4 Things Every Church Elder Needs to Know
by Paul Whittingstall

April 18, 2020

Healthy Plurality

4 Things Every Church Elder Needs to Know

By Paul Whittingstall

April 18, 2020

Church elders can draw encouragement from Hebrews 13:17, but it should also cause us to pause. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” 

The last section is the weighty part of the verse for those of us who are called to lead a congregation. We are going to give an account. That should not cause us to be fearful, but we should give great respect to the high calling God has given us.

As we serve as under-shepherds beneath Jesus Christ the Great Shepherd, we need to think about how to listen to and best serve God has placed under our care. That doesn’t come from placing ourselves on a pedestal.

As leaders to focused on the doctrine, discipline, direction, and discipleship of the church, we need to listen to those in our congregation and give them opportunity to serve. So how do we move forward with that?

We have to lay a foundation of knowledge. Every elder must know these four things.

Know yourselves

Before anything else, you need to know yourself as a group of leaders. What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses? Do you have personal awareness of others around the table, and what’s going on in their lives?

How are you doing with gathering a leadership consensus? Are some of the voices at the table stronger than they ought to be? Are you giving special attention to those who have more invested in a decision or more expertise in an area? 

Do you have distinct roles? But, as a plurality, is everyone involved? What’s the chemistry of your team and are you doing what needs to be done to keep developing that? In addition to normal meetings, you may need to change things up to have a night of prayer or simply go out and spend time together.

Answering these questions and growing the relationships and dynamics of your group will help you to better know yourselves so you can move to the next point.

Know your people

As an elder, you must know your people. That includes knowing the structures and systems in place in your church and using the tools you have in place. 

If you have a tracking tool in your church, you need to be aware of it, you need to access it, and you need to be seeking the best ways you can use it.

Take membership for example. Reviewing those metrics and see how people are doing. It’s necessarily about coming down on somebody. Instead, if someone’s missing out on what they’ve committed to do, you want to find out if something’s going on. If so, how can you come alongside them? 

This all comes from communicating with and listening to your people. That’s how you’ll know them best.

Know your season

The seasons in your church are constantly changing for various reasons. If your church is going, this brings about different seasons.

As God grew our church, suddenly the elders faced new frustrations. We no longer knew everyone, and we can’t know everyone. We can’t know everything that’s going on anymore. This new season requires more delegation.

Another season may be a time of peace in your church. You can rejoice in those times and God’s blessings. But you may also be anxious about what challenges may be coming from the next season. 

Some churches may be in the midst of a season of attack. You might be in a season in which the elders need of discipline yourselves. Regardless, you need to recognize your current season and what God is trying to teach you through it.

Don’t dismiss times by saying “It’s just a season,” especially if you are using it as an excuse to your spouse about why you are so busy. There’s always going to be another season and they all have their own unique challenges.

Know where you are going

What is the direction and destination of your church? As you think about stages of growth, you’ll want to consider what the vision is for your church. How do we accomplish that vision as our church moves forward? Who are we? Where are we going? How do we get there?

That type of strategic thinking may not be a strength of anyone in your leadership. There are good and godly leaders who need help in this area. If that’s the case for your church, get someone from the outside to offer their perspective.

That can be a positive, regardless of how well you think you are at looking at the future of your church. Sometimes they can see things with fresh eyes that you’ve missed because you can only look through your glasses that are always focused on the same things over and over again. Bringing in others can help you be aware of those blind spots.

As you think about leadership in your church, you need to make sure your elders know yourselves, your people, your season, and where you are going.

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