Culturally Diverse Church in Raleigh, North Carolina

7th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

We had a hard working group for the 7th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop. It was a beautiful drive around the Northern border of the Smokies the weekend of August 25-27. This is one of the most culturally diverse congregations I’ve visited. The Spanish and English worship together. Their website is in both English and Spanish. They have members from other nationalities as well. I asked one of the elders the different backgrounds of the members at Raleigh. He replied, “Honduras, El Salvador,  Ghana,  Nigeria.  And there’s even a Californian…now they are something else.”

This congregation is about fifteen years old and has recently appointed new shepherds. These men, their wives, the preacher, and his wife had done their homework. They were ready to discuss ways to be more effective in the Lord’s work.

As a result of suggestions at a previous workshop in Puyallup, Washington, we had more time for small groups to interact.

The men’s and women’s groups worked separately on a real situation in a real church and made observations and suggestions of how to improve the interaction of elders and their flock.

I gave the men an issue of someone wanting to modify the elders’ plan to do mission work when a brother with money had rather build an educational annex.

The ladies discussed issues that come with being the wife of an elder. This was especially helpful to the wives of the new elders.

We concluded Sunday morning with the Bible class, Leadership is a Gift, Not a Grind. During the worship, I discussed what Paul talked about and what they did at his last elders’ meeting with the overseers of the Ephesian church. Each elder shared a “mustard seed” he had learned during the workshop.

The elders, preachers, and wives of the Raleigh church: Bill and Beth Culverhouse, Elisha and Anne Marie Freeman, Glenn and Fran Holland, Allan and Barbara Johnson, Bob and Margaret Platt, Mac and Pamela Safley, and Scott and Carol Wollens.

Discussion Topics

  • What are guidelines to help us have a better discussion and workshop?
  • How can elders shepherd each other?
  • How will we grow together as a group?
  • How will we handle criticism?
  • What is a good plan to be sure we are adequately caring for all the sheep?
  • How can we deal with deacons and encourage them?
  • How will we develop as overseers as well as shepherds?
  • How will we oversee each other?
  • What can we do to keep important things from falling through the cracks?
  • Will we function as deacons and be called elders?
  • How can we prevent the development of a toxic “head elder”?
  • What is one thing we can do to prevent conflict and promote peace?
  • How will we evaluate the deacons, the ministers, and each other?
  • What are some ways we can have good communication with the congregation?
  • What are different kinds of meetings we should have to lead this church?
  • Who should select additional leaders in this congregation?
  • What is a good way to facilitate selection?

Workshop Characteristics

  • Include all shepherds, preachers, and wives.
  • Meet offsite — away from the building.
  • Include twelve hours of working time.

The Usual Schedule

Friday — 6:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday — 8:00-12:00 a.m.; 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Sunday:
Bible class: When Leadership Is a Gift Instead of a Grind
Sermon at worship: What Do You Say at Your Last Elders’ Meeting?

Dates I have available today for 2018: a weekend (Friday night, Saturday, Sunday morning) in April, May, September, October, November.

What questions or observations do you have about the New Shepherds Orientation Workshop?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Creating Biblical Leaders: By God’s Design (Tacoma, Washington: Agape Publishing, 2008)

What material can help you encourage men to be leaders in the church and develop and mature those serving?

If someone should ask me to suggest a book for a Bible study to encourage shepherds and train future elders, I would recommend Creating Biblical Leaders: By God’s Design, by Dr. Ken Wilson.

Dr. Ken Wilson has preached for decades, served as a professional Christian counselor, and now serves as an elder in the church at Puyallup, Washington.

Here are some “mustard seeds” I highlighted as I read the book:

Biblical leaders also have to be willing to rise above their environment. I believe that leaders can be classified in two ways: REACTIONARY and VISIONARY. Visionary leaders are not satisfied with the status quo. Visionary leaders not only deal with the immediate problems, they also actively lead in new horizons of future planning. They are pro-active as opposed to re-active.

Reactionary leaders really do not lead at all; they just react and put out fires (page 2).

Visionary Leaders are not people who are always on the cutting edge of change. They are leaders who perceive problems before they occur and search for solutions in order to avoid problems (page 3).

As we begin to define biblical leadership, we cannot neglect the Lord’s admonition that leaders must be servants! The authoritarian approach leads to the formulation of institutionalism. Webster defines the word institutional as “the characteristic of, being instituted; or to institutions, rather than individuals.” The tendency of some church leaders today is to direct the church towards being an institution. This is reflected in the slow and subtle decisions being made when leaders are shifting the emphasis from evangelism and church growth to presenting the church as an entertainment center (page 3).

