Fairlane — the Church that Started New Shepherds Orientation

8th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

In the fall of 2013, Henry Wilhoite, an elder at Fairlane Church of Christ in Shelbyville, Tennessee, called. He said, “We’ve recently appointed five elders. Four of them have never served before. Could you put something together to help us get started and be more effective?”

We met in Henry’s cabin in Gatlinburg November 1, 2, 2013. We worked six hours on Friday and six hours on Saturday. We studied, discussed, talked, questioned, ate, and enjoyed the weekend. Spouses were there and participated in many of the discussions.
Henry’s phone call and the results have been a blessing to me. I’ve led these workshops in six other congregations. This blog is an outgrowth of this concept.

I’ve often observed we appoint men to serve as shepherds, overseers, elders. Often they’ve had no training to do the work and we provide no training for them to improve. Then we criticize them for not leading like they should.

The workshop has grown, developed, and changed since the first edition. I’ve asked for criticism and responded. It was an honor and joy to be back with the Fairlane group November 10-12. We again spent twelve hours together. Because of suggestions from previous workshops, there were more break-out sessions and interaction in smaller groups. This proves to be some of the most beneficial times during our training.

Those in in the group: Ed and Elaine Boggess, Kari and Trey Bell, Helen and Richard Blanton, Gail and Larry Evans, Elizabeth and Jeff Floyd, Angie and David Parker, Charlie and Cindy Pope, Dolly and Michael Sharp, Jerry and Marie Smith, Lou and Todd Smith, Anna and Henry Wilhoite, Gail and Jerrie Barber. Everyone had perfect attendance for the workshop!

Thank you Fairlane for the invitation, for the idea that’s blessed me, several other congregations, and a few hundred others who read New Shepherds Orientation blog each month.
Read more about New Shepherds Orientation Workshop.

As of today, I have openings in 2018 for one workshop in October and another in November. For questions, send me an email at: jerrie@barberclippings.com or a call at: (615) 584-0512.

What suggestions or questions do you have about leadership training?

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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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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.

If You Appoint a New Elder, I’ll Quit!

and that transition will happen whether I do it or not

I’ve been resigning since 1988. I’d been in Dalton, Georgia, eleven years. I was looking for another place to preach. I talked with sixteen congregations. Eight of the sixteen churches had released their preachers. In each of the eight congregations where the preacher was moving without being self-motivated, they had appointed new elders within two years or less.

I reflected. That’s not the first time I’d heard of that.

Sometimes the older elders had been considering it. When new shepherds come on board, the seasoned overseers communicate their burden with the new men, “Brethren, we want to share something that’s heavy on our hearts. We’ve been thinking for some time a change of preachers may be just what this church needs to get it going again. What do you all think?”

Generally, the newly ordained bishops are apprehensive about their responsibilities and reply, “Brethren, you certainly know better than us. We’ll cooperate with whatever you think.”

One of the interesting twists to this discussion was when one of the brothers who introduced the topic continued, “We’ll write the letter. We’ll all sign it. We’ll let one of the new men read it to the church Sunday morning because you read better than we do.”

I talked to the man who read the letter on more than one occasion about his learning experience.

[tweetthis]Many of the preacher’s friends forgot who signed the letter. Everyone remembered who read it.[/tweetthis]

They weren’t happy.

[tweetthis]Another situation — new elders may come with the agenda that it’s time for a preacher change.[/tweetthis]

Often there is non-verbal communication at first:

  1. The elders begin to exclude the preacher from their meetings.
  2. There is a salary reduction, no raise, or less of a raise than in the past.
  3. New requirements are instituted such as keeping a log of all activities, new items on the job description, and a more negative evaluation than in the past.

When these changes come to a seasoned, astute preacher, he sees the handwriting on the wall and hears the Lord calling him to a different work. That process often takes about two years of misery to complete its cycle.

During my move in 1988, I was enjoying my first computer. I decided to take notes and record observations. My “mustard seed” from this process was a decision to resign each time one or more elders were added in the congregation where I was preaching.

The opportunity came in 1995. On Father’s Day, two of the three elders resigned. We were without an eldership. We appointed four new elders November 19. None of them had ever served before. On the Wednesday night before they were ordained on Sunday, I talked with them: “I appreciate your willingness to accept leadership of this church at this critical time. One of the first decisions I want you to make is who’s going to be the preacher for this church. I’m resigning. It wouldn’t be right to impose myself on you. None of you were elders when I came. Different elderships have different ideas of who and what a preacher should be. I’ll bring you a letter of resignation.

