Thinking Out Loud About Elder Training

[I’m sticking this post to the top of the stack for a few days to encourage further comment — pro and con.]

training(1 Cor 9:25) Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Jim K has put a challenge to me to figure a way to actually do something about our need for an elder-training problem.

The first task would be to design a program that actually meets the need.

The models that come to mind are —

* One day annual seminar

* Half-week annual seminar

* Week-long annual seminar

In my business (lawyering) we have to get a certain number of continuing education hours to keep our licenses. CPAs have to get 40 hours per year! It’s hard for a businessman or professional to take that much time off. And it’s even harder for an elder to schedule that much time away from home when he’s having to take vacation time — and perhaps pay his own way — to do it. Of course, some elders are retired, but many — maybe most — hold down a fulltime job and family responsibilities while taking on the work. And so I just can’t see a week-long program being very attractive.

ACU and Lipscomb have a joint program called ElderLink that does a one-day annual seminar across the country, it’s quite good, and yet sometimes poorly attended. I greatly appreciate the ElderLink program — and I attend religiously — but in my experience it’s not nearly enough.

The other model that’s out there is the half-week university lectureship — and there are several out there that are excellent. The Pepperdine Lectures are the best attended, and it’s a half week, running from 7:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night in a truly beautiful location (stairs notwithstanding). Many elders attend, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of classes, very well taught. And there are other lectureships equally well taught at other campuses, such the Abilene Summit and the Lipscomb Summer Celebration. And there’s the Tulsa Workshop.

All these lectureships are put on free of charge, and yet most elders do not attend any of them (although many do). In many churches, the preacher attends — the church generally pays — but not the elders, meaning that the elders aren’t exposed to the training, ideas, and experiences the preacher has.

We like to talk about being elder-led and not having a “pastor” system, but we train our preachers and don’t train our elders, with the result that either the preacher leads or the church is led poorly and the preacher is frustrated. It’s nuts.

I’ve attended all these (except the Tulsa Workshop). They are truly excellent, and yet there’s something lacking. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it. Let me run a few ideas past the readers and see if you all agree.

* I think the lectureships aren’t as well known among elders as they should be. There are far more churches represented by their ministers than their elders.

* The programs are often very practical and informative. Some even have elder tracks — designed for elder training.

* On the other hand, it seems clear to me that — as a rule — these programs aren’t designed by or for typical elders. Rather, they are designed by university administrators and ministers for what they figure elders need. And it’s not so much that they’re wrong as they’re incomplete.

* The lectureships try very hard to be cutting edge — dealing with today’s issues, the latest books, etc. — while most elders are still trying to catch up with issues that have been around for a long time. Where is the class that covers on a book, chapter, and verse basis whether we should fellowship “the denominations”? Where’s the class on how to help your church escape legalism — with book, chapter, and verse theology? I’m sure that these topics have all been taught, but the progressive universities seem to have blown right past the issues while the conservative churches are still arguing for our traditional position, and no one is explaining the Biblical basis for change. It’s either damnable heresy or too obvious to have to explain. Surely there’s a middle ground!

* The elder training at the lectureships often misses the real nitty gritty. Where’s the class on how to fire a minister with grace and compassion? Or handle the transition of a new minister in when the beloved, retired minister stays at the congregation? Or how to oversee a missions program? How to discipline members scripturally and with love?

I practice some as a bond lawyer, and in that business, we offer two main continuing education programs a year — one for cutting edge issues and one called “Fundamentals” for new bond lawyers. It’s a good model.

So here’s what I’m thinking — but I’m really not very confident in this, so I’m looking for ideas and criticism —

* Set up a half-week class on the basics of eldering. You can’t cover it all in half a week, so you have three curriculums that rotate year by year. After three years of attending, you’ve finished with the basics.

The natural place for this would be at several of the universities around the country, as they have the resources and every reason in the world to want to encourage institutional loyalty. You’d offer the course around the country at multiple campuses throughout the year.

* Thereafter, elders get “continuing education” at the lectureships. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. But the lectureships should have an advisory committee made up of practicing elders from  the area the lectureship draws from to come up with practical topics needed by the elders. And I don’t just mean elders at 1,000-member churches. We need to meet the needs of elders in congregations of 200 or less, which is likely over 90% of our congregations.

* The preacher gets a discount, free lodging, or other incentive if he brings half or more of his elders with him to the lectures. I mean, we need something to break the mindset that elders don’t need training, and getting the preacher to push the idea seems a sensible path

Let’s see. There are several barriers to this idea that come to mind.