There is a sharp contrast between spiritual and secular leadership. The secular leader is concerned about the worker reaching maximum production for the institution. The Christian leader is concerned about the worker reaching maximum potential in the Lord. The concept of effectiveness is not seen in the power of management skills in the biblical model, but in utilizing the resources of people and their ideas. True spiritual leaders meet the needs of people as they work at accomplishing their tasks. Biblical leaders should be required to solve problems, not create them (Acts 6: 1–6) (page 4)!

If there is poor communication, lack of commitment, and a lack of unity in the congregation, it is because these same deficiencies are found in the leaders as well (page 5).

It is evident today that we do not need leaders who do nothing but call the shots. Such leadership models fail because they are not biblical. Instead, we need leaders who, by their shepherding and modeling of service, stimulate the church to develop servant minds and servant hearts. This is the key to church growth and spiritual maturity (page 6).

Biblical shepherding influences for good and is powerful. Biblical shepherding can best be described as the ability of one person to influence another for good. The relational model of leadership allows for creativity in workers, because of the relationship and trust factor. The positional model of leadership does not encourage creativity in the workers. A positional leader is easily threatened by the imagination and creativity of those who are allowed, as workers, to own the process of ministry and be empowered by it (page 11).

Let me reiterate the fact that the elders/shepherds in a congregation have God-given authority, and that is not a question of dispute, but how they exercise that authority is the issue. There is a pattern in the New Testament for the qualifications of eiders/deacons, for the selection of elders/deacons in the congregation, and how authority is to be exercised (I Peter 5: 1–4). The pattern is identifiable and significant (page 25).

To see the pattern, let’s note the similarities, yet important differences, when comparing the practice of many congregations today with the early church, in reference to the selection of elders/deacons, the early church leaders asked the congregation to submit names of possible candidates for the specific work of leaders (Acts 6:1–6). If this was indeed the pattern established for all churches, it is a practice that is not often seen today. The New Testament pattern stipulates that the congregation he involved in the selection process, rather than the current elders selecting new elders or deacons, with the congregation merely ratifying the decision. Put simply, the primary responsibility for selecting new leaders depends, not on existing leadership alone, but on the Church as a whole (page 26).

If deacons do not exercise leadership and delegate responsibility, they will be limited in the ministry to accomplishing only what they can do themselves, thus limiting the church, as well (page 34).

Anyone who steps into the arena of leadership must be prepared to pay a price. True leadership exacts a heavy toll on the whole person — and the more effective the leadership, the higher the price (Nehemiah 4: 1 –23)!

God’s will was not for the wall to be built without opposition. He does not direct us to the road of least resistance. The success of the project, so far, evoked opposition, which builds character in leadership, even if it lacked admiration in those w, ho oppose. The heart of the habitual critic resists change. Every leader must develop the ability to measure the value of the worth of criticism (page 54).

We seem not to want to do what Jesus told us to do, when we have problems with our brethren. All these behaviors directly contradict vs hat Jesus taught when he said, Go to the person who has done something to you that you believe is wrong, and tell him about the situation. In families, this approach can replace nagging or bantering with effective results. It would seem that the same result would come from our brethren doing what Jesus told us to do (page 81).

Most leaders consider it crucial to defend themselves when they are criticized. They feel that they have to prove that the criticism is totally wrong, and that they have been sadly misunderstood. They feel that the response they made was correct and reasonable, and that the other person is a poor judge, who has no right to criticize anyway. So they argue and plead their case or attack the critic, probably because of their fear of looking less authoritative or capable as a leader. What remains in the end is anger and strained relationships. Rarely do people handle criticism effectively or biblically.

There is the presupposition that the critic is wrong, that we have been terribly misunderstood, and that we will not survive another minute, unless we set things right, or prove the critic wrong. None of these common views are true. Strange as it may seem, much of the criticism is usually correct. Not always, but often. Not entirely correct, but correct enough in a large measure. Occasionally, of course, the critic is totally wrong (page 81).

I have observed that, in situations where the elders operate as positional leaders, the problems between preachers and elders are exacerbated. In such cases, elders often operate as employers, treating the preacher as an employee. In this situation, there is very little team work or cooperation, and the elders often fear that the preacher won’t respect their position as elders. The elders give the orders and expect the preacher to obey them. An atmosphere of intimidation results when there is a lack of respect for the distinctive works of elders and preachers.

