Pastoral Care – for Pastors

by Rick Grover 

Recently I had a conversation with a minister from a Christian Church in Texas who said, “It appears that many ministers struggle with the challenges of ministry, and they don’t know where to turn.”  I think he’s right.
We spoke on the phone about how many ministers are drying up spiritually, burning out emotionally, and giving up professionally.  And they’re not sure if their elders are even aware.  LifeWay Research recently conducted a survey of 1,500 ministers, and here’s what they found:

  • 84% say they’re on call 24 hours a day.
  • 80% expect conflict in their church.
  • 54% find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
  • 53% are often concerned about their family’s financial security.
  • 48% often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.

As someone who has served in full-time pulpit ministry and church planting for over 25 years, I can relate.  A few years ago, I went through a season of great difficulty, and one of the marvelous gifts God used to see me through was our eldership.  I turned to our elders for help, and rather than scolding, shaming or rejecting me, they chose to help me.
During this trying time, one of our elders asked, “Rick, we want you to be with us for the next 20 years, so how can we help you not only survive but thrive?”  Over the next six months, they worked on a plan to “shepherd a fellow shepherd,” and their plan nourished my soul and may have even saved my ministry.  There is no perfect plan for pastoral care for pastors, but here’s what our elders did to shepherd me.
First, they listened.  Inside and outside of elder meetings, they asked me questions about my physical and emotional health, marriage and parenting.  They listened as I poured out my heart, and they withheld judgment and offered grace.
Second, they responded.  They invited my mentor, Alan Ahlgrim, to meet with them, and when they found out about a new ministry he established for “pastors covenant groups,” they not only blessed the idea for my participation, they funded it.  That’s right.  They, along with former elders, put their money where their mouths were, and they personally invested in my “soul care.”
Third, they challenged me.  They asked tough questions, and they held me accountable.  I had a heart attack during that difficult season, and afterwards they encouraged me to eat right and exercise.  They inspired me to keep my weekly Sabbath and monthly Sabbath retreat.  With firm but loving counsel, our elders have spoken into my life and ministry.
Fourth, they modeled health.  Our elders saw what can happen to a church through inattention and lack of spiritual and emotional guidance.  So, they stepped up to the plate in returning to their first love as a model to our entire congregation, and it significantly helped me stay the course in turbulent times.
Fifth, they prayed.  Our elders’ meetings turned into prayer meetings.  If we met for two hours, at least thirty minutes of that time was spent in the most important work of all – prayer.  When I would see them in the church hallways on Sundays or at times during the week, they would tell me tell me of their constancy in prayer for me and for our flock.
Elders are to shepherd the flock, but remember that your minister is part of your flock.  He is not just a “church employee;” he is a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ who needs others to come alongside him in prayer and in the ministry of the Word.  A healthy eldership who shepherds its ministers and staff well will develop a healthy church for the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom.
What is your shepherding plan for your ministers?

Elders: Key to Growth in a New Church

by Jim Tune

A new church plant can provide a unique opportunity to create a biblical, workable model unhindered by any existing, entrenched system.  One should embark on an intentional pathway to effective eldership in the earliest years of a new church.  While initial oversight may be provided by a management team, set out early to identify and equip potential elders.

This does not mean we operate in haste.  Years often pass between the launch of a church and the installation of elders.  This may seem a long time, but it is a good decision.

Don’t Move Too Quickly

Many new churches begin with a handful of people.  Plant as a group of missionary-gatherers with the plan to install an eldership only after coalescing into a more established group.

There are two reasons to avoid moving in haste.  First, most of the people initially reached will be unbelievers or come from the long-term unchurched, so a new congregation often simply lacks biblically-qualified leaders.  Around 50-60% of a new church launch team won’t be around after two years, so be wary of installing leaders who might soon leave, disrupting life in the Body. 

Second, early installation of an eldership may send the wrong message to your people.  It says, “We are established now.”  In a young church, the mindset can easily shift from an attitude of pioneering to “mission-accomplished.”  I counsel church planters to wait at least three years, and until they are consistently running 100-plus in attendance, before installing elders.

Don’t Move Too Slowly

Good church planters know the dangers of the truism “work flows to the most competent person until s/he is swamped!”  When the Jerusalem church exploded in growth, the 12 Apostles could not keep up.  Consequently, they selected seven men to manage benevolence so they could continue giving themselves to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

While premature installation of elders may weaken missional momentum, failure to delegate ministry to others will inhibit church growth and burn out the staff.  No one can possibly “do it all” as a church leader, so leadership should be shared, especially with elders.  One rarely sees the critical importance of godly elders mentioned in church planting manuals or church growth books.  That’s an almost inexcusable oversight!  

Identifying Potential Elders

We believe the Bible is clear on two aspects of church governance.  According to the New Testament, God intends each local congregation to have a plurality of elders.  It’s also clear that God requires evidence of mature Christian character in their lives, (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1).  Consider two more questions: Is he already functioning as an elder without the title or recognition?  Does he shepherd his family the way one would expect an elder to shepherd God’s church?  In other words, the congregation can and should already look to them as shepherds.