First, elders do not like to ask the church to pay for their travel costs. It seems like a conflict of interest (it’s not), and good elders are humble men who would rather the church’s resources go to other people. And yet many elders aren’t willing or able to pay their own way to Pepperdine or Nashville. Right attitude; wrong result.

We need to change the church culture so that continuing education is standard and in the church budget.

Second, many elders can’t go because they are in churches that consider ACU etc. “liberal.” Therefore, our more moderate schools need to be a part of the program. (Harding, this means you have a God-given opportunity to serve in this way.)

Third, it’s just really hard to get the word out in a fellowship where the periodicals aren’t read by many of our members — and the progressives don’t have a print periodical at all. There’s no central repository of elder names. The only list of Churches of Christ omits churches with an instrumental service (really, really wrong). Marketing will be a challenge.

There’s no easy solution, but I’d start by —

* Making the involvement of elders a central focus. I’d have on the cover of the lectureship mailing “for elders and ministers” — in that order, nice and big.

* Inviting elders to participate in the planning. Each lectureship should have a committee of respected elders from small and large churches helping to set the curriculum.

* Recruiting respected congregations in each community to recruit their sister congregations. Maybe you have lunches scheduled for the elders from Central Alabama to all meet on Thursday at the Lipscomb lectures and have two or three churches from the area send invitations to their sister congregations. We elders have a desperate need to meet with the elders in our sister congregations. And a little peer pressure goes a long way.

* Working Facebooks and the blogs and the forums.

* Avoiding the temptation to be sermon centered and therefore preacher centered. Search out the elders who are excellent teachers and let them teach. It’s fine to have some great sermons. Elders like sermons better than most. But I think elders will respond better to being instructed by elders or other experts most of the time. I mean, why don’t we ever have a human resources expert teach us about managing people? We are soooo inside-the-box.

* For the Fundamentals seminar, making a point of working the middle without catering to either side. Maybe you offer competing viewpoints.

* Encouraging gifted members who aren’t yet elders to attend — and figuring that after a few years the men with training will so excel that the training will sell itself.

So … what do you think? What would work better? Would such a model work at all?

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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37 Responses to Thinking Out Loud About Elder Training

  1. Royce Ogle says:

    Who trained elders before the printed page? Did they function less well than those today? I doubt it.

    I am not against education, any kind almost, but it is too easy to lean the wrong way. A man who is filled with the Word, filled with the Holy Spirit, and is living a life above reproach should do just fine.

    Royce

  2. Cary says:

    Jay, as I tell the students in my ministry: "That's a great idea. Make it happen!"

  3. Three years ago, my home church hosted a Shepherding Conference, with Lynn Anderson, Monte Cox and other guest speakers. The attendance was pretty good – about 300 leaders and wives – from all over the state of Arkansas, in spite of the fact that we were written up locally for having a "change agent" as a speaker. (Lynn is unapologetic about being a change agent, well-defending the proposition that Jesus calls everyone to change!)

    We got special rates from local hotels, offered to find hosting homes for those who wanted to be hosted, and offered catered breakfast on Saturday morning.

    (My favorite moment from the event was after one of the sessions, when Lynn came across an elder's wife on the verge of tears. Concernedly, he asked if there was something he had said that offended or was hurtful.

    "Oh, no," she replied, trying to stanch the tears. "It's just … the singing is so beautiful. We come from a church where there's about 25 people any given Sunday.")

    So my vote would be for a LOT more statewide and regional events, hosted by larger churches or (gasp!) several churches cooperating.

  4. Jay Guin says:

    The Homewood congregation in Birmingham hosted a similar conference a few years ago, and it was excellent — and never repeated. In fact, I'm sure one reason I keep pushing for more like it is it was so useful. And it was a great experience being with other elders and sharing with them.

  5. Bob says:

    jay

    Keep trying. It will take a very long time for the present generation of elders to even recognize the problem much less have the guts ti do anything about it.

    Most do not know thier congregation, are in cliques with the preacher and staff. The only congrgations that are currently successful are run by preachers being the Pastor with elders as the board of directors.

    The one exception is the Dowlen Road Church of Christ in Beaumont,Texas where the elders or shepherd actuall asked the congregation for advice on ten issues that the congregation on thier own felt a need for improvemnt.

    Thr first concern was how can we do evangelism?.teach us. The second was how can we be more like Jesus?. The third was we want to know more about the elders. So the elders went to every home to better know their flock. There were more but the three above is what the leadership heard from their flock about what they needed to do. Within a month thw elders implemented the requests.