“I would like to apply to be the next preacher for Berry’s Chapel. I love the church and like the people. But, you have my resignation. It was my idea — not yours. If you think in two or three years you want to change preachers but don’t want to upset the people now, let’s do it now. They’re already upset. Please let me know when you decide.”

Not long after they were appointed, we met and they asked me to be the preacher for Berry’s Chapel. We discussed my job description, contract, and our relationship. We recorded our agreements, signed them, and distributed copies to each person in the group.

Three years later, another elder was added to the group. I resigned again.

A few years later, we added three more elders. The first leadership meeting with the new elders, someone said, “This is Jerrie’s night to resign.” He was correct. I meant each resignation.

During one of my interims, a new elder was added. The next meeting of the elders and preachers I turned in my written resignation along with a request to finish the interim. They asked me to stay. The new group of elders and I discussed our relationship and how we would work with each other.

In every situation, I would have cooperated in every way if they had wanted to change preachers. If that is the wisdom of the elders, there is no point in aggravating each other two years, ending in anger and frustration.

[tweetthis]There’s a new relationship each time the group changes.[/tweetthis]

We can acknowledge it, discuss it, and consider how we can or cannot work together and proceed according to the wisdom God gives us from those prayers and discussions. Or we can silently watch the group change three or four times over several years assuming everything is the same because I have a contract with a group of men who are no longer here and wonder what happened.

Here is the substance of the resignation letter:

Since we have a new eldership, I submit my resignation as the interim preacher for this congregation. This is a different eldership from the one that selected me a year ago. I think each eldership should select a preacher that works best with them. Should you choose to accept this resignation, I will cooperate with you in every way. This is my idea.

I would like to apply for the position of interim minister working with the new eldership. Gail and I have enjoyed our time here and we have learned to love and appreciate you. I have never worked with a more cooperative eldership and congregation.

Please let me know when you decide. I will cooperate either way.

The general rule is that family rules are unconscious, unspoken, but understood. I think it’s better to think about our rules and relationships, discuss them, and know what to expect of each other.

My choice to encourage that discussion has been to resign as the preacher, apply for the new relationship, and respect the choice of the eldership.

How have you handled transitions in elder-preacher relationships?

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Releasing Your Preacher and Quickly Replacing Him

how often do you want to enjoy a preacher search?

A few months ago, within a short time, I received two emails from good elder friends. One had, and the other was about to release his preacher and start the selection process. Each asked for men to contact for their next preacher. Here’s the email I sent:

Questions:

  1. When will your preacher be informed of his dismissal?
  2. Will Sunday be his goodbye sermon?
  3. Have you considered that quickly getting a new preacher gives you a high probability of having an unintentional interim?

Here’s what I’ve observed in fifty-five years of ministry, by following a long-tenured preacher, and working with congregations in intentional interim ministry for nine years:

The general rule is after a long ministry (five years or more) a church will have an interim minister — either an intentional or unintentional minister. The next preacher will stay a short time. If he is an unintentional interim (he thought he was coming for a settled ministry), it will be a time of misery. He’ll be compared to the previous preacher. He’ll not be like the previous preacher. It’ll be an impossible job description.

I’ve served both as an intentional and an unintentional interim. I can assure you intentional is much preferred. The five most depressing years of my fifty-five years of preaching were following a preacher who stayed a long time and was released by the elders — not to his desire and a large part of the congregation. The congregation was stuck in grief, confusion, and resentment. I bore the brunt of something I had nothing to do with except I happened to be the next preacher. It’s now worth it. I had an opportunity to experience what I’d read in books about being a preacher following a long ministry. But the pain was real and sustained while I was learning the lesson.

People are often concerned about the widow or widower who starts dating after the sudden death of a spouse. People aren’t machines.
[tweetthis]For a good new relationship, there needs to be a time of grieving over the past relationship.[/tweetthis]

See two blog posts relating to the interim concept:

  1. How Long Will it Take?
  2. How Can We Improve Without Changing?

The rule of thumb is there should be one month of interim ministry for each year of ministry of the previous preacher.

My advice for preacher friends who follow a long-term preacher with no intentional interim period: “You need to understand part of your job description is being unfavorably compared to the previous preacher in preaching, teaching, dress, visitation, name memory, and the way he related to people. It’ll be done repeatedly for ten years. If you can endure that for ten years, it’ll get slightly better during the next five years.”

