At TJI we asked two questions:
- What advice would you give to a new elder?
- What did you learn that most shocked you in your first year as an elder.
Here are the top 20 comments we got: We heard from older shepherds, newer ones, ministers and several ministers who also serve as elders. Thanks to all who responded. We cleaned it up a little but tried to just give as much as possible what was said to us. In the comment section please add your thoughts. We have the utmost respect for Shepherds and hope this will be of aid to your elders - feel free to forward this to them (If you are reading from TJI for the first time and want to get our updates email us at TheJenkinsInstitute@gmail.com and we will add you):
Don't micro manage.
No shocks during the first year. Don’t be a “one hit wonder.” In other words don’t come into the eldership with a single agenda. i.e. “I’m going to change this…I’m going to fire him…etc.”
If you feel under-qualified and inadequate, good your you. That's normal. I interpret that as a sign of humility and recognition of the great task you have undertaken. Don't let those feelings be your only feelings.
Listen a lot. Then, listen some more. It's amazing what you'll learn and what people will share. They'll count you wise and caring if you listen.
Pray for everyone, but especially for the one's you find challenging/difficulty. Praying for them does wonders for our attitude toward them.
Please recognize that even good change almost always comes slowly. Slow is fine as long as there's movement toward God.
Don't quit. The devil will give you reasons to quit. Sometimes, the brethren will give you reasons, too. Don't quit. Get biblically-stubborn, persevere, and keep growing.
Partner with others. Take people with you when you visit. Take people with you when you do Bible studies. Never teach a class alone--tag team it.
Work hard to present a united front as an eldership. Nothing hurts the church more than division and no church can be at peace if the elders are, or appear to be, divided. Elders must come out of their meetings in agreement and no one elder must ever say outside an elders' meeting, "I didn't agree with that decision."
My greatest surprise after becoming an elder: As a preacher I did a lot of "shepherding", but after becoming an elder the heavy responsibility of watching for the souls of members with the realization that I must give an account (Heb. 13:17) began to weigh heavily upon my mind.
You are not the "elder." you are one of the elders. Every elder has his say but not always has his way (Ira North's statement, but it is a good one).
When you are "ordained" and enter the eldership, you are equal to every other elder in that room. There is no such thing as an apprentice or junior elder.
Make all decisions, even on matter of “opinion,” on God's Word or principles that are taught there.
Don't play favorites.
Be prepared to give not just your time, but be prepared to give of your emotional energy. I'm not sure how to explain it, but hearing about the problems and pain people go through and hurting with them (empathy), takes a toll on you. (If you're normal) I have many in my family who are or have been psychologists and I know from them the effect it has on them to continually listen to the pain and suffering of people. It has to be even more so with an elder, because it's people you love who are hurting, many times because of their own mistakes and actions. I think it's like the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11, talking about his trials and burdens, when he seems to put at the top, "the care of all the churches".
Don't try to change too many things too fast.
Biggest surprise in my first year as an elder: How fickle people are and how easily and over such seemingly small things they get their feelings hurt and leave.
Listen to the other elders and get their input.
Never be surprised at what you might learn from or about your flock, sometimes you may hear too much information.