    We have a hard time even getting our elders to discuss any issue.

    Good luck. We will pray for your sucess

  6. Jim K. says:

    I knew you would come through! The starting gun has been sounded and now it is indeed up to us to put something together! To quote the imortal words of the late – great – James Brown, "I Feel Good!!"

    The idea of the lectureships is a great one. The resources are excellent and the event can be planned using a postive formet, – THEN – What about setting up some area or regional meetings at the different churches for follow up and a continued support group? Hey, that is cooperation at it's best – and all for the cause of Christ!

    We now have the means, and the start of the methods, so lets do it!

    Wait til' you see what happens next………

  7. Do the seminars on week nights as Webinars. Use email, instant messaging, video chat and so on. Two hours every second Tuesday night each month or something like that.

    That removes the travel expense and the added expense of missing days of paying jobs.

    Yes, you miss something by not being in the same room with others, but more Elders would have the opportunity for more learning.

    Jay, you attend a "university" congregation. I am sure there are folks there who know how to do the technology.

  8. Bob Brandon says:

    I'll say this much from my experience in uniform: any attempt to establish a process intended to produce "leaders" is going to produce "managers," and "managers" is something we have too many of already.

    Leadership in any organization is a function of inspiration: it's a gift, but it's a gift that is accessible to most folks. Some just get it quicker than others. We all know folks whose example we like: that's the gist of leadership. Jesus himself set the original example: agape service. Most of the folks who are going to have the insights on agape service to others are going to find management tedious and inefficient.

    From my experience, the real leaders were not at the top of the chain of command: they were those who reminded me of why I had put on our country's uniform and what that service was all about. Perhaps they were high in rank; perhaps they weren't. What I know is that, too often, those at the top of the hierarchy simply weren't the leaders they were supposed to be: we found our own role models for the tasks at hand.

    Congregations are no different.

  9. Alan says:

    It's not all about training. The problem is more fundamental than that. If elders were full time staff, they would have time for the Bible study, prayer, elder training, and shepherding that is really needed. That is unlikely to be fixed because of perceived conflict of interest — and also because, in most cases, all the money is going to pay for buildings. So many churches have nice buildings and untrained elders. Something is wrong with the priorities. And there are large institutional barriers to fixing it.

  10. James Waugh says:

    Here is something Oklahoma Christian just rolled out. Thought it might interest the group. http://www.strataleadership.com

  11. JdB says:

    In one congregation I served, they had just appointed shepherds for the first time in many years. These men decided that they would find a way to grow, so one of the things they "required" was that the elders, staff, and their wives to go to Harding for the Leadership Seminar each year. The church picked up the cost. It was a great time and they learned many valuable tools for helping the congregation grow. Unfortunately, Harding incorporated the seminar into their larger format. The focus on this even eventually waned, but it was a great idea. Shepherds grew closer together and learned leadership skills. Shepherd and staff had a chance to spend time together. It was a good idea.

  12. Jim K. says:

    I like the idea of webinars if they are used as a follow up. There is much to be said about face to face meetings. Iron really does sharpen iron…..

    I also agree with Bob Brandon to the extent that leadership is a gift accessible to most everyone. However, in any organization military or otherwise, there must be a process to bring that out, to develop it, and to hone that skill, whether on the front line of battle, or on the front line of business, or in the church. The military or anyother business does not put people in a leadership role and just let them set there and wait for the leadership bud to blossom. There are things that are done to enhance that blooming. Courses, skill sets, specific assignments designed to bring out those leadership skills are given. That is what we may be talking about here in this discussion. How and what can we do to help Elders everywhere be better "leaders for God" better "Shepherds" of their congregations, and thus enhance the kingdom.

    I belive that is where we are missing the boat. It is not enough to bless men to be Elders and simply say, go forth and lead, and expect something miraculous to happen. Now in saying that, I am not saying that God and the spirit won't intervene and make things happen because he will.

    What we do is tend to throw people into the role, expect them to lead and manage day to day church stuff, and by the way, be Shepherds to the flock, and then set the spiritual direction of the church -AND- keep yourself in the word too. Lots of stuff on a plate, and far too many plates spinning in the air at once.

    I don't see this as having any specific agenda to push and objective such as a conservative or progressive effort, but rather to help equipp Elders to be the best they can be, and thereby making their local congregations the best as well, and then to reach more people for Christ.

