By Mark A. Taylor
“Thanks, CHRISTIAN STANDARD, for being there,” one reader responded to our Year of the Elder survey published September 24. His comment was one of hundreds to support the conclusion in my first report on this survey two weeks ago: one year of articles for elders is not enough.
About 400 of 600 respondents took time to give their specific answer to the question “What would help our elders do a better job?” Their replies indicate several ongoing needs among elders in our churches.
Elders are facing—and sometimes failing to handle—conflict. Some replies show how disharmony is plaguing some places:
“One elder is always against whatever the others propose. He’s very divisive.”
“Our elders believe we have elected them to make all decisions without congregation input.”
“I’m not sure all of the congregation even know who all the elders are.”
“Our elders seem more concerned about keeping the peace with current members than learning what it truly is to be a Christ follower.”
“The elders are tyrants.”
Not all responses were negative, though. One reader wrote, “Our men are doing a very good job. The church is in good harmony and we are growing in many ways.”
One of our favorite comments: “We have an amazing team and we are a thriving, biblically functioning community! When it’s good it’s goooood!”
Elders are trying—with mixed results—to be shepherds. But some aren’t satisfied with the effort:
“The elders need to take time to know the members of the congregation and their physical and spiritual needs.”
“Focus on shepherding instead of functioning as a corporation.”
One reader, who explained his church has a member-to-elder ratio of 100 to 1, said shepherding would increase with a larger number of elders.
Another suggested elders delegate some concerns to deacons. Then elders “could be visiting the sick, seeking the lost, pursuing the unfaithful, contacting new people, and not be checking roofing prices. In other words, they need to shepherd the flock.”
Elders need—and churches should provide—training. Contributing editor Arron Chambers reported June 22 that almost two-thirds of the elders he polled received absolutely no training before they were set apart for service.
This deficiency was reflected in comments from several who answered our later survey. One wrote of the need for “more teaching on the biblical role of elders in a contemporary church.” Another suggested something beyond books and classes: “more contact with other elders and ministers.”
Here at CHRISTIAN STANDARD we want to do our part to make elders strong. Even though the Year of the Elder has come to an end, we pledge that our help for elders will continue.