Having observed elders who operate in a relational mindset, it is evident that they consider the preacher a member of the team. When leaders have a relational mindset, neither the elders nor the preacher have a hidden agenda. With this mindset, there is no sense, on the part of the elders or the preacher, that there is any threat or competition. There is only the willingness to support and encourage one another in the great work of saving lost souls and keeping the saved, saved.

Everyone benefits from this kind of cooperative attitude; the elders, the preacher, and the congregation. Remember that biblical leaders are called to meet the needs of their followers. Elders should be concerned about the needs of preachers, and preachers should be concerned about the needs of the elders (page 88).

“When a movement develops around a dominant personality, the real test of the quality of his leadership is the manner in which the work survives the crisis of his removal.” (Oswald Chambers) We need mentors in the church to show us how to deal with anger, how to show compassion, how to live with disappointment, how to live with grief, how to do evangelism, and how to lead people to greater heights of spiritual growth (page 114).

Biblical leaders are not above making bad decisions in personal relationships in the Church. They can make bad decisions, due to faulty interpretations based on the lies they may be telling themselves, and when they do, they must be accountable. One of the weaknesses of elderships, in some cases, is the reluctance to acknowledge their own mistakes or sins and accept accountability. The tendency is for elders to support one another and not call each other to be accountable. What develops, then, is what I call the bunker mentality, where the leaders or elders begin to circle the wagons. They begin to perceive threats to their authority, and they then see others as the enemy, resorting to a controlling style of leadership that threatens and polarizes the members of the congregation. There must be a check and balance system in place that requires members and leaders to willingly confess their faults to one another (James 5:16). I am not talking about a calculated witch hunt, but a transparency among leaders that allows them to model accountability to their followers, as their followers demand accountability of them (pages 125, 126).

“Bless Our _______ as They Make Their Decisions”

…the ones they know they're making and the ones they don’t

One of the frequent petitions I hear about elders in public prayers is, “Lord, bless our elders as they make their decisions.” I often cringe when I hear that. What about, “Bless our elders as they shepherd the flock; bless our elders as they set examples of excellence, dedication, service, and holiness; bless our elders as they discern and lead this church in a heavenly direction”?

But when you think about it, decisions our elders make are crucial. Not ones about whether to build or not to build, the color of the carpet, settings on thermostats (I think one of the qualifications of an elder should be he doesn’t know how to operate a thermostat), or the type and size of lawnmowers for church grass.

 

Some Decisions Elders Make Every Day

  • To shepherd or do the work of a deacon. I hear many excuses about why elders are still doing the work of deacons years after they were appointed to shepherd the flock and know better. The reason is everybody (elders, deacons, and members) likes it the way it is better than what it would take to change it.
Everybody (elders, deacons, and members) likes it the way it is better than what it would take to change it. Click To Tweet
  • To do the work of ministry or also equip others to do the work of ministry. Paul taught evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip saints for the work of ministry — not do all the work themselves. (Ephesians 4:11-13).
  •  To mentor and train leaders or hope some show up when we need them. It’s too late to be alarmed over a lack of qualified men to lead two weeks before the day to appoint new elders and deacons. I believe each congregation has leaders they want, leaders they prayed for, leaders they trained. What planned development are you doing for elders and deacons now? What have you done in the last two years?
Each congregation has leaders they want, leaders they prayed for, leaders they trained. Click To Tweet
  • To deal with difficult situations or ignore them. The Holy Spirit makes shepherds who will work with sheep. Sheep, by nature, are dependent, dirty, and disoriented. Sheep get in messy situations. Shepherds can continue to meet about the budget and complain how bad the world and brethren are or get into their spiritual ambulances and pick up the sheep who’ve wrecked on life’s highway. One is more comfortable for the moment. The other is the job description of a shepherd.

Others Who Are Making Important Decisions
“Bless our ______ as they make their decisions”

  1. Deacons decide if they’ll serve with excellence bringing glory to God or just take up space on the church bulletin — to do all the work they’ve been given or develop others in the work of ministry.
  2. Preachers decide if they’ll preach the truth with enthusiasm and conviction or look up a good sermon on the internet Saturday night and read it on Sunday morning. They decide by pain and hard work to develop a Christ-like attitude or do what comes naturally, which is often offensive.
  3. Parents decide if they’ll prayerfully put the priority on raising their children in the way of the Lord by example, teaching, and training or decide to make them popular and pleasing to the world of sports and entertainment.
  4. Young people are making decisions about serving God, their occupations, marriage, and morals. In the next ten years, decisions of our teens will probably have a greater impact on the church in the next fifty years than decisions of our elders.
  5. Bible teachers decide if they’ll prepare their lessons well, live a good life, be a worthy example, and be interested in teaching individuals not just filling time for forty-five minutes.
  6. Every Christian decides if his or her emphasis concerning God is to be faithful, prayerful, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, or if a little religion is good for a well-rounded life.
  7. We all decide, either on purpose or by default, how we relate to fellow Christians in encouragement, happiness, sorrow, and conflict.