    As Elder / Shepherds we are facing so many things today that have and will have a lasting impact on the church. I believe that we need a seminar such as Jay is asking about to come together as a body, learn from those who would teach us about the challenges AND the opportunities we face, and more importantly learn form each other.

    The Sr. Minister from our congregation attended a lectureship last week and did a session on mentoring. It was well attended, but the thing that struck me most was the response from church leaders, some much bigger than ours, about how much they needed to learn how to mentor! That is yet another need we need to learn more about. In business I call it sucession planning, in the church we dont call it anything because we dont think about it!

    Again great responses and great ideas. Let's move forward and put something together!

    Blessings

  13. Ken says:

    Has anyone thought of starting a society just for elders? In the Catholic Church priests must join societies for mutual prayer and edification.

    The society would be run by the elders and not colleges or churches, and could certainly organize regional and national lecturships, prayer meetings, etc.

  14. Ken says:

    I don't know if I can post or not, the last one did not work, but…

    Why not organize a mutual prayer and edification society for elders (non elders could be associate members)? This society can plan national and regional lectureships for the benefit of elders. The bonus, hopefully, is that it wouldn't be controlled by the schools, which sometimes have their own agendas.

    Ken

  15. Rich says:

    Great post and thoughts!!! This is what we need.

    In today's society, no one method will work. Our society is made up of small sub-societies requiring multiple communication channels. I would prefer the one hour webinar approach. I attend at least one every month that is business related. Others prefer the live, traditional type. A blanket of approaches will be necessary to get the job done.

  16. Jay Guin says:

    I spoke at the Harding lectureship a few years ago (pre-blog) and they had an elder track as part of the lectureship — classes during each class period for elders. I can't tell from their website whether this is still true.

  17. Jay Guin says:

    It's an intriguing thought. I know that youth ministers, campus ministers, and childrens ministers do exactly this. It has a lot of appeal — except I'm not comfortable with drawing a broad line between elders and ministers. I think churches run better when the elders and ministers are on the same page — which, to me, means they should look for opportunities to share experiences and learn together. So maybe we should work toward a society of elders and ministers. I'll have to ponder this one …

  18. Jim K said:
    "The Sr. Minister from our congregation attended a lectureship last week and did a session on mentoring. It was well attended, but the thing that struck me most was the response from church leaders, some much bigger than ours, about how much they needed to learn how to mentor!"

    Mentoring is something to encourage at every level of the church. another word for it is "discipling", as in "go make disciples". If every member is either pouring into someone or being poured into, then mentoring becomes the lifestyle of the church.

    This is a powerful way to bless an eldership. Needs get taken care of. The gospel gets demonstrated. People get saved. The community notices. All the time, the elders are living the same life as the rest of the congregation in a growing, organic, life-giving family, giving them the freedom to study, pray, fast, and listen for the Lord's voice.

  19. Off the topic: What is it about CoC that we add "ship" onto the end of words and we think we are still using real words?

    Elder-ship, Lecture-ship? I have always found that strange.

  20. Rich says:

    Both are real words that I seriously doubt were invented by the cofC.

    eldership: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eldership
    lectureship: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lectureshi

    What do you think about leadership?

    I understand that the cofC has fallen out socially similar to nearly every other Christian-like group in the U.S. that is more than 30 years old. Let's try to keep focus on finding a cure.

  21. Bob says:

    WOW

    Look what you have started. What a fine group of godly folks you have stired. All have great suggestions.

    Bob Brandon

    God bless you for serving your country. Our grandson has just returned from Iraq and we appreciate the dedication of he and you to your country.

    Bob, your comment about training will sometimes only produce managers is well heeded. We need leaders who will walk as Jesus walked and compel all who see them to follow. A real leader in combat, as you know, comes out of no where and makes extraordinary effort to accomplish victory. We need both men and women as leaders regardless of title to lead. We also need both to follow the leader when they do appear.

    I thank all of you for the synergism show by people working together.
    people

  22. Charlie Herndon says:

    Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me." We have started an effort to make progress toward this by using our time during Sunday morning and Wednesday night Bible classes to invite 'sheep' in for an interview/spiritual check-up with two shepherds. Aiming for at least 6 interviews per week x 40 weeks would be 240 family units. The agenda involves who is your family, how is your family, passages related to spiritual growth God desires, how is your relationship with God, prayer requests, and prayer. After 9 meetings, is going very well. We are also encouraged to make weekly phone calls or contacts to show concern. 13 elders times 1 call times 50 weeks is 650 contacts!

  23. Jay Guin says:

    Are you questioning my writership?

