Elder Training Poll

trainingAlthough opinions are split, it seems that most believe that a formal program of training — as opposed to only personal Bible study and church Bible classes — is needed for our elders. In an effort to get some solid data, I’m posting a poll, and I may post some follow up polls as we go.

For those new to the blog, this discussion begins with Ed Stetzer on Reversing Our Decline — the Cure, Part 1 and Thinking Out Loud About Elder Training.

I’m limiting this poll to elders, former elders, ministers, and former ministers. This is not to discount the opinions of others, but to give a sense of whether, if such a program were offered, the elders and ministers would actually participate.

For those not familiar with ElderLink, it’s a one-day, annual seminar offered jointly by ACU and Lipscomb. They put the program on around the country to be in driving distance for many elderships. I am a big fan and I attend every year if possible.

It’s generally four class periods with at least 3 class choices per period, along with a couple of plenary sessions for all attendees. (And the best part is spending time with elders from other churches.) They try to offer a balance of classes on the pragmatic side (for example, legal and tax issues), doctrine (divorce and remarriage), shepherding (pastoral care for members), leadership (working with the ministerial staff, organize the church’s programs). Of course, the one-day format limits the depth at which topics can be covered.

To get emailed announcements of upcoming events, click here.

They offer top-drawer speakers and teachers, but attendance has often been weak. Part of the problem, I think, is that ACU has been so vilified by an element within the Churches that many elders are afraid to be associated with them (yes, really). And another problem is the difficulty of getting the word out when the conservative periodicals are closed to ACU and Lipscomb and there are no print progressive periodicals.

And so, the solution to the need for elder training may be as simple as getting the word out about ElderLink. Or it may be that we need more intensive training, especially for new elders.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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15 Responses to Elder Training Poll

  1. Sam Loveall says:

    Jay, I'm not familiar at all with the ElderLink program. How "Church of Christ-specific" is it? Do you think that there would be any problem with offering it to the "independant Christian church" brothers, the ones with pianos and such in their buildings? What about other denominations and non-denominational groups? I'd be very interested in bringing it to the Raleigh area, if the appeal and effectiveness would stretch across the church.

  2. Jay Guin says:

    It would unquestionably be suitable for independent Christian churches and for any other elder-led congregations. It's only CoC specific in that some classes will deal with the doctrinal issues we struggle with, such as divorce and remarriage — but the independent CC and many other churches wrestle with the same issues. Moreover, the curriculum varies from location to location, so if they know that it will be a cross-denominational audience, they can easily adjust to it.

    The contact person at ACU is Charles Siburt.

  3. Rich says:

    I have worked with surveys before. I hope you don't get any false 'no's because they respond to the first sentence rather than the second.

    BTW. This is a great topic.

  4. Jay Guin says:

    My readers are WAY too smart to make such a mistake.

  5. Rich says:

    A very wise response.

  6. Alan says:

    I'm all for elder training. As someone with a fulltime secular job and a congregation to shepherd, I don't see how I can practically take the necessary time to be trained the way I'd like. Retirement would make time available, but I'm not sure where I could go to get real meaningful training for the shepherding role. Biblical training would be relatively easy to find and helpful. I'd really rather send a church administrator or deacons etc for administrative training, rather than myself.

  7. Jerry says:

    It seems to me that if you truly have the heart of a Shepherd you would find and take any training that was available. It is the epitome of arrogance to take on the roll of Elder without first looking at your abilities and gifts and then make plans to improve the weaknesses. Actually this should be part of the Elder selection process that the sitting Elders would guide prospective Elders through.

  8. Alan says:

    In the past week we've had a two year old child in our congregation die (after eight months in a coma) and a husband went into the hospital a few days ago for emergency brain surgery to remove a tumor. We have multiple marriages in critical need, multiple serious parenting / teen counseling needs, classes to prepare, leadership of deacons and family groups, planning meetings, service projects… Oh, and a full time secular job. We have two elders and over two hundred members to shepherd. It's easy to say we should find the time for training, but it's not so easy to do.

    Actually I get a lot of my outside input right here on Jay's blog, and in other similar places. This I can do in-between other obligations. But I do attend a few events as well. I have attended the past four Atlanta ElderLInk programs. And occasionally I have traveled to other congregations to meet with their elders, or to various types of church leadership conferences. But it's not often and not really enough. Please feel free to come over and help us.

  9. Rich says:

    I'll pray for these and you. I can't imagine losing a child or having a spouse in critical condition.

  10. Jerry says:

    You actually have made my point very well for me, so I thank you for that.
    You replied
    "Actually I get a lot of my outside input right here on Jay’s blog, ……. But I do attend a few events as well. I have attended the past four Atlanta ElderLInk programs. And occasionally I have traveled to other congregations to meet with their elders, or to various types of church leadership conferences. But it’s not often and not really enough.(Admission of the need) Please feel free to come over and help us."

    So, it is apperant that you do take the time to educate yourself as well as you can. This proves that you have the heart so I appoligize that I was that harsh with you. I know of Elders who won't even take the time to read a book and look down on other Elders who do. They feel that all the training an Elder needs is in the Scripture. I would give you one critique and I hope it comes across as a sincere encouragement for you to persevere in your convictions about your training. You obviously feel that you need more training so stop making excuses and just schedule it and do it. I know it is easier to say it than to do it but so are most things worthwhile. Oh and also, don't give yourself a hard time if you don't get as much as you would like. Anyway my apologies for offending.
    In his Love

  11. Doug Key says:

    Jay,
    Just relating an experience. My Dad served as an elder and he went to a meeting that was held by Gus Nichols and Franklin Camp on a regular basis for elders. He spoke very highly of the experience from the meeting and discussions with other elders and the Biblical teachings delivered by Bro. Gus and Bro. Camp. He certainly felt that this helped him to be a better servant.

  12. You guys in the know probably already know about this (or have discussed it already some other time), but I noticed this today:
    http://www.mentornetwork.org/

    Forgive me if that's old news to everybody else.

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Brad,

    Thanks for mentioning Lynn Anderson's Mentoring Network. He does good work.

    Another approach to mentoring is being tried in my congregation among the campus and teen groups, with older students mentoring younger students.

    We also have a number of ad hoc mentoring relationships among the adults, with many different structures. For example, I teach each Sunday's Bible class to the teachers on the Wednesday before. We have a chance to talk through the material, challenges the classes present, etc. And the less experienced teachers get to hang around older, more experienced teachers and see how they work and think. Most classes are team taught, so that new teachers get support from co-teachers.

    We have a transdenominational group of men called Sons of Thunder through which the men support each other and counsel each other as they build their marriages and families. Their work has been truly transformational for many families.

    In my view, mentoring needs to be part of a church's DNA. Programs are great — but the bigger issue is to be humble enough to give others permission to hold you accountable for your Christian walk.

  14. WesWoodell says:

    I voted twice.

    Am I still a Christian?

  15. Jay Guin says:

    Wes,

    Yes, you are, but solely by the grace of God.

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