A Gift from a Preacher to His Shepherds and Their Wives

How do preachers get continuing education? I was blessed by congregations providing for that in my compensation package. They designated a certain amount of time and money each year for me to attend lectureships, workshops, or other special events to improve my knowledge and skills.

Back row from left to right:  Robby Nesbitt, Stuart McKinney, Shane Sewell, Travis Irwin, Gail and Jerrie Barber

Front row from left to right:  Ross and Carolyn Harrod, Robin Nesbitt, Gwen and James Summers, Debbie Irwin, Tim Gunnells

[bctt tweet=”How do elders get continuing education? Some don’t. Some pay for it themselves. Some have an amount in the budget which I think is wise.” username=”@JerrieWBarber”]

But if Travis and Debbie Irwin are in your congregation, they may present you with the gift of a workshop. This is a first in my experience. Travis and Debbie gave the elders and their wives in Athens, Tennessee a New Shepherds Orientation Workshop! The Irwins have been with the Athens church ten years. Travis is the Minister of Involvement. He not only encourages elders by word but also by actions. 1 John 3:16-18

One of the first things I do when I work with a church in any capacity is asking, “How long has it been since you had an Elders’ Appreciation Party?” Travis and Debbie showed their appreciation for their shepherds by investing and participating in their continued growth.

We had a great place to meet on the campus of Tennessee Wesleyan University. The room was spacious and well equipped. The food was delicious.

The elders and wives had read their books and were ready to participate in the intensive twelve-hour workshop.

You’ll not get everything you need and can use to be a better shepherd in a New Shepherds Orientation Workshop — and you never will. There’ll always be more to know and better skills to practice.

Two things we emphasized in this workshop:

  1. Rules. Rules are the way we do things, our habits. Family rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, understood, and contradictory. There’s a better way. Think about our rules, habits, usual ways of doing what we do. Discuss those things in the group where they’re practiced. Evaluate how they conform to or contradict biblical principles. Eliminate the contradictions.
  2. Pain. Our hope is in our pain (Romans 5:1-5). I think we have to build discomfort into our leadership training. This is true of all disciples (Luke 9:23).
[bctt tweet=”You don’t win Friday night football games by spending all your practice time playing video games in a recliner. You can’t play what you don’t practice.” username=”@JerrieWBarber”]

After seeing a video, we broke into small groups to check how we’re planning our pain to produce growth. I’ve never run a marathon without getting sore. We won’t grow by doing what we’re comfortable doing.

Questions in the groups:

  1. What are you doing now that is uncomfortable, difficult, painful you believe is helping you grow?
  2. What do you need to do that is uncomfortable, difficult, painful you believe will help you grow?
  3. What do you need to allow and encourage someone else to do that is uncomfortable, difficult, painful you believe will help them grow?

We worked hard Friday night and Saturday. Services were uplifting Sunday. The elders shared “mustard seeds” they gained in the weekend workshop.

[callout]To learn how to help you and your people to be more effectively involved in the Lord’s work, register for the 3rd Annual Involvement Conference in Athens, Tennessee.[/callout]

Click here for more information:   3rd Annual Involvement Conference

How do you encourage your shepherds to grow?

(Visited 622 times, 38 visits today)
Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

5 Responses to “A Gift from a Preacher to His Shepherds and Their Wives

  • Once again, I want to thank you, Jerrie for an excellent NSO in Athens. It is bearing fruit already. And, it was wonderful that Gail was with you; we all enjoyed getting to know her. I would highly recommend NSO to any congregation whether it involves new elders or elders that need a refresher course. May the Lord continue to bless this ministry.
    Also, thank you for promoting our upcoming Church Involvement Conference. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

    • Travis,

      Thank you for sponsoring this workshop.

      This is a World’s Record!

      I’ve never know or heard of someone giving a gift like this to their shepherds.

      I appreciate you and Debbie having this spirit of love and gratitude for your elders.

  • Hospitality. Have the elders and their wives in the home throughout the year, both as a group and as individual families.

    At Christmas, we enjoy giving them all, wives included, a book written by someone in the brotherhood. They can even be encouraged to pass them around with each other. If that is done, each will be able to read the personal notes we’ve written to the other on the first page.

    Use their names in sermon illustrations. I recently told a joke at the beginning of a sermon and I brought the elders and myself into the activity involved in the joke. It went over well to promote the central idea of the sermon.

    Demonstrating affection and appreciation for one another makes the path for growth much easier. If the congregation cannot see the spiritual growth and bond among the shepherds, how will they expect the flock to grow too?

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      4 years ago


      Excellent ways to obey the spirit of 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13.

      Thank you for doing this and sharing the ideas.

      • Travis Irwin
        4 years ago

        We have the elders, their wives and our preacher and his family in our home every quarter to eat and just visit. Usually it’s a Saturday breakfast. I usually lead a sharing time by asking a question and everyone shares. It is uplifting for Deb and me and hopefully for them also. We need to be friends with our elders and love them. They are precious and many times they stand alone.

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