Have You Been to an Eldership Funeral?

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.

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.

[bctt tweet=”When new elders are appointed, there aren’t just new elders, there is a new eldership.” username=”@JerrieWBarber”]

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 wastebasket.

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.” They 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.

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?
Please comment below:

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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

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