 

Who do you want God to “bless as they make their decisions”?

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Creating a Healthier Church (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1996)

It’s the fifth Tuesday. Here is a book I’ve found helpful in understanding groups: churches, families, businesses, and softball teams.

The following are some of the “mustard seeds” I highlighted as I read:

In the systems model, there is recognition of the connections between people. It says that people can only be understood fully within the context of their relationships. No one lives or acts in isolation, and we are all affected by each other’s behavior (Kindle Locations 246, 247).

One of the keys to functioning in a healthy manner as a church is for the leaders to look at the church as a system rather than as a collection of isolated people (Kindle Locations 259-260).

Walter Lippmann once said, “When all think alike, no one thinks very much” (Kindle Location 1277).

When the situation calls for it, people with a well-differentiated sense of their own individuality have the ability and, especially, the courage to stand alone, without any emotional support from others and without needing praise or recognition for what they do. They do not fear criticism, seek to avoid it, or look for approval and support port for the positions they take. They do not need the cooperation of others in order to be a solid self.
This does not mean they will never feel the “loneliness” of abandonment; it simply means they will not be governed by it (Kindle Locations 1339-1342).

Aloneness is not a goal for the better differentiated person. But we recognize that this could be the possible outcome of our actions and are not surprised by it. When acting on our principles and beliefs, and being true to our own understanding of what God asks of us, we may feel very alone; no one may support us; they may even mock us for our beliefs.
There is a kind of aloneness we may seek. That is solitude. We do not seek this sort of time apart from others reactively, against others, but proactively, as a way to clarity our own thinking, beliefs, goals, values, and so forth, in order that we can better connect with people. Solitude is about getting to know ourselves better, so we are clearer about what we have to bring to others. Solitude is a way to cultivate perspective and objectivity (Kindle Locations 1346-1351).

There is a time to lend a hand to a child learning to walk and a time to not take the child’s hand. This has as much to do with the parent’s anxiety about the child falling as with the child’s desire and ability to walk (Kindle Locations 1605, 1606).

So as Christians we want to he sensitive to those times when others are in genuine need so we can respond. But, it is uncaring and inappropriate to function consistently for others when they can manage for themselves, even if they want us to function for them and tell us we are “uncaring” if we don’t (Kindle Locations 1609-1611).

Underfunctioners will be slow to claim their competence in the presence of overfunctioners. They will tend to act as if they don’t know how to do much of anything. It is easier just to be dependent and let others worry about our wants and seek ways to fulfill them for us. We can get angry at them when they fail to guess correctly about our needs, and this stimulates them to work harder on our behalf. (Kindle Locations 1620-1622).

While overfunctioning is often regarded as the act of committed and caring leaders, it is not good for any of the parties. The more people overfunction in the church, the more all suffer from issues of confused responsibility. The clearer members and leaders can be about who is responsible for what, the better the congregation as a whole will function (Kindle Locations 1623-1625).

People who regularly take responsibility for the functioning and well-being of others (rescuers) are the ones who often end up with a breakdown, physically or emotionally, or they burn out and have to drop out (Kindle Locations 1661, 1662).

Differentiating yourself within the group often does not lead to praise from the group but to a negative reaction at first. This reaction is related to the challenge people experience when someone takes a new position within the emotional system. Your new position has an unbalancing effect on the group mobile. It may “feel” wrong to those close to you, and they will react, saying that you are wrong or bad or crazy and that you must change back to how you used to be (Kindle Locations 2224-2226).

Excited and Growing Church in Washington State

6th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

The sixth New Shepherds Orientation Workshop was with the Puyallup Church of Christ in Puyallup, Washington. We had the training sessions in the Holiday Inn Express in Seattle, Washington.

I was touched and encouraged. Although two of the elders were involved in deaths close to them, they were present for most of the training. One was preaching the funeral for a close friend of many years. The other’s brother had died.

