1st Year

Comments from elders and wives of elders of what they learned their first year of service that might be helpful to new shepherds and shepherds’ wives:


(Some) Things I Learned My First Year As An Elder

  1. Spend the time necessary to know and understand your fellow elders.
  2. The importance of spending much time in prayer together.
  3. Establish the non-negotiable and negotiable operating procedures for the eldership.
  4. The importance of establishing trust within the eldership.
  5. Communication with the congregation.
  6. What may seem insignificant to you may be a “big deal” to some member or members.
  7. Without God being the true leader of the eldership, it will fail, but with Him much can be accomplished in His name.
  8. Serving as an elder will take more time than you anticipate and God’s work is rewarding.
  9. Need to be on your knees a lot! Pray! Pray! Pray!
  10. You are not alone.

— Ron Gambill, Berry’s Chapel Church of Christ, Franklin, Tennessee



The first thing I remember upon becoming a part of the eldership here was a strong desire to begin laying some groundwork to challenge myself and the other elders to learn what an eldership should look like, what our work and responsibilities are, and to do the same for our deacons. Casual observation made it obvious to me we were spending too much time dealing with issues our deacons should probably be handling and very little time getting to know the sheep, learning how to council and disciple, thinking about vision, and other spiritual matters – things elders should be doing. It was very obvious that we could do better and should do better.

Looking back, one missing key element was “delegation”. I became acutely aware of this missing piece to the puzzle while reading Dr. Flavil Yeakley’s book, Church Leadership and Organization. There are many excellent books out there that spend time giving the scriptural background, the need for, and “qualifications” of elders and deacons. Dr. Yeakley’s book goes well beyond the basics and delves into the practical side of a working eldership and leadership as a whole in God’s family and gives advice on how to organize. A fire was kindled. I now had a mission and was eager to share what I had learned with the other elders.

I made an outline of each chapter in the book and shared it with the other elders. We spent time over a few weeks discussing the book using the outline as a guide. It was not easy getting use to the idea of ‘giving up’ some of the things we were use to doing ourselves. Initially, the idea of delegating met with resistance. What would that look like? Would we still be ‘overseeing’ this or that? Could we trust the deacons to get the job done? What would we do or how would we handle it if a mistake was made? How much money could be spent by the deacons without eldership approval? Who would set the ministers’ salaries? As you might imagine, a myriad questions were asked and what if scenarios were presented. Over the next few months, praying together and working together, we gradually became comfortable with the idea of delegating. We were finally ready to take the next step by defining the work that had to be done, putting it in writing, and asking for the deacons to commit to choosing their area of work and taking ownership of that work.

We began structuring our elders and deacons meeting, held each month, to coincide with the ten major areas of work that were defined so that deacons assigned to each of the ten areas of work could discuss what was going on and ask questions as needed. This has been a tremendous help to the eldership. Has delegation been implemented without problems? No. Has it worked perfectly? No. Has every deacon taken complete ownership of their area of work? No. Are we, as an eldership, where we need to be, yet? No. But, the good news is we are making tremendous strides in the right direction – both elders and deacons. Much has been accomplished. For the very first time, the eldership has recently had time to learn the process of and put together a vision and mission statement. Our plans are to implement this vision by the end of 2014. We are excited about this and give praise to Our Father who has been patient with us through this whole process. He knows we are a work-in-progress and we are grateful for his longsuffering toward us!

Jerrie, I have attached a copy of the “Deacon Responsibilities” booklet that we put together through this process of delegation.

— Mike Bailey, Woodbury, Tennessee



1. One’s idea on how to do something or solve a problem while maybe good is often made greater by input and tweaking by the other elders.
2. Listen twice as much as talking.
3. We spent much time discussing minor issues and problems and very little spiritual time feeding ourselves as a group the meat of the word, that is major spiritual issues that would enable us to be on the same page and unified in the faith. Lots of problems that are not matters of faith can rob your time from being a true shepherd.
4. There is much more to serving as an elder than attending the regular weekly elder’s meeting.
5. Visit your members when they are sick or well or their grieving from loved one deceased. Get to know them personally. If you know them personally then it is much easier to talk to them and get them involved or discuss a sensitive situation with them.
6. Your wife can be a great partner/aide in your efforts especially by being by your side in visiting women; after all she brings you honor and helps make you qualified to serve.
7. Pray often, study the Word, and review elders qualifications to see if you are “walking the talk.”

— Larry Graham, Hendersonville, Tennessee


Elder’s Wife:

I learned to go to bed before Ron got home from the elders’ meeting which was usually 11:00 or later! We all know elders should not be discussing confidential “elder business” with their wives (or anyone else), but elders are human and it’s only natural to want to discuss decisions with someone else (especially spouses whom you should trust). Going to bed lessened both my frustration at sometimes seeing him upset or disturbed when he got home and not being able to do much to help and also kept him from being tempted to discuss something that he shouldn’t.

I think the workshop and web site will prove very helpful for new elders and wives. So glad you are doing this.

— Reida Gambill, Berry’s Chapel, Franklin, Tennessee



Elders must work together and realize we do not have all the answers.

—Sellers Crain, Rivergate, Madison, Tennessee



Here is the biggest lesson I learned in my first year as an elder:

There is no such thing as a “junior elder”, or “elder in training.” Once you are appointed, you are an elder. Period. So, speak your heart in love. Share your best wisdom. But fully participate in all things pertaining to feeding the flock. A timid elder who “holds back” for fear of disrupting the old guard is failing to do the very thing that he was appointed to do.

This may be the craziest thing you ever heard, but it was a great lesson for me.

— Jack Hall, Richmond, Kentucky



I had been asked to “sit in” on elders’ meetings in all 3 of the places where I have preached. It did not take long to realize 2 things.
1) MUCH more responsibility.
2) The absolute necessity of communication & teamwork.

