mission of the total Body. But - is the mission being fulfilled?"
4. Evangelising [PDF 31K] "Evangelism should not be incidental or accidental, but intentional. Sometimes we hear it said that all that we do is evangelism. But this becomes an excuse for not intentionally sharing the good news outside the life of the congregation!"
5. Conversion and New Birth [PDF 42K] "There are two important aspects to consider here - the human response to the Good News that we call conversion and the divine infusion of life that we call the new birth."
6. Nurturing [PDF 23K] "Eternal life / salvation... is a relationship made possible by the redemptive grace of God in Jesus Christ. Growing in grace is growing in this new relationship. Nurturing is providing the faith environment in which this growth can occur."
7. Equipping [PDF 24K] "The Spirit of God endows believers with gifts for ministry. Our role is to help people to recognise their gifts, to enable them to understand the life and mission of the whole Body and to provide opportunities to understand their gifts and to grow in exercising them." Additional resource for this session - Ministry Together [PDF 423K]
8. Serving [PDF 33K] "As a whole Body and as individual Christians, we are called to live as Christ’s servants in this world... As individual Christians, we can believe we are doing our 'serving' through caring institutions, and can fail to recognise the ways in which Christ is calling us to serve others."

This series of studies is also available as a booklet (PDF 260K]
This material is copyright. Permission is given for the printing and use of this material by congregations and individuals. It has been consciously prepared having in mind the needs of the Uniting Church in Australia. Others may wish to adapt the material for their own particular denomination. Notification that you are doing this would be appreciated.
Training for Eldership in the Uniting Church in Australia