[tweetthis]This church is alive and well! They are growing.[/tweetthis]

Their building fund is increasing each week. Children are bringing their change for the new building and had donated $135.00+ the previous two weeks. We saw crowded seating and an overflowing parking lot. They are looking for more property where they can relocate.

Their building fund is increasing each week. Children are bringing their change for the new building and had donated $135.00+ the previous two weeks. We saw crowded seating and an overflowing parking lot. They are looking for more property where they can relocate.

Mark Jamieson, their preacher, told me they are within 1% of having the national average of age groups and generations. Yes, they have millennials.

Not only are they present, but they are also excited about doing the Lord’s work. Gail and I were there on potluck Sunday and were able to talk with many of the Christians.

The church has recently appointed seven new deacons. I was asked to lead opening prayer of the first elders and deacons meeting for the new group.

[tweetthis]Shepherds of this church are committed to letting the deacons deak. They are caring for the sheep.[/tweetthis]

This workshop is the second one I’ve led where everyone stayed together in the same building. Although Puyallup is only a twenty-minute drive from the Hotel, they decided to stay on site. It worked well.

The elders, preacher, and wives are Chris and Jolene Bartlett, Mark and Suzy Jamieson, Gene and Carolyn McCaul, Bob and Diane Sallee, Ken and Sandy Wilson.

I am scheduling workshops for 2018.

Some of the topics we discuss are:

  • What are guidelines to help us have a better discussion and workshop?
  • How can elders shepherd each other?
  • How will we grow together as a group?
  • How will we handle criticism?
  • What is a good plan to be sure we are caring adequately for all the sheep?
  • How can we deal with deacons and encourage them?
  • How will we develop as overseers as well as shepherds?
  • How will we oversee each other?
  • What can we do to keep important things from falling through the cracks?
  • Will we function as deacons and be called elders?
  • How can we prevent the development of a toxic “head elder”?
  • What is one thing we can do to prevent conflict and promote peace?
  • How will we evaluate the deacons, the ministers, and each other?
  • What are some ways we can have good communication with the congregation?
  • What are different kinds of meetings we should have to lead this church?
  • Who should select additional leaders in this congregation?
  • What is a good way to facilitate selection?

The workshop should:

  • Include all shepherds, preachers, and wives.
  • Meet offsite — away from the building.
  • Include twelve hours of working time.

The usual schedule:

Friday — 6:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday — 8:00-12:00 a.m.; 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Sunday:
Bible class: When Leadership Is a Gift Instead of a Grind
Sermon at worship: What Do You Say at Your Last Elders’ Meeting?

Dates I have available today for 2018: a weekend (Friday night, Saturday, Sunday morning) in March, April, May, September, October, November.

What questions or observations do you have about New Shepherds Orientation Workshops?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

New Shepherds Orientation Workshop, Smyrna, Tennessee

5th NSO Workshop

The fifth New Shepherds Orientation Workshop was conducted with the elders, ministers, and spouses of the Smyrna Church of Christ, Smyrna, Tennessee, February 23-25. We met at NHC in Murfreesboro Friday night and Saturday. We enjoyed a delicious meal together at The Chop House Saturday night after closing the workshop at 5:00.

I stayed over Saturday night, taught the Bible class and preached at worship on Sunday.

Thanks to Chad Landman for his work in the layout and design of the workshop book.

The topics:
Bible class: Leadership in the Lord’s Church Is a Gift — Not a Grind
Worship: What Do You Say in Your Last Elders’ Meeting? This is graduation from the workshop for the shepherds.

I was encouraged by the training these leaders had in the past, the focus they maintained wanting to improve in being shepherds, and their enthusiastic participation during the entire workshop.

The elders, ministers, and spouses of the Smyrna Church of Christ: Bill and Shirley Cato, Todd and Nina Foutch, David and Lynette Henderson, Gary and Lisa Hickerson, Bill and Pam Jordan, Tim and Sally Lavender, Paul and Pam Lewis, Rob and Jen Hartman, Bill and Sue Townes, Aaron and Chelsea Tremblay, Kristie and Jason Waldron, James and Jane Watson.

The Trash Can is always available for any suggestion you don’t want to take home.