— Jim Faughn, Central, Paducah,Kentucky


Elder’s Wife:

As a young elder’s wife, I knew that when Durley told me something about church members that I was not to repeat or spread news that he had told me confidentially. I knew that our family was an example for other families. Many mothers would call to see if our children were participating in an activity, before they would make a decision for their children. Also I felt I was in a leader’s role. I learned a great deal from the older elders wives. Participating in church activities was important…you were being watched as an example. Your love for God, your love for people sent a message. Also the best way to get to know the people is around a dinner table (make it simple and comfortable).

— Sue McLarty, Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee



First of all, I am learning to really be an active listener. I find myself seeking other people’s opinions more, and also pondering statements being made by my fellow shepherds. I seek to fully understand what is being said and the context of the whole conversation. I am learning that there is usually more than one way to resolve issues.

I have found that I am just a part of the eldership and that the eldership needs to function as a unit—unified on the issues.

I have discovered that I love “shepherding the flock” — that is, being approached by a member about a need and being able to help or serve in at least some small way.

Lastly, I have found myself truly growing in my relationship with Jesus and being very passionate about finding effective ways of seeking and saving the lost. In closing, I find myself frequently thinking of different issues and things that I have recently learned, and realizing that you, Jerrie Barber, were the source of many of those lessons learned. So…thank you again for your impact on my life and so many of us at Collegeside!

— Bill Harris, Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee



In addition to getting less sleep due to all the late night meetings we had, the most important thing that I learned was communication with the congregation is vital for the health of the church.

I (we) also learned that it is important to refrain from nodding the head when listening to someone who has a complaint. If an elder nods as a person is talking, they get the impression that he is agreeing with them when the elder may be trying to convey that he understands what is being said. This can cause problems later on if the eldership comes to a conclusion contrary to position that the person had discussed with the elder.

— Jim Hightower, Berry’s Chapel, Franklin, Tennessee



  1. I recognized immediately that I needed to work on being more patient and check out things before I formed an opinion.
  2. I learned that showing respect to my fellow elders was a must because we all brought our different personalities and background into the eldership. That first year we all worked hard on getting to know each other better.
  3. I found myself leaning on Christ more than ever and trusting that He would be there and He would help me grow in wisdom as I took on the responsibility of guiding and taking care of His church and making good decisions.
  4. I always thought I was a non-judgemental person but I found out right away that I needed help in this area. I realized that everyone has a different pair of shoes to walk in and a different life journey and I needed to value everyone no matter where they were at in life.
  5. Set priorities and goals and strive to reach at least a portion of them. Time management was always a concern.
  6. This one probably should have been first. Realizing that even though I was now an elder, I was still a human. I thought like a human, reacted like a human, and would always be a human. Nothing changed…just like before I became an elder, I still had to trust in God and know that God’s grace would be there for me. I praise God for His forgiveness and continuous help.

— John Hayes, Central, Dalton, Georgia


Elder’s Wife:

Irene says it was hard. She had to do more with the children and with our business to allow me time to be out and attend more.

— Irene Oglesby, Western Heights, Sherman, Texas



  1. I am not superman. I can’t be everywhere doing everything. Eventually, I will not live up to someone’s expectations.
  2. We really don’t control everything or everybody.
  3. We are subject to the same pettiness as everybody else. We have to resist that temptation even more because of the effect on the congregation.
  4. We are not equipped to handle many issues. The root of some people’s problem seem to be personality disorders. Some of these disorders are revealed in struggles with sex; premarital, extra-marital, same sex, threesomes. In dealing with these issues some have been fueled by drugs and/or alcohol. The addiction to sex and drugs has been complicated by trying to determine what role, if any, mental health issues have played. Common themes run in people who have been officially diagnosed with certain mental disorders and others who have not been diagnosed.
  5. Many members don’t understand the difference between tradition and scripture. Issues such as: is it ok for the elders to be upfront to handle responses to the invitation? Is it ok to move the announcements from the start of services to the end of services? I am not talking about serious Biblical issues, but silly this is the way it has always been done issues.
  6. Trying to get Christians to understand that Christianity is not a plan, not a church program, but a way of life. They do not need to wait for the elders to plan their every move. “Work out your own salvation”. Use your abilities to do what you do. Do what you can and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or not doing.
  7. If you need constant positive feedback from the congregation do something else.
  8. Virtually everything you do will cause one group to support you and another group to oppose you.
  9. Lack of real personal spiritual growth among the majority of members.
  10. The person who (because they agree with you) appears to be the most spiritually mature on one issue will be the most spiritually immature (because they don’t agree with you) person on the next issue.
  11. Once a member believes that they are Biblically correct on an issue, that gives them the right to say anything they want about the other person. Their motives are divinely inspired and your motives are from your father the devil. They can gossip about you, they can do or say anything because they are right and you are wrong.
  12. An elder with loose lips sinks congregations. You cannot talk about what is said in an elders meeting, PERIOD.

— Anonymous



Wow! Great question. I may answer it again later as well, but I noticed it was tough being one of the two people to make even the smallest decisions. In our situation, there were many unknowns since we lost a key leader who always took care of most things. It was difficult trying to decide within the first few months what to pay for and what to carry on with the status quo, i.e. mission work, before we knew what the income verses outgo tallied up to be. I am still learning. I learned that there are very few people who are actually carrying the work load, and that there MUST be delegation to as many as will accept tasks to accomplish.

— Ronnie Kephart, Boston Church of Christ



When members come to meet with the elders, some people are upset over____________. Who are some members? Tell us so that we can talk with them.

— Ward Harder, Highland Hills, Tullahoma, Tennessee


Elder’s Wife

I learned not to take things personally or try to defend my husband and the other elders when I heard criticism of the elders and not try to justify their actions to others who might or might not know all that was involved. I also learned to be a good, calm, non-judgmental listening ear without offering my own advice unless I was asked specifically by my husband to contribute. Additionally, I learned firsthand the great stresses my husband was under and how to help in other ways that he usually handled, like finances and phone calls and even helping with his business dealings. (All of these areas were those which I had not previously handled all on my own.) Finally, I learned how vital an active and fervent prayer life was to ask for support and guidance for my husband.