There are exceptions to the rule. But from my experience, it’s the rule:

[tweetthis]The preacher who quickly follows a long-term preacher will have a short and painful tenure.[/tweetthis]

One of my most productive interims in the past nine years was with a congregation who tried the immediate replacement plan with two preachers following the retirement of their long-term preacher. After much pain, and a split, they decided an interim was worth the time and money. I worked with them twenty-three months. They now have a good preacher. They are at peace and reaching their community.

When you get ready to look for a preacher, Don Viar has the best material I’ve read on the preacher search. Note this post on his website: Sometimes an Interim Is Better Than a Hire.

Don has other resources that can be helpful: www.ministermatch.com.

When you get ready for the search, his book has a good plan: The Search Committee Handbook.

Please pray, think, and look at options before you immediately do what you’ve always done.

Here’s more information on the interim concept and process: Between Preachers Blog.

What have you found helpful during a preacher transition?

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When a Preacher Is Older Than the Elders

what happens when age relationships shift?

Preacher: “I’m ten years older and have been preaching all my life, and he’s trying to tell me what to do.” Elder: “Our preacher doesn’t respect the elders. He’s older and thinks he should tell us how to lead the church.”

I’ve experienced and observed this for several decades: a changing attitude and relationship of some preachers and their elders when the preacher becomes older than the shepherds in the congregation.

I understand the change. When I was younger, I related to elders as father figures because of their age and authority. I wanted to please. I didn’t want to disagree. I was reluctant to discuss money. I was so hesitant I rejected my first raise.

The summer I was thirty-seven, I began to talk with elders as adult to adult. I lost some fear. I was able to say what I thought and felt. I asked for what I wanted. When I had a different idea, I gained the courage to share it.

There may be a danger at this point of over-compensating.

When a preacher becomes elder (older than some or all of the elders), the dynamic changes. Preachers and elders would do well to talk about this before it happens. How will each adapt to this new relationship?

[tweetthis]I was reluctant to discuss money. I was so hesitant I rejected my first raise.[/tweetthis]

Questions for Preachers

  1. Can you respect men younger than you who have oversight of you and others?
  2. If you’re a wise preacher, discuss with those who are younger how you’ll relate to the age difference.
  3. Did you talk the younger elder into considering the appointment?
  4. Have you taught and mentored this man to help him grow to where he is today?
  5. Can you submit to his leadership even though you are older?
  6. Will you count on your younger friend, mentee, to follow your lead, respect your age and experience, and favor your ideas and desires? You may be disappointed.
[tweetthis]Preacher, have you taught and mentored this man? Can you submit to his leadership even though you’re older?[/tweetthis]

Questions for Elders

  1. Do you feel intimidated by the preacher because of his education, experience, or Bible knowledge?
  2. Do you feel superior to your preacher because of your education, finances, experience in certain areas, or Bible knowledge?
  3. Will you discuss this possible tension before you are appointed, after you are appointed, or wait to see if problems occur and deal with it (or not deal with them) then?
  4. Do you look forward to being “in charge” of the preacher because of past disagreements or resentment?
  5. Do you plan to improve or remove the preacher after you become an elder?
  6. Or, will you defer to the preacher the position of pastor and bishop? Will you look to him for most of the visiting, counseling, reclaiming lost sheep, and directing most of the programs of the congregation? Is your idea of shepherding the sheep being sure the preacher is shepherding the sheep? How will you deal with the vacuum when that preacher moves, becomes disabled, or dies? For more on this, read: When Your Preacher Becomes THE Pastor.
[tweetthis]Future elder, do you look forward to being “in charge” of the preacher because of past disagreements or resentment?[/tweetthis]

Observations for Elders and Preachers

  1. Your relationship will leak to the congregation. If there is toxic tension, the members will choose sides.
  2. If you (elder or preacher) are stronger and you’re sure of it, you have a responsibility to follow Jesus in bearing with the failings of the weak (Romans 15:1-3). The strong one may be both — elder and preacher. I’ve met few or less, preachers or elders who thought they were weaker than the other.
  3. Have mutual care and respect for each other. Keep current with your likes, dislikes, irritations, and appreciation.
  4. Have an eldership funeral when new elders are appointed. When one or more elders are added or subtracted, there is a new eldership. Recognize that. Talk about it. Review and renegotiate the rules.
  5. Aim for a Paul-elder relationship of Acts 20.
  6.  Stay with the word. Acts 20:32
  7.  Remember Jesus’ words. Acts 20:35
  8.  Stay connected with the leadership team through prayer (Acts 20:36), expressing emotions as well as facts (Acts 20:37), and walk with brethren (team members) through life’s changes (Acts 20:38).