  24. Jay Guin says:

    Very impressive. I'm sure your church will be blessed by your work.

  25. Earle West says:

    You leap to an array of solutions without carefully defining a problem! Something Annually? Conferences? Training? Huh? What for? C'mon, you can do better here.

    Like any other are of activity, poorly attended conferences and sessions that purport to provide elder training are generally recognized as missing the mark, and thats why they are poorly attended. Present your data or facts that support your thoughts, and I'll understand what you're saying.

    But Take another look at the logic of your whole premise here: Here is a group of "shepherds" who members of the church(es) have collectively identified and called out from among themselves to be their leaders in all matters spiritual. So we've made them elders because they are already leaders and they remain elders because, presumably they continue to lead in the way we like. They hold themsleves out to be our guides in all things spiritual.

    So where does it fit into this model that anyone other than such as those who are the spiritual leaders would …spiritually lead? Nobody designated ACU, Harding, or Lipscomb, or any other ivory tower to be their spiritual leader. It just doesn't fit. The whole model just seems self-contradictory, I'm not surprised elder training has just never attracted a lot of interest. Especially when its directed at the elder and his training.

    Now I don't want to suggest there are problem elders. There most certainly are. But no amount of training is going to fix that. Training only prolongs the problem.

    There are topics that good spiritual leaders might well be attracted to attend along with their ministry leaders and partners. But, success in this area, like most other areas of busineess and marketing, require focusing on a real need and delivering the goods to meet the need.

    Treating men who are well recognized as spiritual leaders as if they don't know what's good for them is going to be fruitless.

  26. Sorry, I do not recognize dictionary.com as a legitimate source on the English language (it contains a definition for "texting").

    I dislike "eldership" because it becomes an "it" – a thing that exists down the hall somewhere. "It" removes the people and turns spiritual leaders into a thing.

    Elders are people – individual loving, caring, fallible people. An "eldership" is some type of corporate machine or something. There are no people there. There is no individual responsibility.

    "Lectureship" – I have no clue what that is.

    How do you like my "commentership?"

  27. Jim K says:

    While I respect the comments Earle has made, I must ask the question "how has all of this been working for the Lord's church so far?" It is simply a fact that the way things have been done in the past has not worked out well for the sake of the church. People are more lost than ever, our youth are leaving the church in droves, and the Gospel is not being spread, even to neighbors next door.

    Bro. Earle is correct, the Universities are not the only answer, they are an answer when considering resources, etc. Perhaps another way to phrase this would be along the lines of "what can we do to help enhance the Lords Kingdom, by helping make every church leader better at what they do?"

    Many times churches have Deacons who are very good at what they do by managing their ministry etc. They are then made Elders who still "manage" the church instead of Shepherding the flock. Different roles completely, but we still tend to be "good managers" when we are Elders, and may not change our spiritial perspective or work.

    I do not believe that we are telling those called to Eldering don't know what they're doing, but only that there is apparently a great – great need for this type of training and imparting of knowledge, and we very much should move forward to meet that need as a collective group.

    Blessings

  28. Alan says:

    Earl, Methinks thou dost protest too much.

    Meeting the biblical requirements as an elder, and being recognized as such, is an excellent start. But that doesn't automatically convey the wisdom that comes from experience in the job. Elders handle issues that nobody else thinks about. Where are they going to learn about that? Just to stir the pot a bit… Suppose the elders learn that a particular member has been convicted of molesting children. He's repented and is considered a Christian. What are the elders' moral responsibility to the congregation? to the member? How do you protect against the danger of that sin recurring? What documentation should you keep? Do you want to learn about such things through on-the-job training, by trial and error? Those errors can be very costly in more than one way. Seminars can be an opportunity to learn about how others have handled these situations, and could prevent some needless tragedies.

  29. Joe Baggett says:

    No one and I mean no one qualifies to be an elder. No one meets the so called qualifications perfectly. They are what an elder is to be like not an empirical equation. With that being said I would suggest that the institutions within the brotherhood look after their own preservation rather than the overall health and mission of the average congregation. Our institutions have failed and are faltering all around us. I would suggest congregations need to ask themselves how to help their elders become more like the traits described in the Bible. Hospitable, self controlled etcetera. Then I would suggest that each elder go through significant interpersonal training on how to interact with people. The church is in the people business and if you are going to be an elder you must be a people person period. I would suggest that each elder go through the Achieve Global module to learn how to listen, give and rive feedback, facilitate a meeting and so on.