Topics we discussed:

  • How can elders shepherd each other?
  • How will we grow together as a group?
  • How will we handle criticism?
  • What is a good plan to be sure we’re caring for all sheep?
  • How can we relate to deacons and encourage them?
  • How will we develop as overseers as well as shepherds?
  • How will we oversee each other?
  • What can we do to keep important things from falling through the cracks?
  • Will we function as deacons and be called elders?
  • When there isn’t unanimous consent on an issue, will we have minority or majority rule?
  • How can we prevent the development of a toxic “head elder”?
  • What’s one thing we can do to prevent conflict and promote peace?
  • How will we evaluate, encourage, and build up deacons, preachers, and each other?
  • How should an elder’s wife respond to criticism of her husband?
  • What should she do when people want her to deliver messages to her husband?
  • How can the shepherd’s wife and other Christians minimize gossip in the congregation?
  • What will we do to develop dedicated disciples of Jesus who will serve as shepherds and deacons in the future?
  • What are some ways we can have good communication with the congregation?
  • What are different kinds of meetings we should have to lead and shepherd this church?
  • Who should select additional leaders in this congregation?
  • What’s a good way to facilitate selection?
  • How will we encourage and express gratitude to members of the congregation?

Eating together adds a dimenstion we don’t get in our regular meetings.

My Recommendations for a New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

  1. Involve all elders, preachers, and wives.
  2. Meet offsite — away from the church building.
  3. Work twelve hours together.
  4. Sunday morning Bible study.
  5. Sunday sermon.

I have time for a limited number of workshops in 2018. If you have an interest or would like to ask questions, please contact me:

Cell: (615) 584-0512

Email: jerrie@barberclippings.com

What would you like to see included in an orientation workshop for new shepherds and encouragement for seasoned shepherds?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

One Way to Recruit and Train More Shepherds

a plan for encouraging and maturing deacons

People often ask, “How can we encourage more men to become elders?”. For several years, I saw something at the Central Church of Christ in Dalton, Georgia, that was effective.

We had a good group of elders and deacons. Elders delegated, empowered, and let deacons deak. They were also good at showing appreciation. One of the parties I anticipated each year was the Deacons’ Appreciation Banquet.

This was usually on a Thursday night at a good restaurant in Dalton. Elders, deacons, preachers, and spouses were invited.

We had a speaker who expressed appreciation to the good servants. He shared teaching, and encouragement to everyone to be effective in serving others.

Then came the highlight of the night. Each year, the elders presented a plaque to the Deacon of the Year. This outstanding deacon was selected by his fellow deacons. They voted for the man who most exhibited the heart of a special servant during the preceding year.

He came forward and received the plaque from the elders with words of recognition and appreciation. Then the elders took the plaque back from the recipient.

On Sunday morning, they called this Deacon of the Year to the podium and again presented him with the plaque, recognizing him for his outstanding service. This time he was able to keep it, take it home, display it, and let it be a reminder to his family, him, and all visitors who came to his home of the great service he had given.

That was the beginning of the recognition, encouragement, and training. The shepherds invited this Deacon of the Year to elders’ meeting for the next twelve months. Unless the shepherds were discussing confidential information, this deacon attended all meetings. He was able to place items on the agenda, comment, ask questions, and provide input about everything in the meeting. He wasn’t an elder. He didn’t get a vote. But he was able to observe this part of being an overseer and a shepherd. He watched, prayed, and shared concerns in many aspects of congregational life.

I’ve enjoyed noticing who became shepherds of that congregation during the past thirty-five years. Many of them were Deacons of the Year three decades ago.

Their good service was recognized, appreciated, and cultivated. They were invited into the “inner sanctum” and permitted to get a better idea of what it meant to be an elder of the Central Church of Christ in Dalton, Georgia. After time and growth, several became what they had observed.

What are ways you have seen to encourage and prepare men to become elders?

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7 Ways to Deal with the Pain of Being a Shepherd

dealing with dependent, dirty, and disoriented sheep isn’t always fun

I’ve worked with many shepherds who start with a great vision of their work. “We want to get out of management, details of the business, caring for the building, controlling finances, and become shepherds. We want to know the sheep, lead them, help them, and encourage them.”

Often within three months the shepherding goal is abandoned, forgotten, and the group is back to being busy deacons, exhausting themselves with various tasks of keeping the organization going. They’re doing good things. They do a good job of doing good things. But they’ve forgotten the great goal they had of being shepherds.

Why does that happen?

