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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