— Beverly Perry, Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee



I learned 2 things in the first year serving, things that I am continually reminded of and try to keep in my thoughts at all times.

First and foremost  — GOD is the head of the church and He is working out His perfect plan for His people.  My job in serving as a shepherd is to get out of His way and avoid hindering this plan.  I can either be of some help to Him or I am an obstacle He WILL overcome.   My role is to listen, pray, study and seek His will.  This has saved me many times from losing sleep because I know God is in control and will not let any mistakes I make defeat His plans.

Secondly no decision that an eldership makes will be universally accepted.  Some will think we are perfect, most will not have much of an opinion, and some will think we are perfectly wrong.

I hope there is a mustard seed in some of this for you.  May God bless you in this endeavor.

— Lloyd Franklin, Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee



One may study greatly preparing for the role of an elder or shepherd, but actually serving as an elder brings much more awareness of what joys, sorrows, and struggles the flock is facing each day. In my first year, I learned to listen closely, choose my words carefully, and pray for the individuals – give it to God and have a servant attitude.

— Robert Gribble, Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee



  1. Essential to keep yourself and your family spiritually strong. This takes focus and is primary before you can or should do anything else.
  2. Listen to the flock without agreeing or disagreeing, listen.
  3. It’s going to be harder than you thought. Before accepting the elder position, you could come to church and not know any of the problems going on at the church. Once you become an elder, you learn about all the issues that had been kept quiet (ie. people conflicts, dislikes of brothers and sisters, this one is not happy because of “?”, etc.).
  4. Appreciate very much the prayers, cards and words of encouragement from the congregation.

— Mitch Burke, Woodbury, Tennessee


Elder’s Wife:

When I first became an “elder’s wife”, I did not feel worthy to have that title. I wondered what other church members thought about me. I was also concerned about “doing enough”and being a good example to others. While all these concerns may be valid, I realized all I can do is “do my best”, and not worry about what others think. God knows my heart. He knows what I am trying to do and become, for his kingdom.

— Kathy Mattson, Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee



  • I was not responsible for everything and did not know it all.
  • I was a part of a team and had to live with the decision and support what ever the majority decided-never tell outside of the elders room how anyone voted.
  • Our agreement was majority ruled and if it was against our conscious we would step down quietly-never divide.

— Durley McLarty, Cookeville, Tennessee



I have learned what a precious blessing it is to share this constantly deepening relationship and spiritual bond with my fellow elders. Obviously this is essential for the optimum functioning of our collective eldership. The unanticipated blessing for me has been the ways that this bond with 4 spiritual men has helped me to continue my own personal spiritual development.

An obvious conclusion is that all christians can benefit from similar relationships.

— Keith Young, Woodbury, Tennessee



Thanks for the opportunity to share this information.

Within my first year as a shepherd the biggest lesson I learned involved being part of a group.  This manifested itself first of all in the realization that each matter was not my personal problem to solve alone. The other shepherds shared the prayer, faith, patience, etc., needed to find a solution for each situation. The second realization was the need to understand the personalities, strengths, weaknesses, Biblical approaches, emotions, involvements, experiences and insights – including my own – of each shepherd. The third part of this was learning to communicate these traits between each person within the group.

Thank you for your part in working with the previous eldership to prepare for making my experience one of joy.  I can honestly say that it never became a burdensome work due largely to your leadership.  Each eldership added to and adjusted those basic principles to form into cohesive and effective groups.  God blessed your efforts as you brought characteristics of many leadership traits from the Bible to Berry’s Chapel and to others as well.

— Mike Norwood, Berry’s Chapel, Franklin, Tennessee


Elder’s Wife

During my first year, I did take a careful look at my own example and behavior and that was right to do so. Next, I remember having the other elder’s wives over to my house for a devo and planning and suggested having dinner at my house after church for newcomers (other elder’s wives brought the accompaniments to the meat).  The dinners and devos did not continue after my kickoff.  So don’t be surprised if your uplifting ideas don’t continue.  I wish now that I had continued maybe twice a year to have that dinner anyway.  I was too concerned that my suggestions fit in with the others. I have always been my own person, and the elder’s wife role works well for that. Be your own person. When you have an inspiring idea, just follow through on whatever level you can.

— Jill Parker, Granny White, Nashville, Tennessee



One thing I learned is that it is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted to do as it can be the most rewarding and the most exasperating at times. Some things you deal with are things you would never even consider normally. It definitely taxes your heart and mind in ways you would never suspect. But Gods word always is there to guide and provide an answer.

— Bob McElvain, Madisonville, Kentucky


I remember back to my teen years that I had a desire to one day become an elder. I planned my life to help me to be what I considered a well-qualified elder. In that my father was a minister and also taught Bible at Freed-Hardeman, I had a good Bible background from home. I wanted to be experienced as a minister, Bible school director, missionary, and a Bible teacher. The Lord allowed me to do all of that. Then came the day I was asked to serve as an elder. It was an honor beyond belief. I was asked to join a strong eldership with men from various backgrounds. Yet, I quickly learned that I was just one voice of many. These men also know the Bible. They have experiences in areas where I had little, or none.

God did not divest authority in an elder, but rather in an eldership. The Bible teaches that elders are to be respected, but it is when the eldership as a whole speaks that decisions are made. Having said that, let me share one experience I had in my first year. I was asked to oversee the educational program of the congregation. We had classes on Sunday evening for children through the second grade. Personally, I would rather have had those children in the worship with their parents. Having to staff those classes also put a strain on our available teachers. I was quickly told by the other elders not to end that program. They were afraid it would cause several families to leave the congregation. Years later, with the consent of the eldership, we phased out that program over time. There have been no problems and no one left. I was taught patience.

