This is the way we’ve always done it. We don’t do it that way around here.”
During an eldership funeral (topic for another blog post), I asked the elders, “Will you let new elders be a part of the team? Or will they be junior elders? Would you do anything differently if they suggested it or will they have to do everything like you do it now?”
The answer was, “That depends on what they want to do. There are some things we would be willing to change. There are some things we definitely would not change.”
My next question, “Will you tell them ahead of time or surprise them when they are appointed and come to the first meeting?”
The elders drafted two documents:
Before men were added to the eldership, the present group shared with the men considering and being considered the way they worked together. If there were matters of concern, they could discuss those matters before accepting the responsibility.
Families, groups, elderships have rules. They are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. When examined, they are often contradictory. If they haven’t been discussed, negotiated, recorded, and reviewed regularly, these unconscious rules will be the basis of conflict.
Each shepherd comes from a different family. He has been influenced by his family, education, and experience of how things should be done. Each shepherd has thoughts of what should and shouldn’t be done and how best to do it. Unless they discuss the way this group is going to operate, they will have conflict because of different backgrounds and views. Or they can let one person tell them how to function and agree with him. That will reduce conflict but it will also defeat the concept of the plurality of elders.
It is my observation that time spent in discussing what the Bible teaches about the role of shepherds and overseers and how this group will apply those principles is time well invested. It is good to develop guidelines to keep each person on task. This can be a basis for holding each other accountable to do the work God has called shepherds and overseers to do.