By Stephen Parker,
Our Eldership has a great spirit of unity, generosity and commitment that is a pleasure to be part of. Earlier this year we jumped on a ferry and spent a night at beautiful Stradbroke Island to dream together, which is not particularly arduous. We’re treated nicely and really don’t have much to complain about. It’s a true honour to be entrusted with helping to oversee and shepherd a group of God’s people.
Sometimes, though, it’s a bit less fun. Occasionally an issue can become extraordinarily urgent and important, consuming countless hours of time, while the commitments of our paid employment, families and remaining lives continue unabated. There just isn’t enough time! It can often be tempting to ignore important issues, as it’s just easier not to say anything. When things go wrong, we often get the complaints, which can be draining.
There have been times in my Eldership when I’ve just wanted to disappear, curl up in a ball, and let someone else worry about the Church. When you’re examining pages and pages of not-that-exciting documents, it’s not hard to wonder whether it’s all worthwhile.
Yet when I look at Scripture, it seems that God sees Eldership as kind of a big deal. In Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas “appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust”. Then when Paul was instructing Titus for his ministry, he encouraged Titus that “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” Having “elders who direct the affairs of the church well” (1 Timothy 5:17 seems important to the early Church!)
To get a broader picture of the roles of Elders in biblical times, see Acts 20:17-38 and 1 Peter 5:1-4. The key words to describe their roles in both passages are “overseers” and “shepherds”. We elders are therefore called to supervise, direct, care for, guard and love those people God has entrusted to our care.
So, given all this, could I please suggest that you look after your Elders well? What kind of things would be helpful there?
I’m glad you asked…
Pray for your Elders – This has to be top of the list!
Encourage them – I know personally how much I value and appreciate people who tell me they’re cheering me on, trust me and think I’m doing a good job. I might not always agree, but I definitely appreciate them, and their words help to sustain me. Encourage their spouses too, who often have higher burdens when the Elder is at meetings, and have to listen to the hare-brained ideas they come back home with.
Provide Resources – One family in my church left their Island home for the weekend so we could have an overnight retreat there. Books and articles about spiritual formation, interpersonal dynamics, conflict, mission, governance can all behelpful too.We elders are therefore called to supervise, direct, care for, guard and love those people God has entrusted to our care.
Training – Often we Elders are dealing with issues we know little about. Providing opportunities for informal or formal training can be a massive help.
Consider joining them! – Eldership is not for everyone, but nor should it rest on just a few for decades. Hopefully an Eldership is constantly being refreshed with people who can bring new fresh humility, faithfulness, courage and even some wisdom to the table.
I’m sure you’ll come up with heaps of other better ideas yourself.
How can you bless your Elders?
Stephen Parker is the Academic Coursework Manager for ACOM (Australian College of Ministries).