Elderships often move slowly so they can examine all aspects of a situation. I am not speaking of doctrinal problems, they are quick and easily handled. Scripture settles those questions. Rather, I am speaking of questions of opinion. Learning this lesson was essential, but necessary. I serve with good men that love the church and the congregation deeply. It is a joy to serve with them.

— Bob Oliver, Eastridge, Chattanooga, Tennessee


My first year was spent watching and listening. I joined a group of well seasoned men that allowed me to make a contribution but I did not come in with an attitude that I had all the answers and I could be the one to bring change, even though some of my peer group sought me out to suggest changes.

One of the motto’s that the  Eldership had was “everyone gets his say, not everyone gets his way” that has served me well for over 23 years.  I find subsequent years of men coming into the eldership don’t always grasp the need to share ideas and not some how seemly demand they get their way.

First year can be a power swell and must be guarded against. Satan can certainly use power as a divisive tool in the eldership.

We were in the midst of a new location move and raising money and meeting with groups of folks to establish needs and desires for a new building.

Lots of decisions were taking place my first year with lots of meetings. a challenge to my family.

I  consulted with my three children and wife what it would mean to be in the eldership and gave more time than I really understood.

— Richard Oglesby, Western Heights church of Christ, Sherman, Texas

Elder’s Wife

During this past year as the wife of an elder, I have found that it is important to be supportive and encouraging to my husband.  I also feel another important step is to be hospitable.  There are three encouraging words that I keep in mind are to Love God, Love your Family and Love the Church.

— Chris Pardue, White House, Tennessee


  • Ask questions before accepting the appointment. While one will not understand all the dynamics of the eldership until experiencing it, ask your potential co-elders (individually and/or collectively) how the eldership functions, its priorities, etc. Ask how split decisions are settled within the eldership when one or more thinks a decision is not wise (or not scriptural). Understand one’s co-elders are people, just the same as you. Differences will arise; it’s best to be prepared up front. Also, why does the eldership think another elder is needed/what specific roles does the current eldership have in mind for the new man to do?
  • Enter the eldership because you are qualified, because you want to do so, and because you are needed.
  • An eldership (and the individual elders) will not please all people at all times. The eldership is God’s shepherding authority; unpopular decisions will be made and error must be challenged. Be prepared to see a side of brethren that you would prefer to not see. Withstand fads, questionable positions and purely unscriptural matters to keep members happy or to keep them from leaving. The size of a member’s wallet is not a barometer for elderships to make decisions.
  • Your wife must be a strong support. Also, remember to support your wife and family. Your wife may experience some pressures because of your job.
  • Elderships and boards of directors are not synonymous terms. Take a reality check often to see if those terms have become confused.
  • Find a wise person in whom you can seek counsel. Hopefully, this person will be one of your co-elders with whom you have a strong and personal relationship. Remember to keep confidential matters confidential, so keep matters that are designed to be held within the eldership – held within the eldership. If your confidant is not in the eldership with you, pay particular attention to how much detail is revealed in your conversations.
  • Know if/when it is time to step down from serving in the eldership. It can be a difficult choice, but if you were mature enough to enter, be mature enough to leave.
  • Sheep cannot follow shepherds’ voice if they cannot hear the shepherds’ voice…communicate with the congregation. Communicating is not reserved exclusively for good news.

— Tim Pannell, Jackson Heights, Florence, Alabama


During the past year I feel like the biggest thing that I have learned was that it is so important to learn as much about the members of the church and their needs.  Our job is to help them to grow stronger in the faith.  We must study the scriptures to be able to teach, exhort, and show our love to the congregation.

— Bud Pardue, White House, Tennessee


  1. Weight of the responsibility – I immediately felt the extra responsibility of feeding, leading and guiding them.
  2. Communication is important – Having been a preacher and worked with many elders, I had some ideas of what they did well and where they needed improvement. I was determined to be more open in the communication with the church. I had seen a failure to communicate as a major issue with several elderships and the congregation.
We opened a monthly meeting to all men in the church. The notes from that meeting are summarized and printed as an insert in the bulletin. The monthly bank statement is posted and a monthly report of income/expenses is put in the bulletin. Announcements from the pulpit by myself or the other elder add to the communication with the congregation.
  3. Consider everyone – It was suggested that we change the time of our morning worship from 10 and 11 to 9 and 10 (perhaps 9:30 and 10:30). But it was important to be sure that this was not a hindrance to anyone. Most were in favor of the change. One family has some health issues. It takes them longer to get up, take their treatments, take their medication, and get ready to come. So the change in time was denied.
  4. Recognize their work – Nothing boosts involvement and support like a public pat on the back for those that are working in some program of the church. Compliment the workers. Recognize those who are doing something.
  5. Personal Issues – The only “trouble” that I have encountered is when two members have a disagreement and I am put in the middle. One member was being harsh, critical and very negative toward another member. The harsh criticism was done in public, in groups and was not justified.
  6. The Joy – There has been a lot of joy working with a congregation that is united, at peace, willing to work and offering to help. The work becomes a pleasure when all can work together.

— Manly Luscombe, Cades, Tennessee

Elder’s Wife:

  1. Some wives are treated differently – Janet said that other elders wives had commented about how the congregation treated them differently when their husband became an elder. People are less apt to talk with them about issues or questions about the work or decisions the elders made.
  2. But Janet said that she had not found that here at Cades. She is not treated any different than before I became an elder.

— Janet Luscombe, Cades, Tennessee


When a group of truly dedicated elders jointly consider an issue or question, they usually come up with a good and effective answer or decision. Not every time, but usually.

A group of men on an eldership may be widely different on the Myers-Briggs scale, but still get along well and serve well.

