What Preachers (I) Wish Elders Knew About Preachers (Me)

This was an assigned topic for three preachers at the 21st Century Luncheon, March 2, 2009. There were two other preachers who answered this question. Three elders made a corresponding presentation in what they wanted preachers to know about elders. This was my response.

I don’t wish for elders to know anything about preachers. Preachers are as different as fingerprints. It can be a problem when someone thinks they know what preachers are like.

Preachers are as different as fingerprints. It's a problem when someone thinks they know what preachers are like. Click To Tweet

Preachers are lazy, irresponsible with money, and have bad children. Or, preachers are always good, always wise, know all about the Bible, and know how to work with people.

I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from trying to know each shepherd where I have preached and being known as a fellow human being and a struggling Christian with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears.

Shepherds, some things I want in my relationship with you:

  • Friendship. I like to visit with each elder early in the relationship in a non-church setting, preferably at his work. I want to begin getting to know you as a person. I like to explore the possibility of having multiple relationships: Christian-Christian, friend-friend, elder-preacher, father-father, grandfather-grandfather.
  • Current and constant evaluation. I want to know where we stand in expectations. What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? What can I improve? I don’t want to be surprised at my annual evaluation with fourteen things I’ve done wrong in the last twelve months. I want the annual evaluation to be an encouraging time – a time of affirmation, reminding me of what I’ve done well. I want to know your current expectations and disappointments. I want to discuss, understand, adjust, and improve quickly. I know that disappointment can lead to irritation that can lead to a damaged relationship that will be difficult to repair. Let’s stay current. Elders, I want to discuss, understand, adjust, and improve quickly. Click To Tweet
  • Designated time for us to talk about how we’re doing. Everything isn’t perfect at my house. I’d like to be able to tell you that. From experience, I guess that everything isn’t perfect at your house. It’s my observation that those successes and failures will come out in conversations, in classes, in worship, in elders’ meetings. We can either talk it out or act it out.
  • Appreciation. I want you to know that I appreciate you as a person and for the work you do as a shepherd. I’m committed to communicating that by verbal “thank yous”, written notes, and elder appreciation events. I want and need to know that I’m appreciated. I’ve tried preaching with and without appreciation. Gratitude encourages me more than ignoring my efforts.
  • Opportunity to be on the leadership team. I’m not an elder and don’t want to serve in that role. However, I don’t want to be a beggar who hears the “decision” without being involved in the give and take of the decision-making process. I don’t like to argue a case before the Supreme Court and a day or a week later find out if I won or lost without an appeal. Let’s talk as co-laborers in the Lord’s work.
  • I wish I could tell you I don’t know what I’m doing. I wish you knew that I know that you don’t know what you’re doing. Working with people isn’t an exact science. I can’t push the right buttons and get the desired results. The process of gaining wisdom can come as we discuss what we don’t know and explore how we can best proceed to do the best we learn.
  • Honesty. I want you to hold me accountable for doing what I say I’ll do. Please talk to me when you are considering me as the preacher at your congregation. If you say you will call, call. If you don’t have any new information, call when you said you would and tell me you don’t have any new information.
  • I can work much better when I rest. I tend to overwork. The longer I stay at the same congregation the more tasks I take. I get to the point where the load is overwhelming. I feel helpless and hopeless. The only solution I see is to move and start all over. I work much better when I take time off. Please help me with that.

The only way I’ve found for elders to know these things about me is to tell them. This has been a scary journey for me. I want to be liked. I want to please. There have been times when fear has caused me not to be liked and not to please. I’ve tried it both ways. Talking has worked better than not talking.

What do you want in the preacher-elder relationship?
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