Elder Training: An Idea

ShepherdA while back, I posted a survey asking how many would be interested in a two-day elder training program here in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The total “yes” responses was 31. Jim K has now asked where this idea stands.

Given that many of the affirmative responders would likely have scheduling conflicts once we pick a date, it just didn’t seem to be an overwhelming show of support for the idea.

So … I’m thinking maybe we get one of the universities to sponsor an elder training event along those lines. Several of the universities would be better located than we are and could offer greater resources than we have.

If any universities are interested, please contact me. I think we could put something together that would be very good for the Churches as well as the university.

Here’s the gist of the idea —

* Two days are committed to learning to be better elders.

* Training covers a variety of topics, some pastoral, some doctrinal, some administrative (shepherding, eldering, and overseeing).

* The program is designed by elders for elders. Obviously, we need all the help we can get, but if the target audience is elders, and if the typical church having elders has 150 to 200 members, we need to be sure that small-church elders are involved in setting the curriculum.

* There’s a heavy emphasis on having elders be the teachers/speakers. Anyone sufficiently expert is welcome, of course, but elders need to see that there are elders who’ve gotten into God’s word, who’ve actually led churches in Godly directions, who’ve been in the trenches of pastoral care. We need mentors and models. We need to avoid the unintended but implicit lesson that only professors and preachers really know how to do this stuff.

* The program is an annual event.

* The more I think about it, the less inclined I am to have the program be part of a lectureship. Now, I love lectureships, but if you have an elder-track within a larger lectureship, you’ll get a program heavy on preaching and you won’t get a lot of elders taking the same classes and bonding. And building interpersonal relationships seems critically important to me. A lectureship just not quite the right dynamic.

For example, at the lectureships, the most popular classes are taught by great preachers in large auditoriums — but where are the questions and answers? The seasoned elder sharing a lifetime of experience?

Anyway, Jim K, that’s where I am in my thinking to this point.


2 Responses

  1. I want to prepare myself to be qualified as an elder if the opportunity arises in my lifetime. Knowing the qualifications is simple and easily understood. However, I want to be solid in His Word. I feel that I don’t have a solid foundation of the Bible. I yearn for a structured study that will prepare me to address the complex matters that are brought to the eldership. I have attended two christian colleges, but a more directed study is needed. Any suggestions? Internet based would be best due to busy schedule etc.

  2. Mike,

    One purpose of this site is to provide materials for elders and elder-to-be, both on doctrine and on the very practical side of overseeing a church.

    I can’t say that I’ve attempted any sort of a systematic theology, but then I’m not sure that’s really what an elder needs. Rather, I think elders are best equipped with a foundation in grace and the Spirit and a solid hermeneutic, all pointing toward a missional understanding of Christianity.

    On grace and the Spirit, you might read through the posts under the Amazing Grace to the left of the page. http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/amazing-grace/

    On hermeneutics, read through the posts under the Hermeneutics caption. (Some would say you should study hermeneutics first, but I don’t think you can have a sound hermeneutic without first having a grace and Spirit-filled understanding of who God is.) http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/hermeneutics/

    Then it’s time to study missional theology. Go to the Missional Christianity link. http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/missional-christianity/

    Then take whatever else you think would be helpful in whatever order you consider helpful to your own study and growth. There are hundreds of posts dealing with the issues elders must wrestle with, from how to design and build a church building to the role of women to divorce and remarriage.

    I would also strongly recommend the materials at John Mark Hicks’ website. http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/. He has excellent material both on theology and other pastoral work of the elder.

    Finally, I have links to several other websites on the right side of the page. You can learn a lot by subscribing to them.

    And use the comment feature of this and the other websites to discuss the material as you go through it. The readers often have far more wisdom than I have. Tap into the combined wisdom and knowledge of the internet community.

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