I’ve had that relationship with most shepherds during my ministry. It was pleasant and encouraging. I felt connected, secure, and supported. The congregation and others saw our mutual respect and cooperation.

How have you dealt with changing dynamics in elder-preacher relationships?
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Have You Been to an Eldership Funeral?

death precedes resurrection

We were anticipating more leadership in the congregation. In a few weeks, we looked forward to completing the selection process, and appointing a new shepherd or two. I asked the elders if they were planning an eldership funeral. They hadn’t thought about that.

I explained. It was my observation that often when new elders are appointed, you don’t get new elders. You get junior elders, trainees. They’re expected to do everything just as it’s always been done. If there’s conflict in the eldership, the new men will be recruited to be on each side.

[tweetthis]Often when new elders are appointed, you don’t get new elders. You get junior elders, trainees.[/tweetthis]

Also, when new elders are appointed, there aren’t just new elders, there is a new eldership. If you have a beaker with a chemical in it, and you place one drop of another chemical in it, you don’t just have another drop of stuff, you have a new compound.

[tweetthis]When new elders are appointed, there aren’t just new elders, there is a new eldership.[/tweetthis]

Any time there’s a change in a leadership group (one or more leave, one or more are added, one or more have a significant change in family, job, or health status), you have a new leadership group.

I thought it would be good to acknowledge that, learn from it, and start with a new group. It was one of those ideas I gave for consideration not knowing if it would be considered or delegated to the waste basket.

The next month, the elders said, “We’ve discussed the eldership funeral. We want to have one and we want you to preach it.”

People often ask, “What do you do at an eldership funeral?” — same thing you do at other funerals: stand around the casket, talk about the deceased, recall their good traits, and talk about how we’ll make it without them.

We went to a log cabin in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, on a Friday night, and had a three-hour funeral.

After going over Guidelines for a Good Discussion, which you can have in an eBook by subscribing to this blog (Subscribe), we began the funeral.

This was a parable of what was happening to the present eldership. Everything Jesus taught was in parables (Mark 4:33, 34). If you don’t like a preacher or teacher who tells stories, you don’t like Jesus because “He did not tell them anything without using stories” (Mark 4:34, CEV). We noted and discussed Paul’s emphasis on the gospel — death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:2, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We wanted to follow Jesus’ example of preparing His disciples for His death (Matthew 16:21-26). We observed the advantage of funerals. Solomon said it’s better to go to a funeral than to go to a party (Ecclesiastes 7:1-10). We read funeral passages. A Word and PDF document of the outline are available:

Eldership Funeral PDF

Eldership Funeral Word

We recalled the history of this group of leaders. They became shepherds during a difficult time in the history of the congregation. Not one of them had ever served as an overseer. Every situation was new to them. They were dealing with a congregation hurt and unsettled because of sustained conflict. They had led well. The conflict had subsided. There was peace. Read about the process: Starting from Scratch.

We “stood around the casket” and talked about this eldership, recalling early fears, discussing how they became a team, and how they were as a group. If a group of elders has unfinished business, it will be transferred to the new elders being appointed.

Our attention turned to the additional leadership soon to be appointed. How would they be integrated? Would they be told the rules? Often a group’s rules are unconscious, unspoken, but understood. We don’t think about them, don’t discuss them, but if you break them, you are in serious trouble! As they considered this, they said, “They can change some rules, but some they can’t.” The came up with two lists of rules: negotiable and non-negotiable. Read about this: Shepherds, What Are your Rules?

I enjoyed the night. We celebrated how God had worked with these men during a difficult time The church had grown and matured. They had survived the storm and were enjoying the sunshine.

Our next topics:

  • What hopes and dreams do you have?
  • How will you communicate these to each other, to the new elders, and to the congregation?

We concluded with the Five Tasks of Dying — how to end any relationship:

  1. Forgive me.
  2. I forgive you.
  3. I love you.
  4. Thank you.
  5. Good-bye.

I’ve “preached the funeral” of four elderships where I’ve worked, including one interim congregation, and officiated at one funeral at the beginning of a New Shepherds Orientation Workshop. I think it’s healthy to discuss these issues.

Many people get excited over resurrection. Fewer want to volunteer for crucifixion. However, death precedes resurrection.

[tweetthis]Many people get excited over resurrection. Fewer want to volunteer for crucifixion.[/tweetthis]

For copies of the outline, click the links:

Eldership Funeral PDF

Eldership Funeral Word

What have you observed in a good transition when new leadership comes into a group?
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