  30. Charlie Herndon says:

    Men who have been in Christ for years and have become effective and productive in their knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 P 1) so that the body apoints them to shepherd them are surely going to be men who stay in the Word and in prayer, individually and together, relying on God's Spirit to work. Since they were already in 'shepherd mode' before they were appointed, they are going to know how to, and desire to, spend time with 'the sheep' to encourage, nurture etc. Training comes by responding as shepherds and we get better over time. The church will know if we (elders) love the Lord and each other, and they will know if we love them and are serious about leading them closer to the heart of God, as we draw nearer.

  31. Whenever I go to a men's retreat, an area-wide meeting, or some other function with a teaching purpose, I always walk away refreshed, encouraged, and educated about things that I otherwise would not know. I can't imagine denying that opportunity for any of the shepherds that are over me.

    It's true that men in this position should have already been shepherds before the congregation installed them as such. But this does not preclude giving them aid to help them hone their shepherding skills.

    Webinars, as suggested, will allow for frequent conversation, while travel-to seminars will allow for all those extra opportunities that physical meetings allow. Even solo retreats for individuals is good, just to get away from the familiar and get with God.

    Whatever the case, facilitating shepherd growth is vital to a healthy congregation. Do not muzzle the ox that treads the grain.

  32. Jay Guin says:

    Correct me if I'm mistaken, but it appears to me that, of those who are opposed to a formal course of training for elders, none are elders. Is that right?

  33. Charlie Herndon says:

    I do see some value in attending some events planned and led by experienced elders, including other men who could open the scriptures for us so they we see our role more clearly and so that our tanks might be filled to carry own with more zeal for God and his people. Just the effort to get away together as shepherds so that we can blend and bond more in the Lord is worthwhile (meaning: with our own group of elders). If the 13 of us would commit to an event at Lipscomb to listen and share with each other afterwards what we gained, we would be better. A retreat with 'just us' and maybe an outside mentor, where we learn, think, discuss, worship, eat, laugh, etc. together strengthens and unites us greatly. We have done some of that. We need more. A monthly Webinar could definitely be something we could all particpate in easily. The more God can show us just what it is that we must be committed to doing, with every brother on board, so that our work together is effective and productive, and a joy, I'm open to.
    I believe the elders and their wives/families, as a group, should be a visible representation of what it means to be in Christ, to walk in fellowship with God on earth, to practice the love of Jesus, to enjoy the abundant life, etc. When our young men aspire to be shepherds of God's people one day because of how they perceive us and what we do, that will be very cool. I love it when our people want to come and be with us and have us pray over them. If being with us does not help them realize God's presence more, something ain't right. "..he is not far from each one of us…." : )

  34. Alan says:

    You make a great point about all the elders from a congregation getting together in a retreat setting to bond and grow. I've gained a lot from ElderLink (and can't imagine why some elders don't make it a priority). But I think the "elder event" that was most beneficial to me was a visit by my congregation's elders to spend a weekend with another congregation's elders. We shared all kinds of things, from the scriptures and prayer to practical issues, questions, and decisions, what has worked and what has not worked. Now that I think of that, I am reminded that we need to do it again soon.

  35. Jay Guin says:

    Earle,

    I checked out your website at churchzip.com. Very cool bit of programming. Have you thought of creating an iPhone application — particularly one finding churches based on the iPhone's built in GPS? People are far more likely to travel with a smartphone than a computer nowadays.

    Readers, Earle's site will find a Church of Christ based on zipcode — which is helpful for travelers.

  36. Kaye says:

    Just wondering if this idea ever became a reality. Our small church really needs something for our elders and even for other men to learn how to follow in the footsteps of our New Testament eldership.

  37. Jay F Guin says:

    Kaye,

    Wow. That post is only 7 1/2 years old, but I think it’s still pretty much right. I’ve since taught at Tulsa, thought highly of it, and now it’s just closed. Sad but Tulsa had an uphill battle without a major university to back it. Anyway … I would urge your elders to attend ElderLink and one or more the major lectureships. I’d ask the budget committee to set aside funds to pay for the training. Travel, hotel, and meals and any admission (often zero). And do it year after year after year. Over time, it’s amazing how much you learn.

    I’m now a retired elder (health issues) but when I was active, we split the classes among each other and then shared notes with each other. Now most of the lectureships tape and post the lectures as Podcasts for free. Not all the courses fit everyone’s needs, but there are usually more than any one person can attend and the podcasts help with that problem.

    Oh, and encourage the elders to hang around campus during meals and late into the evening to network. You meet some amazing people who can be great resources for the church.

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