My observations:

  1. Shepherding takes a lot of time. When shepherds decide to know and be known by sheep, it doesn’t happen quickly (John 10:3, 4). It takes hours, days, weeks, months, and years to know people by name and disclose yourself appropriately so you can be known by the sheep. I haven’t found a formula for developing instant trust. Often the presenting question doesn’t reveal the real problem. The first approach is your try-out. They want to see how you’ll handle a small problem to decide if they’ll share the devastating problem with you.[tweetthis]Shepherding takes a lot of time. [/tweetthis]
  2. Shepherding is confusing and embarrassing. Shepherds don’t have all the answers. Many men have told me, “I never knew all the problems people have and the seriousness of their difficulties. I don’t have answers to tell them how to solve their problems.” When people relate things others have done to hurt them, sometimes they’re things I’ve done or may still be doing I never realized was a problem. I’m like the ones they want me to fix. When I get lost in my pain and guilt, I haven’t listened to the last five minutes of their conversation.[tweetthis]Shepherding is confusing and embarrassing.[/tweetthis]
  3. Frustrated sheep can attack. It must be disappointing to start a work that takes time, effort, and energy — then be bombarded with criticism. It will happen. Some sheep want you to fix other sheep to solve problems they need to address. When you don’t do what they ask, they’ll complain or leave. Members will accuse, blame, and withhold their contribution. You’ll be criticized to your face and behind your back. Best friends can become cold, absent, and sometimes enemies.[tweetthis]Frustrated sheep can attack.[/tweetthis]

How can you deal with the pain of shepherding?

  1. Count the cost before agreeing to the work. Most good tasks and roles involve some discomfort and messiness. Imagine a young man who says, “I want to play high school and college football, but I don’t ever want to get hurt.” Football is a contact sport. Expect sore muscles, bruises, bloody noses, and maybe broken bones. That’s the nature of football. If you want to avoid all physical pain, sign up for the chess team. Ask and answer the question, “Is the reward I’ll receive worth the price I’m paying” (1 Peter 5:4)?
  2. Many new tasks become easier with training and experience. When I first started working with a computer, it was frustrating and confusing. I had a friend who started the same time I did. He went back to a pencil and legal pad. Now, much of what I do with my computer is muscle memory. I work without conscious thought and enjoy it.
  3. Plan how you’ll continue your education, training, and personal growth. There are classes, books, newsletters, workshops, and podcasts that can improve your effectiveness as a shepherd. I’ve found going to a competent counselor is helpful. Unless I work on my issues, they’ll get confused with people I’m trying to help.
  4. Learn from the sheep you’re leading. We are more alike than different. When I see myself in others, I can avoid consequences of bad decisions others are making before I get that far down the road. Also, because they’re having problems in one area, doesn’t mean they aren’t excellent in other sectors. One of the ways to serve others is to permit them to serve me (Luke 7:36-50).
  5. Build a list of available and competent resources to help in working with sheep. Doctors don’t usually develop their medicines. They find what helps and prescribe the same one for the same symptoms. I don’t know of a doctor who treats every illness — sinus infections, heart bypass surgery, and transplanting kidneys. Each general practitioner has a list of specialists who can treat what he or she is unprepared to address. It’s good to know Christian counselors, accountants, alcoholics — even someone who “was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (1 Timothy 1:13, NIV). People with different training and experience can relate to others who need their training or their past for instruction and hope.
  6. Your hope comes from pain (Romans 5:1-5). Very few rewards come without painful effort and persistence.
  7. Follow your leader — Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11; 1 Peter 2:15-25). Jesus is the perfect model of Someone who understood that creative, helpful, beneficial pain precedes blessing. Resurrection is great, glorious, and victorious. However, crucifixion comes before resurrection (Matthew 16:21, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

For those who follow the Good Shepherd, the reward is worth the risk, “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1Peter 5:4, NKJV).

How have you dealt with the pain of shepherding?

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What Have You Quit Lately to Become a Better Leader?

the apostles refused to go to the grocery store to feed widows

The response of the apostles in Acts 6 amazes me. When there was criticism because Grecian widows weren’t getting their fair share of food, the apostles replied, “We won’t be going to the grocery store to get food for our Christian sisters.” Can you imagine that attitude from men Jesus taught and trained to be good servants and to follow His example?

When I read that, questions come to my mind. Did the apostles not know how to distribute food? Were they too dumb? Did the apostles think they were too good to do lowly work like delivering groceries?

The answer to all those questions is, “No.” They weren’t too dumb and they weren’t too proud. They had experience in food distribution. They were servers when Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000 men besides women and children. They gave food to the people. They gathered left-overs after the picnic.

But at this point in their leadership, they said, “It is not reason, it is not desirable, it is not right, it is wrong for us to leave the word of God and serve tables.”