No decision should be made on any significant issue until the meeting room is cleared of all people who are not elders. Only then will all the elders reveal their true thinking. It is very easy to assume that everyone is in favor of an issue when some are not and are waiting until they can reveal their thoughts in privacy.

It is important to follow Roberts Rules of Order unless the most obvious decision is on the table. Those rules were developed to provide fair decision play, and any dismissal of them as if they are unnecessary or a kind of joke is a serious mistake. Elders should learn the basic rules and follow them.

In a meeting, start with the most important issue and wait until it is settled before dealing with smaller matters. The issue that is considered first will receive the most time and energy and should therefore be the most important issue. It is a mistake to try to “get the small issues over with first.” This will only result in small issues getting too much time and then rushing through the important issue at the end because everyone is tired.

— John Parker, Granny White, Nashville, Tennessee


In my first year I have learned and continue to learn to be patient and understanding with myself. I was very hesitant to take on this role. I felt that I was not up to “the Mark.” My understanding is much clearer and getting ever clearer that no mere man is up to “the Mark.”

I understand more that “the Mark” is not something we have fully attained in order to be a leader but is what we are striving for each and every day. I am not saying that a man does not have to meet the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3. He cannot be qualified in some areas and not qualified in others. However, each individual excels in some areas and has more room for improvement in others.
Jesus Christ is “the Mark.” Jesus, the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-4), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), will help me be the kind of shepherd I should be and the kind of shepherd the flock needs me to be. I need to continually ask and trust Him for guidance.

I continue to learn to be more accepting of people where they are. Everyone is at a different level of maturity. Everyone, including myself, must be growing daily but we mature at different rates.

In my career listening is of utmost importance. However, as an elder in the Lord’s church I have learned that listening is even more important. I have learned (and am learning) to wait. I have learned to let everything be said and not make quick judgments. My opinions do not matter. What matters is the sheep, their spiritual welfare and God’s will concerning the sheep.

I have learned that not only am I a shepherd, I am also a sheep. I have my shepherds here on earth and Jesus, my Chief Shepherd. My compassion for and understanding of the flock grows as long as I can relate to the flock and the only way I can relate to the flock is knowing how to be a sheep.

— Rooster Pitts, LaVergne, Tennessee


I learned that looking from the inside out was a lot more complicated than looking from the outside in.  I tried to spend a great deal of time listening, learning from and observing the other elders and the members. I  learned a lot about making decisions from consensus and the patience required from the process.

— Dennis Johnson, Hendersonville, Tennessee

Elder’s Wife:

I suppose one of the most important things was learning to listen more than talk. There are many sad and hurting folks out there and often they just need a listening ear. We do often feel the need to do more, spend more etc when we have the tools we need right there on our heads. One last thing-be your husband number one cheer leader. He needs that!

— Sheryl Pitts, LaVergne, Tennessee


I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said “You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never fool all the people all of the time.”  I learned that you can please some of the members some of the time, but you can never please all of the members.  But the really important goal is to always do your best to please God, even in the face of complaints, criticism, and pressure.

— Glen Rodgers, Hendersonville, Tennessee


I learned to think of myself as a shepherd. The flock appreciates a shepherd much more than it does an elder, and the needs are much greater for a shepherd than an elder.

— Ernie Hedgecorth, East Brainerd, Chattanooga, Tennessee


  1. Discuss everything.
  2. Be slow to answer a problem.
  3. After thoroughly discussing a situation (talked to death), stick to the decision and act.

— Clay Ross, White House, Tennessee

Elder’s Wife:

Tricia said that she learned that a “brief meeting” is a minimum of an hour!  She learned how much time is required away from the family and each other, how much she would be alone.

— Tricia Rodgers, Hendersonville, Tennessee


  1. You don’t have to have an answer for everyone every time. You are a part of an eldership with many talents. You have deacons who should be looking after the brick and mortar. It’s OK to defer questions to someone else, or to say I don’t know the answer but I will get it for you, or I will send the person with that responsibility to you.
  2. It’s not a board of directors position, It’s a shepherding job. Don’t get bogged down with maintaining the pen and neglect the sheep. The pen will take care of itself when the sheep are well fed and loved.

— Kit Pogue, Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee


It’s been almost 20 years since serving my first year as a shepherd. I was about 43. In my first year I had to learn to understand the personalities about fellow previous and new shepherds and that we all were doing our best to care for the sheep. I learned that we each had different gifts so others would not understand what I was saying because of difference in understanding the role of a shepherd. I learned that my first year was about truly learning where we were and praying for direction in where God wanted us to go. I learned that it was difficult to become a group of spiritual leaders rather than a board of directors. I regretted our lack of being together in God’s word. I appreciated the dedication of each man to God and our church family. 20 years ago I learned that many shepherds were doing the work of deacons and spiritual leadership wasn’t happening as God would have it.

— Mike Palk, Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee


When I came in as an elder, I sure felt like a rookie. It was exciting , but scary at the same time.  Older folks said that I had the same level of power and responsibility as the older seasoned elders, but I didn’t really believe it.  It took 3 years to develop the confidence needed to really function.

I learned there are all levels of expectation of me from praying with terminally ill folks to folks griping that someone didn’t put up all the salt and pepper shakers in the pantry!  Can be bizarre and unreasonable at times.

I also learned the people who really cared about me and what I was doing that first year.

— Bill Shannon, Hendersonville, Tennessee

Elder’s Wife:

Jerrie, I could respond in several ways to your question as to what I may have learned that first year as an elder’s wife, but I think the bottom line is this: wives have more influence on their husbands than they may realize. Therefore we should be very careful sharing our thoughts, or our opinions on anything in the church. (whether it is about another member, or about the work itself)!

I do not compare to the wonderful elders’ wives from my past who were so kind, patient, hospitable, and wise. But I appreciate so much that I have their example to look back to whenever I ask myself, “how did they act, or how did they respond?” They were not perfect people any more than I am, but they set a good example for me in the way they treated others, and served others.

