Church is not something we sit back and watch; it is something in which we all have a part to play. So as members of a local church we are all called to join in and take responsibility for our life together. However, we also need decision-making structures and a clear sense of where overall responsibility lies.
Each church within the Emmanuel Bristol family has a small team of elders who, under God, oversee the life of their local church. Biblical leadership is servant-hearted, so while elders have authority to direct the life of a church (Hebrews 13:17), God calls elders not to lord it over others, but to care for His sheep and build them up in Christ (1 Peter 5:2-3).
The elders don’t lead in isolation. Each of the Emmanuel Bristol churches has their own Leadership Team, made up of members of the church who either lead a small group or head up another key area of ministry. It works a bit like a church council. The members of the Leadership Team serve as “guardians of unity.” As those who are on the frontline of serving the church, their wisdom and insight is invaluable in representing the concerns of the wider church to the elders and, in turn, they have a key role in communicating the thinking and planning of the elders to the wider church. Our longing is that the Leadership Team would guard against any sort of gap growing between the Elders and the wider church family and that their work would mean that rather than a sense of “us” and “them” we would have a strong sense of “we.”
Because we are a family of churches working together, representatives from each team of elders meet together to form the Steering Team. The Steering Team meets monthly to discuss issues that affect the whole of the Emmanuel Bristol family and to ensure that our churches are working together well by pooling resources, sharing ideas and supporting other.
Board of Trustees
The Steering Team is accountable to the trustees who are legally responsible for ensuring that whatever the Steering Team does is financially prudent and legally compliant. The trustees are made up of a mix of elders, members of the congregation and those are from beyond Emmanuel – who therefore bring a broader wisdom and a more objective perspective to the table.
The Bishop of Bristol
Emmanuel Bristol is part of the Church of England but sits outside the usual parish structures. We are licensed to be a “Bishop’s Mission Order” which is a new model for mission and means we have permission to grow a network of congregations within the diocese of Bristol. As is the case for other churches in the diocese, we are supported by and accountable to the Bishop of Bristol and express our commitment to the Church of England by paying annual voluntary donations, participating in diocesan and deanery structures – and by getting involved in the wider life of the denomination (both locally and nationally.)