Advice to a New Elder: A Covenant to Serve

shepherd3Some years ago, when I was first ordained as an elder, the elders asked me to read, sign, and keep a copy of this document. The years have proven the wisdom of asking new elders to do this.

The Bible does not offer a complete set of rules for how elders are to operate. For example, there’s a lack of guidance as to how elders might be removed. This document includes a pledge to resign–and to do so quietly–if asked to resign by the other elders. I think this is a wise and prudent policy.

And it certainly helps to lay out many of the other obligations elders have to each other–to be honest and forthright, to keep confidences, etc.

A Covenant to Serve

This elder team is created for service in the University Church. We are a relational group because of shared experiences in ministry with this body of believers. With God’s help, we can serve with mutual commitments to each other and to our accepted tasks.

Accountability to God, to this body, and to each other will be a demanding call as we serve. Such service is daily cross bearing for Christ and His church.

To assist us in achieving the goals of identification, love, caring and accountability, the following covenants are set forth:

THE COVENANT OF AFFIRMATION AND ACCEPTANCE: I pledge to accept each of you as my brother. I may not agree with your every action, but I will love you as the child of God and do all I can to express God’s affirming love. I will speak well of you.

THE COVENANT OF AVAILABILITY: I pledge to meet with you on a regular basis and carry my share of the load. I also pledge additional time, energy, and insight, according to my resources, if you need me.

THE COVENANT OF PRAYER: I promise to pray for each of you regularly.

THE COVENANT OF HONESTY: I agree to strive to be open and honest, to share my opinions, feelings, struggles, joys and hurts as well as I am able. I will trust you with my dreams and problems.

THE COVENANT OF FEEDBACK: I will attempt to mirror back to you what I am hearing you say and what you are feeling. If this means risking pain for either of us, I will trust our relationship enough to take the risk, realizing it is in “speaking the truth in love that we grow up in every way into Christ who is the head.” (Ephesians 4:15) I will try to express this feedback in a mature and controlled manner for our mutual gain.

THE COVENANT OF SENSITIVITY: Even as I desire to be known and understood by you, I pledge to be sensitive to you and your needs to the best of my ability. I will try to hear you, see your point of view, understand your feelings, and walk in your shoes.

THE COVENANT OF CONFIDENTIALITY: I promise to keep confidential those sensitive or confidential matters which we discuss among ourselves.

THE COVENANT OF MUTUAL SUBMISSION: I value and respect the wisdom and judgment of my colleagues. If at any time, I cease to be effective as an elder and am asked to resign, I will do this with dignity and not cause trouble.

In full acceptance of these covenants, I affix my name to this document in recognition of my commitment to God and the members of my elder team. I will keep this document as a reminder of this voluntary covenant.

__________________________ Date _________________
(This signature is for your own commitment, and you will retain this document.)

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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5 Responses to Advice to a New Elder: A Covenant to Serve

  1. laymond says:

    sounds like joining the Masonic Lodge. Sounds a lot like making a pledge to men.
    CoC I attended the congregation appointed and asked for the elders resignation. If there was a reason to do so.

  2. Dwight says:

    Not a bad concept as it is not used to justify your eldership or Godliness or fellowship, but is used to put your commitment to service in written form.
    This might not be a bad thing to give to new converts either as a way to make them understand that they are bound to Christ and the worship and service of Christ. As long as it is not used against them and is there’s to take with them. I think we baptize many into salvation and not into Christ and the commitment to follow Christ.

  3. Mark says:

    It looks like a shortened version of an Epsicopal vestry list of expectations. Sometimes people need reminding of their commitment and what is expected of them.

  4. “If at any time, I cease to be effective as an elder and am asked to resign, I will do this with dignity and not cause trouble.” I think I understand the heart of this statement, but I struggle with the wording. What does “effective” mean? What does “cause trouble” mean? In whose opinion?

  5. Kevin says:

    I like it. Among honest people, signing one’s name to a document makes it real. It validates the pledge, so to speak.

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