4 Reasons Elders Do the Work of Deacons

4 ways to transition to shepherding

During a gospel meeting, I watched an elder work hard for hours on one of the air conditioners at the building. I asked the preacher if they had a deacon whose ministry was the upkeep of the building.  He said they did. “Why doesn’t the elder let him, encourage him, hold him responsible?”, I asked.  The preacher replied, “It is easier to work with air conditioners than it is to work with people.”[tweetthis]It’s easier to work with air conditioners than it is to work with people.[/tweetthis]

That’s one of the best explanations of the missing of roles in church leadership I’ve heard.

Why do elders often do the work of deacons instead of serving as shepherds?[tweetthis]Why do elders often do the work of deacons instead of serving as shepherds?[/tweetthis]

  1. A misunderstanding of the role of shepherd.  Because of a lack of good role models, many who are in positions of leadership have not seen or thought of an elder being a shepherd.  See previous posts:  How Elders Can Function More as Shepherds than Firefighters and Let Shepherds Shepherd and Deacons Deak .
  2. Elders were often good deacons.  It’s hard to release something you’ve done well and let a novice do less or worse than you did.  So after being ordained as a shepherd, the brother continues to function as a deacon unless he and the other shepherds know better and do better.
  3. They don’t know how to work with people.  Many men have little or no training in dealing with family problems, individual issues, and have no plan to develop a new convert into a mature Christian who grows to become a mentor of others.
  4. Physical, material, quantifiable projects are easier to do, complete, and feel a sense of satisfaction.  If you spend much of your time doing deacons work, you can feel fulfilled that you’ve been busy and exhausted in the Lord’s work.  Working with messy, confused, sinful people is often frustrating.  Favorable results are often years in coming — sometimes never.

It’s good to continue to improve our application of what we learn.  If there continues to be a failure to release the deacon role, it’s because everybody likes it that way.  Some time ago, I suggested to a group of shepherds-elders-still-serving-as-deacons, “The reason you continue to function as deacons while being labeled as shepherds is because at least 7 of the 12 of you like that way. If you didn’t, you would hold each other accountable.”

What can we do to improve?

  1. Realize the transition is difficult.  It’s hard to give up something you enjoy and have done well.
  2. Know that continual training is necessary.  Athletes continue to train.  Doctors continue to practice.  Professionals have continuing education.  Read and discuss books.  Listen to podcasts.  Invite guest resource people.  Practice shepherding regularly.
  3. Talk and pray about the growth process.  Encourage every indication of progress.  Be intentional about doing what God says shepherds are supposed to do.  Have a goal to become more like the Chief Shepherd.  Hold each other accountable.  Evaluate your progress.  Celebrate growth.
  4. Thank God for the grace to do what He wants us to do.  God will enable us to do His will. Thank Him for His generosity.

What have you seen done to encourage elders to be shepherds — not deacons?

5 Email and Text Questions for Shepherds

effectively using opportunities to communicate with 60-80% of your flock

What would you think of a leader who says, “I don’t talk on the telephone.  I get my wife to make a call if I need to get a message that way”?

I heard a few men make those statements 50-60 years ago.

I haven’t heard a man make a statement like that about telephones in decades.  However, I frequently talk with leaders who make similar statements about email and texts.

The fact is, the majority of the people in our congregations and the people we want to reach with the gospel communicate electronically.  If I am going to become “all things to all men,” it may be time to learn to use these powerful tools to the glory of God.

Some questions to consider:

  1. Do you communicate digitally?  If you don’t, when do you plant to learn?
  2. What is you email address?  Is it your wife’s name?  I don’t trust the confidentiality of a message when it’s sent in the name of a spouse instead of the person I am corresponding with.[tweetthis]What is your email address? Is it your wife’s name?[/tweetthis]
  3. Does your leadership group have guidelines about what you will and won’t discuss electronically?  I, personally, won’t do counseling by text or email.  I’ll set up the appointment of time and place, but I won’t write what may easily be misunderstood because of the lack of body language and voice inflection.  I won’t engage in a topic involving actual or perceived conflict for the same reasons.[tweetthis]Does your leadership group have guidelines about what you will and won’t discuss electronically?[/tweetthis]
  4. Do you keep in mind that what you transfer by text or email is potentially available for worldwide distribution?  With the selection of friends’ email addresses or phone numbers and the click of an icon, what I intended to be between another person and me can go to the ends of the world.  It can also be edited to communicate something I never intended to say.
  5. Do you let people know you have received a message so they know they have made contact?  It only takes a few seconds to reply, “Thank you” or “I’ll get back to you shortly (or in a day or two),” and the person doesn’t have to wonder if we connected.  That’s what I want people to do for me.  I try to do the same for those who send me messages.

If you don’t know how to communicate through email and texting, take a class or ask your grandchildren to help you.  You can do that like you learned to ride a bike:  try it and fall down, try it and fall down until you’re riding smoothly and enjoying it.

How do you use email and texting to connect with others to advance the Kingdom of God?