OK – you’ve identified a man who you think is ready and willing to explore the role of church Elder. You are both ready to get started. What do you do next?
There are many, MANY things you could do to begin that process, most of which are good. There is truly no way that I can give you an exhaustive list of all the options. But what I can do is hit some of the key things that I think you should be careful not to miss or leave out of your process. These are my opinion, but are things that I feel pretty strongly about due to the hard knocks I’ve received from NOT including them in the past.
- Make it a process, not an event. The role of Elder is not like roles in other organizations. You can’t expect to have a one-time “interview” and know everything you need to know. That’s because the role of Elder is about character before it is about ability. Elders not only shepherd the flock, they serve as examples for the flock. You need to take the time needed to get to know the Elder candidate’s personality and character. That leads to the next point…
- Spend time with the candidate – a LOT of time. You need a process that will require you to be interacting with your candidate on a variety of levels and about a variety of topics related to life and the church. You can’t do that over just a few meetings either. The process that I’ve put in place is a one-on-one process, where the candidate is doing his own study and work throughout the week, and you connect with him once a week after the fact to discuss what he’s done. This opens many doors for conversation, discussion, and even debate about Biblical and Pastoral issues.
- Find out how he came to know Christ, and what Christ is doing in his life currently. I have to say this one because I fear there are many serving on church leadership boards who have never received the gift of salvation through Christ. Make sure you are comfortable with the man’s conversion.
- Don’t forget the gospel. Every Elder needs to be very clear on what the gospel is, and how to communicate it to someone who does not know the gospel. Make sure your process includes clear conversation about the gospel, how to communicate it, and why it is vital that he knows this information backwards and forwards. You may even want to include some kind of “quiz” on it. It’s that important.
- Include basic doctrinal content. Make sure you help the man with doctrinal issues. Things like the Trinity, the authority of scripture, and others are difficult concepts to grasp. Do your best to help your candidate understand and articulate those issues.
- Interact about the qualifications for Elders. One of the most helpful ways to find out if the man in question is qualified for the role is to talk about the biblical qualifications for Elders with him. You’ll be able to tell by his answers whether or not he “gets” the seriousness of the role, and the importance that his life be up to par with those qualifications. A little caveat… you need to make sure YOUR life is up to par with those qualifications too!
- Include evaluations. You need help in evaluating whether the man in question is really who you think he is. Put together some kind of system where you can evaluate his fitness for the role, both in character and in ability. My process includes self-evaluations, Pastoral evaluations, spousal evaluations, and even a congregational evaluation, all based off of the biblical qualifications. You need to do your homework to make sure that no candidate for Elder ever pulls the proverbial wool over your eyes.
- Make sure you speak of the process AS a process all the way along. The last thing you want is for a man to conclude that because he’s begun this process, he’ll automatically become an Elder. The process is exactly FOR the purpose of finding out if he really is fit for the role. Don’t do yourself, your church, or the man in question a disservice by letting either of you assume the outcome of your exploration process.
I’ve recently published my first book – “The Elder Training Handbook” that covers all of these blog posts and much more, in greater detail. If you’d like to get a copy for yourself, go to the FREE tab at the top of this blog. There you’ll find options for the free E-book download of the ETH, as well as an option to buy a hard-copy and have it shipped to you.