Tony Houghton on his role as a Church Elder


“I just wanted to tell you, Phil, that I am having a really great day,” Our Pastor laughed at the content of my brief phone call. He knew my common observation amongst the leadership team of our church that nobody calls you up to tell you good news: we are always responding to the struggles and difficulties that beset a congregation, as they request support. Most churches note that 20% of the members seem exercised by 80% of the problems. It’s the silent majority that we should watch out for. That’s why I take care to engage with as many as possible over coffee after the Sunday services.

“There is no way that I, my fellow Elder or Pastor Phil can visit you all in your own homes; that’s why we need to share after church services. That is the benefit, too, of coming together in small groups, midweek,” is my assertion from time to time.

The Bible uses the word, “Elder” for the small team of leaders with responsibility for the spiritual care of a church. It amuses me that the Spanish and French word used to describe the same is “Ancient”. Not an especially flattering ascription for a fifty-year-old: my age when I started in the role 15 years ago! Nevertheless, there is a presumption that you have travelled a few corners and hills in the journey of life and can impart wisdom into challenging personal circumstances of others. Oh, and that you know the Bible well and its application.

Keen to support and encourage activities of the church for many years, on occasions I have done the story slot in our Mothers and Toddlers group. On occasions, I have moved from that to a work meeting later that day or the next morning, I usually announced:

“Excuse me if you find my presentation rather simple in its style: yesterday morning I was giving a talk to 20 or so 2-3-year-olds and I may still be in that mode.”

“Don’t worry, Tony, that’s probably the most sophisticated level we can manage to absorb this morning!” the leader of the business group observed.

I got to thinking early on how I could also communicate to all the mums, grandparents and carers sitting around listening to the same story. I got the idea to prepare a handout based on the same Bible passage with some application to being a Mum. “This is your version of the story in a slightly more adult style for you to take home and read.”

Since children spend, maybe, just a year or so attending before going on to nursery or school; over 12 years of helping out, I have encountered many Mums. They can remember me but there is no way that I can recall all of them (25 or so a week). So around our town, I tend to say hello to anybody pushing a buggy, just in case I might have met them! But I occasionally get odd looks.

As Elder in a church, I preach and lead services from time to time, prepare Bible study series and lead a small group and hold a service in our local Day Care Centre for the elderly (or ancient!) once a month. It’s a great privilege to nurture, challenge and encourage: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (Paul’s second letter to Timothy chapter 3 v16).

So go on, have a great day – and tell somebody you’re having one!

Tony Houghton’s book Rabbits, Risk & Reward is available now. Read about Tony’s life in business and faith and his battle to make these two important parts of his life coexist. Rabbits… is available here.