An Installation Process

For a first eldership, the planter might personally select the initial elders.  Paul and Barnabas did in Acts 14:23, and Paul instructed Titus to do so in Titus 1:5.  The planter/minister will probably have walked closely with the candidate men for a long time.  These potential elders should be presented to the congregation and staff for feedback during the vetting process, but not for voting.  A new church is no place for a popularity contest.

Realizing that eldership in a church plant will often come from spiritual novices, implement a training curriculum for emerging leadership.  When I served at Churchill Meadows, it required two years of part-time course work that I taught myself.  Additionally, the elders operated via consensus and were comfortable with an “elder-protected, staff-led” model.  I answered to the elders.  They determined broad policy issues, approved the budget, co-shepherded the flock, and held me accountable.  They had the authority to fire me, and I liked it that way.

The initial installation process was the only time the elders were selected by me personally.  One of the chief tasks for that initial term was the establishment of our future elder-selection protocol.

At times, we experienced rapid growth, and without a team of godly elders who were willing to work very hard alongside the staff, we could not have coped.  Far from being an impediment to growth, our elders helped make it happen!

How to Guard our Team Relationships

by David Roadcup

A good ministry friend of mine calls his paid staff and elder leaders the “team” of the church as an acrostic for Together, Elders And Ministers.  These two groups, working together, form one of the most important elements of a healthy and productive church.  It’s critical that the staff and elders of every church are committed to one another, work together and build a strong and lasting bond of trust, love and commitment.  This allows them to lead their church with a strong sense of unity and purpose.  

Recently as I was watching “Animal Planet,” solider ants in Africa were laboring together to dissect and take leaves back to their nest.  The industry they were showing was awesome!  The ants, working together, were able to de-leaf huge amounts of jungle plant material and store it for food.  Their cohesion and unity accomplished the task.  

One of the main keys of a good elder-staff team is their ability to work together to intentionally build strong, lasting relationships between themselves.  This relationship forms the foundation for their work and service together in the name of Jesus. 

There are numerous important elements that go into building such relationships.  Today, let’s consider four: 

First, pray for each other.  Intercessory prayer is taught in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.   Each day, as the leadership team, we should lift each other up in prayer, asking for God’s blessing and strength for each other.  Prayer is one of the main keys to our fellowship and relationship in Jesus. 

Second, work toward a shared vision.  The Great Commission forms our marching orders.  It is our main purpose and focus in understanding God’s heart for our mission.  In leading the church, we must keep this divine directive before us at all times.  Every paid staff member and every elder should know and be able to state the Vision and Mission Statements of the church.  When there is a shared vision that everyone on the TEAM buys into and when we are all moving in the same direction, our vision acts as a unifying force for our work and service.  Being on the same page, sharing the same Holy-Spirit-given goal welds us together as we move forward in fruitful ministry. 

Third, spend time together.  Fifty years of ministry have taught me many things, and this is one lesson: the more time a group spends together, the more they grow together in relationship.  Time, whether spent in formal meetings or in informal settings, cements and strengthens our understanding of one another and deepens our love for each other.  Our formal staff and elder meetings are important in leading the church.  We should also find ways to meet, converse, eat and play together.  Formal and informal time together are both critical in relationship building.  It was Plato who stated, “You learn more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation.” 

Fourth, show honor, love and respect for each other.  These relational traits are the cornerstones of relationship building and working together.  We understand that Jesus commanded that love should be one of our highest values as members of His body.  Love leads the way. Love guides our words, thoughts and actions towards one another.  On the TEAM, the older members should see the younger as their sons.  The younger should see the older as their older brothers and fathers.  Our relationships must be built on the foundation of love and care for each other.  

On the TEAM also, we make every effort to put others before ourselves.  We go into every leadership meeting with a “towel and basin” attitude in our hearts and on our hands.  

I have found that if there is one area the evil one will attack, it is the relationships among the leaders of a congregation.  So let’s each one, brothers, always be a part of the solution to relationship problems, not their start.  Let’s stand back-to-back and shoulder-to-shoulder against the attacks brought by Satan.  Through our unity, love and mutual support, we will build a strong and effective TEAM as we bring glory to Christ our Lord. 

Elders – Who Preach

by Wally Rendel

One of the ways to create harmony among the elders and minister is to make your preacher an elder.  It’s that simple.  If he is scripturally qualified, the elders can simply appoint him as a fellow elder in the church.  This makes him a vital part of the team, especially as a “bridge” between the elders and staff.  It is scriptural for the minister to serve as an elder, though not all churches do so.  See 1 Timothy 5:17: “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (NASB, emphasis added).  This way, the elder leadership team speaks with one voice.  Jack Coffee served as chairman of the elders at Southeast CC, Louisville, KY, for a number of years, and he addresses this issue specifically in his excellent book Elders: A Practical Guide to New Testament Leadership.  I would suggest your elders study their way through his book.  
Not only did Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, directly say that elders “preach and teach,” but we also see a great example of a preaching elder in Peter.  In Acts 2, Peter delivered the very first sermon of the Church to the Pentecost crowd in Jerusalem.  When he wrote his first letter, he challenged his readers: “Therefore, I exhort you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock…” (1 Pet. 5:1-2, NASB, emphasis added).
Peter was both preacher and elder.  Paul told us to honor elders who preach. 
Assuming he’s qualified scripturally, bring even greater harmony to your church’s leadership by making your preacher an elder. 

It’s that simple.