— Valorie Sanders, Riverbend, Dalton, Georgia


I am not sure about anything that I actually “learned”, not that I know everything, but I received a considerable amount of wise counsel before I stepped into this role.  Many of those truths were “validated” in my first year and that continues even now.

  • It is always more important to listen and observe than it is to speak.  (why we have 2 eyes and 2 ears, but only one mouth.)
  • Be prepared to feel inadequate when it comes to trying to counsel some people and some of the situations they find themselves in.  That feeling comes with the territory.

— Rodney Steger, Maifair, Huntsville, Alabama


Everyone gets his say on every issue, but no one gets his way every time.

— Ted Williams, Walnut Street, Dickson, Tennessee


  • Don’t be afraid, be courageous, trust God and your fellow elders.
  • Pray without ceasing, on your own and with your fellow elders.
  • Don’t get bogged down in the little things. Let the deacons serve, encourage them in their service.
  • Get to know every one of your sheep personally. You can’t do this in one year. Take your time.
  • Seek, learn to love like you have never loved before.
  • Don’t think you have to solve everyone’s problems by yourself.
  • Develop your listening skills.
  • Be alert for teaching moments.
  • Get to know Jesus better than you ever have before.
  • You are not the church managers, you are the shepherds.

— Channing Workman, Berry’s Chapel Church of Christ, Franklin, Tennessee

Elder’s wife:

My relationship with the women of the congregation changed even though I felt no differently.  I was privy to a lot of information that I could not share.  Often, one or more of the women I was talking with, would need to know what I could not tell them.  This was sometimes because the elders were working on a situation and the time was not right to talk about it.  Sometimes, I simply could not/can’t ever discuss the matter with them.  This is a dilemma with a sometimes impossible solution.  The church needs openness but it has to use discretion.  It is hard to keep silent when a little information would go a long way toward helping the women see the eldership in the true light in which it is operating.

A second problem was that the women often share information with me that the elders should know but I am honor bound to keep their confidential information to myself.  That is also a problem that I have encountered as a Christian, a teacher of women (often deep subjects), a preacher’s wife and now as an elder’s wife

The women I encounter here are mostly very understanding of my responsibility to both the eldership and them.  That has been a great blessing to me.

— Laverne Ross, White House, Tennessee


I learned that being an Elder is much more that sitting in meetings once a week making business decisions.  I learned that you need to study the situations, pray over your decisions, and mediate on them, and then pray some more.  I also learned that you have to pour yourself into people’s lives if you are going to be a good Shepherd.  It takes a lot more that shaking hands on Sunday mornings.

— Rod Stamps, Hendersonville, Tennessee


There are always surprises.  Don’t ever go into the office of elder thinking that you know everything about the congregation, even if you’ve been there all your life.  I guess it’s over-confidence, possibly arrogance, most definitely SATAN, who makes us believe we know “what’s going on” when people are involved!  People break your heart.  They also disappoint, but they are only people,  just like me.  There will be trials by fire.  Instead of lamenting,  “why me?” perhaps you should ask, “why not me?”  As Mordecai boldly stated to Esther, “Who knows…. for such a time as this.”  (Esther 4:14)  We need to remember we are shepherds of the Lord’s sheep.  We are not kings of the church, making rules when something happens that makes another person unhappy.  And shepherds cannot disappear when the job gets tough.  The apostle John said in his gospel, a hireling runs when danger approaches.  A true shepherd doesn’t run; he stands up for his sheep.  You have been chosen as an elder to work. You are not the owner of the congregation.  You are a steward, serving the Lord.  Servants lead, leaders serve.  “Great is your reward…” Beatitudes, Matthew 5.  It’s important to remember your family’s opinions & feelings when you are asked to serve.  They will be under a microscope,  just like you.  They will also be affected by events within the church.

— David Waldron, LaVergne, Tennessee

Elder’s Wife:

I learned during our first year that the less I knew about what my Elder husband was involved in the better it was.  People were always asking me about what was going on with others and church decisions my husband was involved with.  It’s best not to even ask him about sensitive matters, especially members.  As Barnie Fife would say, “Zip it”.

— Sue Workman, Berry’s Chapel, Franklin, Tennessee


  1. Humility is an absolute necessity.  In order to spiritually counsel others, it is critical to look at our own shortcomings and accept that we are also sinners.  We should be like Jesus and convey a feeling of understanding, seek repentance, and not condemnation.  Understand that everyone (elders included) sins and fall short of God’s glory. 
  2. Responsibility for the souls of the membership is a very over-whelming responsibility.  But keep in mind that the shepherd  “leads” the flock of sheep and does not “herd” the flock from behind.  People cannot be forced to do anything.

— Mike Wright, Berry’s Chapel, Franklin, Tennessee

Elder’s Wife:

Joe was installed as an elder in Jan. of 1999. That July, the preacher got mad and quit. Joe was blamed,  still don’t know why.  
My family was verbally attacked by several members of the church. This had nothing to do with the original situation.????

Lana was in high school and Andy had just completed his freshman year at FHU. That summer he decided not to go back and to attend a local college. By Oct., he realized his mistake and decided to go back to Freed in Jan. He thought he needed to stay and help his dad.

My first reaction was to leave. I didn’t want to be around these people. Most accusations were false yet no one would listen.  

Joe kept saying, We will stay a little longer and see what happens. After a year, things finally settled down but was never the same. I now see if we had left, that was what they were wanting. I truly believe that the church would have died at Eddyville.  
1-Stay firm in the faith

2-Support your spouse.  
3-Pray for everyone.
4-Don’t leave when the going gets tough.

Hope this helps.

Left big impression on our kids. Made one stronger but not sure about the other.

