4 Ways to Get Rid of a Bad Elder

When working with a church in conflict, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “How can we get rid of a bad elder (that usually means an elder that doesn’t see things as I do)?  My answer is, ”Have a lot of elder appreciation parties!”

I think that will work — and here is why.  More than three decades ago, I was asked by a friend to step into my office.  This followed a men’s business meeting where I had been rehired after being fired a couple of weeks before.  He said, “Jerrie, I hope you don’t plan to stay here and save this church.  If you do, I think it will hurt you, hurt your family, and hurt this church.”  He then hugged me and said, “I love you like a brother,” with tears streaming down his face.

That hurt my feelings, aroused my anger, and confused me.  I had been devastated by being told that I should resign, been encouraged by being rehired, and now was being told that it would probably be a good idea to move on.

The next morning I reflected on the conversation.  What has John Smith done since he became a member of this congregation?  He has said, “Good sermon; it is evident that you work hard on each Bible class; we would like for you, Gail, and the kids come to our house Thursday night to eat with us.  We want you to know how much we appreciate you.”

My question, “Was John Smith telling the truth when he complimented me, or was he telling me the truth last night when he said it was his opinion that it might be well for me to find another congregation, or was he telling the truth as he saw it in every instance?”.

After thinking on that, I decided he was reporting accurately what he thought and felt on each occasion.  And after reflecting for 38 years, I think he had good advice.

Why did I reluctantly value what he said?  He had complimented, and complimented, and complimented.  Then on a night years later when he delivered a painful message and after I worked through the shock of a different type of comment, I respected what he said.  If he had criticized, condemned, and complained from our first meeting, his suggestion that I might need to move on would have been no different from previous observations.  However, since he had been encouraging and complimentary from our first meeting, I listened and considered his viewpoint.

How do you get rid of a “bad” elder?

1. Appoint good, qualified shepherds.  Don’t be silent if unqualified men are being considered and then criticize them after they are ordained.  The best time to get a divorce is before you get married.

2. Frequently express appreciation to good men who are serving well.  They put in many hours of difficult work.  They are deserving of our respect and appreciation.

3. Plan and participate in times of group expressions of gratitude for their service.  I plan more suggestions in the next blog post, March 3.

4. Then, when a time comes that you need to disagree, confront, or criticize, it will be a contrast to your usual agreement and appreciation.  Talk to him in the way that Jesus and Paul instructs.  Matthew 7:12; Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Timothy 5:19, 20

I think that might help to “get rid of a bad elder.”  At least it worked with a preacher I knew one time.

Next post:  Why and How to Have Elder Appreciation Parties.

What are your suggestions for preventing and/or removing a toxic elder?

What Can Elders Learn from Jesus About Being Shepherds?

Where does an elder, shepherd, go to learn how to do his job well?  There is no better teacher than a good example of someone who has done it well.  There is no better example than Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Sheep in Jesus’ fold, sheep pen, have Jesus for a shepherd.  Sheep in Jesus’ sheep pen have come in the door (John 10:7-10).  They hear voice of the Shepherd (John 10:1-5; Matthew 9:36,37).  But sheep in Jesus’ sheep pen are still sheep:  dependent, dirty, disoriented (see previous post:  Advice from a Preacher, Elder, and an Apostle to Elders). They still need a shepherd, including the shepherds that serve under Jesus as the Chief Shepherd.

The example for this process that shepherds today can imitate—the shepherding model of Jesus found in John 10:1-18.

1. He calls his own sheep by name.  He has to know their names.  That is not done in board meetings deciding on whether to use barbed wire or electric fence to keep the sheep in.

“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3).

2. The sheep know the voice of the shepherd.  He has to be talking to them.  They trust only the Good Shepherd.  This comes by talking and listening to the sheep.

“And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (John 10:4).

3. The shepherd is not a hired hand,  does not run when danger comes.  One of the most devastating things a shepherd can do is run away from the sheep when they are in danger and not even say, “Good-bye.”

“The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (John 10:13).

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New Shepherds Orientation coaching assumes:

1. You are not there.
2. You want to go in that direction.
3. The group cannot grow without individuals in the group growing.

Growth needs to be continual and balanced.

Shepherds are still Christians, pilgrims on a journey.  One does not know everything just because he is asked to serve as a shepherd.  The man who is not willing and ready to grow into a more effective shepherd, should decline the appointment.

Each person will be making growth plans in five areas:
1. Spiritual.
2. Family.
3. Mental.
4. Physical.
5. Financial.

God is interested in all of life.  Wisdom comes from acknowledging God and asking Him for help in every area.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

If I look to God in only one or two areas of life, my “life wheel” will be out of balance and the trip will not be smooth.

In New Shepherds Orientation workshops, we do group sessions.  I also talk with individuals about how you like to learn, suggesting resources to help you grow in all areas of life, and checking with you to celebrate the progress and encourage your continued growth.

In this blog, I plan to write about some of the same topics that we discuss in workshops.

If you would like to know more about New Shepherd Orientation workshops and coaching, send me an email and we’ll set up a time to talk:  jerrie@barberclippings.com .

What comments do you have?
What are some topics that you would like to see discussed?

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