Shepherds, What Are Your Rules?

are they unconscious, unspoken, but understood?

This is the way we’ve always done it. We don’t do it that way around here.”

During an eldership funeral (topic for another blog post), I asked the elders, “Will you let new elders be a part of the team? Or will they be junior elders? Would you do anything differently if they suggested it or will they have to do everything like you do it now?”

The answer was, “That depends on what they want to do. There are some things we would be willing to change. There are some things we definitely would not change.”

My next question, “Will you tell them ahead of time or surprise them when they are appointed and come to the first meeting?”

The elders drafted two documents:

  1. Standard Operating Procedures Negotiable Items.
  2. Standard Operating Procedures Non-negotiable Items.

Before men were added to the eldership, the present group shared with the men considering and being considered the way they worked together. If there were matters of concern, they could discuss those matters before accepting the responsibility.

Families, groups, elderships have rules. They are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. When examined, they are often contradictory. If they haven’t been discussed, negotiated, recorded, and reviewed regularly, these unconscious rules will be the basis of conflict.

Each shepherd comes from a different family. He has been influenced by his family, education, and experience of how things should be done. Each shepherd has thoughts of what should and shouldn’t be done and how best to do it. Unless they discuss the way this group is going to operate, they will have conflict because of different backgrounds and views. Or they can let one person tell them how to function and agree with him. That will reduce conflict but it will also defeat the concept of the plurality of elders.

It is my observation that time spent in discussing what the Bible teaches about the role of shepherds and overseers and how this group will apply those principles is time well invested. It is good to develop guidelines to keep each person on task. This can be a basis for holding each other accountable to do the work God has called shepherds and overseers to do.

How have you seen shepherds agree on how to function? What are good agreements for elders to consider?

10 Ways to Improve Decisions

which comes first: deciding or discussing?

I have an idea and I think we ought to do it.  Let me tell you where I saw it work.  Here are reasons I think we should do it here…Brother Famous Preacher and Brother Dedicated Elder in another congregation endorse this wholeheartedly.  I’ve already talked with a couple of you and I know you think it is good for us.  Does everyone agree I should announce this Sunday?”

Where was the discussion of the proposed idea?

Could it have been improved if others had questioned and contributed?

Could it and should it have been evaluated and ignored if the group had sufficient input?

I’ve observed in some leadership groups, the amount and speed of decisions made depend on the forcefulness of the personality of the person leading the meeting.

Perhaps it would be helpful in getting the wisdom of the group to recognize the difference in

  1. Discussion.
  2. Decision.

Ways to Encourage More Productive Discussion and Decisions in the Group

  1. Realize it is healthy in making group decisions to receive the thinking of everyone in the group before making a decision.
  2. Maintain a policy not to have meetings before the meeting to decide what is going to be decided in the meeting. [tweetthis]Maintain a policy not to have meetings before the meeting to decide what is going to be decided in the meeting.[/tweetthis]
  3. Permit each one to share his thoughts before evaluating.
  4. Do not take part in or permit devaluing of thoughts and suggestions that shuts someone down.
  5. Encourage those who say little or nothing to share what they think.  Often people who speak least think most.  Good thinking can result in better decisions.
  6. List at least three solutions to an issue before deciding on the best one.
  7. After coming to the best solution, consider the exact opposite.  Is there a solution between what you thought best and the extreme opposite that would be better than your first solution?
  8. After allowing everyone to contribute to the discussion, pray for wisdom from God to decide what is best and to carry out the decision according to His will.
  9. Is this a decision that might be improved with a few days of thinking before acting on it?
  10. Is this a decision long overdue because we talked it and thought it to death without any action?

When a forceful personality begins to present ideas with enthusiasm, it is hard for less assertive people to express themselves.  When this is done repeatedly, it is the beginning of the group instating a head elder.  This defeats the Biblical example of a plurality of Shepherds.

There is value in a group of men with different personalities, experiences, and backgrounds participating in shepherding and overseeing the Lord’s people with wisdom rather than agreeing with a dominant person.

What have you seen to encourage better discussion and decisions from the group?