— Cheryl Walker, Eddyville, Kentucky


I have learned a lot every year. I think the biggest lesson the first year was the realization that people expected me to be a different person after I became an elder. They asked me to serve having known me for 10 to 15 years, yet expected me to have an immediate solution to every problem in an instant. One man that I thought was a close friend seemed withdrawn. When I asked him about the difference in our relationship he said I have to be so careful what I say around you now because you are an elder. I don’t remember anything he said or did before I became an elder that was off-color. I was surprised at the way people treated me as compared to before I was appointed as an elder.

— Steve Simmons, Jackson, Missouri

Elder’s Wife:

Kay says the biggest thing she noticed was people pumping her for “inside” information about people. Not only would this be gossip, which she would not take part in, but I did not and still don’t share confidential information with her.

— Kay Simmons, Jackson, Missouri


Beginning First Year

I’ve changed jobs at least 14 times since High School. Nothing prepared me for the newness of being an Elder. I started off with some concepts that I wanted to be as an Elder – Caring, Compassionate, Communicative, Lively, and Sincere. Genuine also comes in there. But always, and I mean always, I sought to do God’s Will. Prayed for it. Questioned myself daily. Studied to assure positions were pointed in the correct direction. And through it all still kept seeking to know if I was in His direction. This continued not only the first year but on-going.

So I learned that no matter how confident and poised and studied, I would doubt myself and the Elders and the Congregation in many ways.
My history has been one of reading the Bible front to cover several times, and being studious in classes and even taking notes during sermons. I’ve done that since my teen years. I regret not attending a Christian College with Bible studies. I was surprised to find that only half the Eldership personally studied the Bible or had read it front to back. So, one thing we did as Elders was to study together Saturday mornings, since many of us taught or attended different classes. Additionally, there were so many strong differing options about scriptural topics that I would write each one and start studying. My list of topics was three pages long—-the list not the results. In addition to the studying, I spent a large amount of time spent meditating on study and checking for bias or false premises. I have not completed my studies, and I do not see an end in sight. The more I think I know, the more I know that I don’t’ know.

So I learned that no matter what previous learning I brought to the Eldership, more study was needed.

I never pretended to be the biggest or longest prayer giver, but I wasn’t the least either. I would often throughout the day pray or talk with God. Becoming an Elder expanded the number of times, the hours, the occasions, the broader coverage for the needs of others, and opportunities for prayer. Prayer at times of surgery or birth or death, or baptism or troubled marriages and conflict needed deep sincere prayer on an on-going basis. Prayer was closer to ‘never-ending’ than at any time before or since. And prayer was much deeper and more in touch with my soul.

So I learned to pray deeper and with more meaning and purpose than ever before.

Some Elderships may meet once a month, and others more frequently. My individual commitment was weekly meeting, visitation, studying, teaching a class, and talking one on one with members. There were easily weeks where I was spending as much time as an Elder as I was as an employee at work. If at all possible, an Elder should have enough time and energy as if he had no other employment.

I learned there was more time commitment to being an Elder than I understood.

Classes on team building tell you that each time there is a change in membership there is a change in the team. That is very true with Elderships. Being in a public class with them, worshiping and visiting with them is totally different than working together as elders. Who are these men? They seem different from what you saw ‘outside’. The same applied to me: they would learn more about me. I would have to learn to trust them more, or be more cautious when speaking or use my instincts to read their body language. How to act? I tried to be open and honest as much as I could dependent upon trust. Sometimes there was not enough trust. Team building is an on-going effort.

I learned that team building amongst Elders could take longer than in the workplace.

As personable as I could be, I [with the other elders] would be targets of criticism. Some were warranted, some unfair, some misguided, and some hurtful and mean spirited. I would ask myself, where was the respect the elders should receive? What did I do to deserve this treatment or their respect? I couldn’t always answer that question, and I had known some elders who faced such criticism. Where did the doubt and criticism come from? Late-night phone calls to discuss objections to some topic or action within the church. Somehow I placed most of it in the category of misunderstanding. Let them know you deeper; help them understand; relate scripture to them. And yet…..it wears on anyone.

I learned that people in leadership should expect favor and criticism during their tenure.

We all generally go into jobs with a degree of preparation. A common practice in the church has us teaching or fulfilling the role as deacons, and with some age [ and hopefully maturity] we could expect to get “promoted” as an Elder. Oh yea, we meet the briefly stated qualifications we all read and study. Many Elders are business leaders and managers. Jerrie Barber has taught leadership classes to help plant the idea for men and young men to aspire to be Elders, and some areas to pay attention, like prayer and study and discussion. Beginning with the first year as Elder I began to wish I had more education and experience and wisdom in a variety of areas. Some are:

Elder Development
The How, what, and when aspects of an individual’s function including time management; generic elder procedural practices including minutes, public vs. private notations sharing, practical rules of conduct including Agreements, confidentiality, local cultural considerations; how wives fit into sharing the role as Elder; because it is all new. What are the Procedures and Practices of the Eldership and specific Roles and Duties of each Elder? Always include studying The Word together. Praying together. Breaking Bread Together.

Elders also bring preconceived ideas or prejudices into the Eldership. How they see the role of Elder [maybe as Boss keying on authority instead of responsibility]; duties more like a Board Member; their ideas of where budget spending should go either missions or youth or building or whatever; attitudes toward preachers [maybe part-time or limited years at congregation]; individual goals they want to use the office of Elder to achieve. During the on-going team-building discuss everyone’s different viewpoints and how they fit [or don’t] into the Eldership.

Serving as an Elder can be the most rewarding and challenging time. A concept we struggled with as elders was who shepherds the shepherds? Seek the solution of having other shepherds as trusted brothers and confidants. Remember to pray for yourself, as a person and not just as an Elder. Know your own decision-making process. Understand the principles by which you live, and the values that are important to you. Always remind yourself you are not the Savior, Jesus is. Only He Saves. We serve.

