Our church is going through an elder search process. I honestly didn’t think much about it all until a few weeks ago when I decided that I really needed to start thinking about who I would like to see serve as an elder in our church.
But before I could do that, before I could come up with any names, I found that I needed to take a step back and really think about what I thought were the characteristics of an elder for me. What kind of person would I throw my support behind? What kind of person would I trust and feel like I could go to when I needed help? What kind of person would I really trust to shepherd myself and my family?
I am a list-maker, so I decided I would make a list and see what happened. So, on the way to work in my van (where I do all of my great thinking), I started my list. I’d love to hear what you would add to the list.
- Notice people
- Interested in the lives of others
- Pray for others
- Keep confidentiality
- Ask others how they are doing
- Listen – REALLY listen
- Open about their lives
- Open heart
- Encouraging – Uplifts others (positive thinker)
This is not an extensive list, and others probably disagree with my list. But for me, these are the things that I looked for in an elder. And after I created my list, choosing names was easy and fun.
What is on your list?
Willing to lay down power.
Puts others welfare above their favorite interpretation of Scripture.
Doesn’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done in the name of tradition.
Knows when to toe the line and when to leave it behind – and isn’t afraid to do the right thing even if it means losing power and position.
I don’t trust the elder system, after seeing it go so very wrong in so very many ways. I want the elders to ask themselves hard questions like: “If Mrs. So-and-So comes to us to ask what she ought to do about her abusive husband, what would we tell her? If she were our daughter, would we say the same thing?” Before that happens so they have a plan in place that they’re all agreed upon so that when it happens they know what they will do. (And it had better not be ‘tell her to submit more’ – that actually emboldens abusers.)
Jamie, this is a great list! And it is good for us all to ask hard questions and have conversations. Thanks!
It just scares me though – that for all of my bad experiences with the elder system, that most of them are terribly unbalanced. In one of my churches, the elders always agreed so much so that there were no checks and balances. When they don’t tell each other ‘no’ nobody else has the power to reign them in. That’s when things get dangerous for the rest of the church.
I agree whole heartedly there needs to be a checks and balance system. Mainly bc judgement does get clouded if they only here the bad vs the abundance of good.
I would like church to be more like a team. We are all in this together. Quit blaming and pointing fingers when we can’t stop an exodus. People leave. It happens. We need a vision that we live by. Ministers would understand their role bc we have a clear vision of what we are here to do to further the kingdom.
I would like just a few ministries focused on so we can do them well. Elders can make this happen. And the ministries work together vs compete. Too much competition for attention. If we narrow our focus we can do them well and together.
And if they are dealing with abuse – they should absolutely find outside help. Have to know what they are prepared to handle and what they can’t. Or dangerous advice will be given.
I Peter 5 and Titus 1 have qualities that God tells us to look for. But for me I am looking for someone who is already shepherding without the title. Someone that is already spending time with the sheep and knows them. Hospitality is a quality mentioned that you don’t see much of today. Where we are we have elders who not once in 5 years have invited us into their home or asked to just visit with us. My mom is a widow for 5 years and not one has visited her either. You cannot shepherd sheep that you don’t know. It is a noble calling and sometimes churches look more for administrators of church business than the shepherds that God meant for them to be.
That’s exactly what I was looking for! People who were shepherding already without the title.
I’ll have to add hospitality to the list!
Thank you Stephanie…. I love this.