[tweetthis]Do we as leaders in the Lord’s church realize it can be wrong to do right?[/tweetthis] [tweetthis]It’s wrong to do right when the right thing isn’t what we need to be doing now.[/tweetthis]

From this account of the apostles’ refusal to take part in this act of service, which they had done in the past, I wonder if I’m doing the same tasks in my leadership as I did ten or more years ago? [tweetthis]Am I doing the wrong right thing?[/tweetthis]

Circumstances that Bring Change in Leadership

  1. Understanding the responsibility of leaders. It isn’t the duty of leaders to do everything that needs to be done. Paul wrote, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12, NKJV). According to the Holy Spirit, writing through Paul, leaders are to equip Christians for the work of ministry. Preachers don’t have to visit every sick person. In fact, that work in scripture is assigned to elders (James 5:14). All citizens of the kingdom will be held accountable for this ministry (Matthew 25:34-36). Leaders are to help all saints be better ministers.
  2. Growth. Have I learned anything in the last twenty years? Have I gained new skills? I can’t do everything I used to do, everything I’ve learned to do, and everything I’ve learned to do better — and do everything the way I’ve always done it.
  3. Training of others. We have men in the congregation at Northside who fly for UPS. One is a trainer. He flies some. But he can’t put in the hours delivering packages he did years ago and train pilots. He had to quit some things to do other things.
  4. Possibility of disability and certainty of death. Elders, preachers, deacons, and other Bible teachers are getting older and will die. Some will be unable to continue their leadership duties before they die. We need to be asking and answering the question George Jones sang in the song written by Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”. [tweetthis]He who leads without leading others to lead is no leader.[/tweetthis]

It’s good to take inventory. How am I growing as a leader? What have I quit? What do I refuse to do because I have something to do others can’t do? And if I do what I’ve always done, I can’t do what I need to be doing.

What have you quit to be a better leader?
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How Do You Set the Budget?

do you ask or tell what the contribution should be?

How do you present the budget in your congregation? Is it simply a business transaction? Do we do it like we’ve always done it — look at last year’s budget; increase it by 7-10%; tell everyone what they need to give this year?

Gail and I have been living on a budget for nearly fifty years. I haven’t gone to my employers (elders) with this presentation: “Gail and I have been working on our budget for next year. We’ve looked at our expenditures, new needs, and inflation. We also believe we deserve a merit raise. Therefore, here’s our budget for next year. Please fund this for us.”

[tweetthis]Here’s our budget for next year. Please fund this for us.[/tweetthis]

My experience has been elders evaluate my work, comparable compensation of preachers in the area, and the financial condition of the congregation. They tell me my income for the year. I go home and announce to Gail what we’ll be making. We sit down at our computer and decide how we’ll spend the income paid to us.

A few years ago I wondered why we did it the opposite way in the church. I suggested to the elders where I was working as an interim to think about this concept. They considered it. Since then, they’ve been asking Christians what they’re planning to give and budgeting that amount instead of budgeting what the elders wanted and telling Christians what they needed to give to fund the budget.

Giving Intent Card, LaVergne Church of Christ

Giving Intent Card, LaVergne Church of Christ

Giving Intent Card in Word format

It’s been my experience when people think about giving, they give more liberally. At least two times in my ministry, we planned a month of lessons on giving from the pulpit and home studies for families. Both times the contribution increased and maintained a higher level.

Unless asked, few people think about how and how much they give. When given an opportunity to think, discuss, and pray about this grace, many people grow in this spiritual exercise.

[tweetthis]When people think about giving, they give more liberally.[/tweetthis]

Suggestions

  1. Meet with the deacons and all members in large and small groups. Discuss needs and opportunities of the community, area, and the world. What has God prepared this church to do to spread the gospel in word and deed?
  2. Refine and combine ideas. Give specific works that will challenge this congregation as a whole and individual Christians. Present plans that fit into the mission of the Lord’s church with no money attached discussing projects for sharing the gospel from this congregation.
  3. Ask the church to consider and pray about this for two weeks.
  4. Request each family to hand in how they’d like to take part financially and in other ministry to do what we’ve been dreaming and praying about.
  5. Fund the work to the extent the people have agreed to give.

Observations

  • Not everyone will participate.
  • Enough will cooperate to give a good indication of the amount of the contribution for the coming year.
  • Many will contribute more when given the vision of what God can do in His church than if we read a spreadsheet during the announcements and tell them the amount to give next year.

What have you seen effective in encouraging Christians to grow in the grace of giving?
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