Cost of Serving
This obviously will include time and effort and study, but there is more. I still cry over members who chose to leave [the congregation -marriages – friendships- God] following their own will instead of God’s. The death of children and revered parents and grandparents, especially if we truly share in the joys and sorrows of each other. This is the emotional toll paid. During conflict, your family pays a price in their attitudes toward the congregation…and they don’t always get rid of the resentment. It would be grand to serve with no conflict, enormous growth within the congregation, preachers –deacons-elders loved by all, and everyone coming to Christ. The reality of the role tarnishes the dream of serving and can change the innate functioning as an Elder. Each person will determine their own cost.

Generic listening skills with an empathic, deep ability to remain objective at all times. An awareness of when my emotions get involved in the discussion so I could revert to objective listening and thoughtful response.
Family and marital counseling to assist everyone in family situations including marital difficulty, child-raising, and family unit togetherness.
Grief during death, divorce, job or financial loss, and how to objectively assist.

Depression is such a large issue with many people either through chemical imbalance or emotional and psychological issues.

Conflict Resolution not just for resolving conflict but also how to see conflict arising and how to minimize its growth.

We may be strong believers and know The Word but the increasing amount of Spiritual Doubt, Dis-Belief, and Apathy toward Scripture, the Church, and Christ are new to us that are entrenched in Him.

I’ve thought of the persona of ministers and religious leaders. They tend to be innately more kind and generous toward people than businessmen who are taught to drive performance. Would classes from a Bible College help with fundamental knowledge and understanding of issues faced by religious leaders in addition to deep scriptural study? Probably. It may be beneficial to have more structured training to develop Elders, with continued learning.

How and when do we approach doubting members? How are we to find out they doubt or are ready to leave? Shepherds are to know and feed their flock. This requires spending time with them personally. Are we ready to provide the answers and direction that will assist them? Even then, they may not listen.

Listen to the various excuses people will give for their behavior. I’m a sex addict; I was born this way and can’t help it; I don’t care what God would say; He wouldn’t tell me No. It doesn’t matter what scripture says, people will do what they want to do. Even in direct contrast to scripture, and asked how they can disobey or how they would explain to God, their answer is basically I don’t care, God would not want me not to be happy. It’s as if they think they know God when they directly go against His wishes. This is really disheartening because as an Elder, you know God and His Will; but they cannot be persuaded.

Other issues members brought to the Elders were:

A desire for Mission Statement without understanding our mission has already been pre-set: Love God and Keep His Commands, and Love Others as ourselves. Our Goal is Heaven. We do this by becoming Christ’s servants through being born again, keeping ourselves un-spotted by the world, and by proclaiming Christ to the world. Congregants wanted more of a corporation style statement.

Questioning and Doubting the work and abilities of Elders without listening to explanations, searching scripture, nor prayerful assistance to the Elders. Lack of general respect.

Emphasis toward Only Philosophies – only Grace; only Baptism; only Church; only Communion in worship; only mission work overseas; only faith; only Jesus; only our definition of Christian, and so forth. This negates the rest of scripture and God’s Will which I view as wholistic—all of it is necessary.

Are you Liberal or Conservative? Labels and judgementalism were prevalent; this is only decisive. One deacon asked me, and I chuckled. I explained I wanted to be as liberal with Grace and Forgiveness and Love as Jesus, and as conservative as possible in living a moral life. Not getting the expected answer upset him because he didn’t know how to label me. Another label was being termed a Change Agent. I never did find out what was being changed.

There were occasions when members expected us to be able to read minds. Clairvoyance. How was an Elder to read minds, or know a spouse is truthful or not, more than their own spouse? It was almost laughable except it was serious.

Finally, I was surprised to see and experience the ends that members and Elders will go for their position or the possession of Power. There was: Subterfuge; Lying and backstabbing; Letter writing campaigns from outside and inside congregation; Retracting their agreements and using legalese to cloud their statements; and Threats of attorneys, lawsuits, and legal positioning.

In my previous roles in business or sport or classes, it was the take-charge characteristic that was equated with leadership. And that aspect is necessary, to a degree. Remember my desire of seeking to do His Will, and not mine? I had to give up that aspect of taking charge; to stop pushing my opinion and ideas as the best ones; to no longer be singular in my decision making; these changes were for the pursuit of His Way and the most beneficial decisions for the congregation. Making the decision to not continue as Elder so the congregation would have a clean start; and so I would not become a potential Chief Shepard: this ultimately tested my resolve to not pursue My Way. This process was probably the biggest change, or ‘give up’ of myself. I guess a person would have had to see me in operation previously to understand this change. It has been for the better. Everyone who becomes an Elder will have personal changes even after a short stint. It is important for everyone to know themselves, and to see how they change ever so gradually.

Who said men don’t cry. The more involved with members with problems, members leaving, attacks upon the Eldership and self, and conflict within the Eldership brought more emotion to me than anything before. I took it to mean that I finally was letting my heart’s compassion and kindness come alive.

Over time I became less conversational and more guarded when talking with people. Even friends and family. It could be due to the practice of holding confidential matters to myself, or guarding issues within the Eldership and congregation. It could also be from the consistent scrutiny of me as an Elder. I can’t tell you it gets better since I am still not as likely to be a conversationist. Maybe it is because other things like sports and politics have very little interest to me. Spiritual matters really do interest me, and the different perspectives people have. For discussion and sharing’s sake; and to compare to scripture or opinion.

Just a note that as I was placing these thoughts onto paper, the more I searched the more I wrote. There are many issues and thoughts that are lost to time, but they are only mine to one day recover. My suggestion to you is to take time to stop and meditate weekly if not daily. I wish I was a journal-keeping person, but am not. You need a shepherd to shepherd you, mentor you, and befriend you in your role as Elder. Never forget that all Christians, even Elders, are to imitate and honor Jesus. He is our Savior. Not Elders.

— Bill Thornton, Berry’s Chapel

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