Developing the Leader Within You

by Jeff Metzger 

I face a big leadership development challenge.  You do too!  There are three arenas of my life where I am continually trying to grow the leader within me:  I want to be better at organizational leadership, people leadership, and self-leadership.  All are challenging, but the biggest challenge is the self-leadership challenge.

Self-leadership is Vital

Developing the leader within you starts with self-leadership.  Don’t just take my word for it.

  • Harry Truman said, “You cannot lead others until you first lead yourself.”
  • My business coach, Michael Hyatt, says, “How we lead ourselves in life impacts how we lead those around us.” 
  • Paul is calling for self-leadership when he calls for continuous, habitual self-examination in 2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG, “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted.  Give yourselves regular checkups.”
  • Dee Hock, creator, founder, and CEO emeritus of Visa said, “People should spend 50% of their time leading themselves.”

Wow!  Do you spend any time, let alone half your time, deliberately leading yourself?  Being a leader at home, at work, at school, or at church requires that first we learn to lead ourselves.

How Do You Grow Your Leadership? 

What can you do to lead yourself?  What can you do to lead others?  There is no greater example of effective leadership than Jesus.  Discovering and applying the leadership practices on display in Jesus’ life can help grow the leader within you.  Invest time in learning to lead like Jesus.  Do it to be a better disciple, not just a better leader.

To be and lead like Jesus …

Grow Your Character – Be Your Best Self 

Work every day to make sure these self-leadership character qualities of Jesus are part of your life.  Explore the records of Jesus’ life to see his character on display.

  • Integrity (No Shortcuts!) – Matthew 4:1-11

When Jesus began his ministry, he was tempted to take shortcuts to influence.  In every case he said no.  Every leader faces a variety of temptations.  The best leaders live with integrity.

  • Passion (Live with Spirit) – Luke 2:46-47

At the age of twelve Jesus’ passion for God was already on display.  What are you passionate about?  What do others see us get passionate about?

  • Communication (Listen and Share Well) – Mark 1:22

Rarely do we think about our ability to communicate – to hear, understand, and engage with others – as a character issue, but it is.

  • Decisiveness (Do the Right Thing) – Matthew 3:15

In every situation Jesus acted decisively.  At his baptism, in saying “no” to the devil, in engaging other leaders or teaching Jesus took responsibility for doing right.  Leaders always do.

 

Grow Your Concern – Help Others Thrive

The best leaders improve the people around them.  Read Jesus’ biographies to see how he developed people and helped them thrive.

  • Mentor and Coach People – Mark 3:13; Luke 11:1

Leaders grow people.  Jesus poured into people, especially the twelve.  He was with them and for them.  Who are you with and for?

  • Build and Unleash the Team – Luke 10:1-2

Two are better than one.  Jesus expanded his leadership by unleashing teams.

  • Value, Love, and Encourage Everyone – Matthew 9:36; 20:29-34

Jesus loved people, all people.  Do you?  Great leaders value people greatly.

  • Give Great Rewards – Matthew 4:19; Matthew 19:29

Jesus rewarded people by unleashing them to make a difference now and forever.

 

Grow Your Impact – Produce Positive Results

Jesus went around doing good (Acts 10:38).  He produced positive and beneficial results everywhere he engaged.  Leaders make things better.  Investigate how Jesus produced lasting change.

  • Clarify the Win – Mark 10:42-45

Jesus knew his mission.  Do you?  He was clear about and committed to his purpose.  Are you?

  • Make Good Decisions – John 7:1-10

Jesus knew when to step forward and when to pull back to achieve his purpose.  His decision making was always designed to advance his kingdom agenda.  Great leaders make great decisions.

  • Think Big but Act Small – John 13:1

In the upper room, Jesus was ready to die for the world.  But, he was also sharing with twelve good friends – big and small.

  • Go the Distance – Matthew 26:36-39; Luke 22:39-46

Jesus was unwilling to quit.  He persevered – even to the cross!

  • Live “All In” For the Mission – Luke 9:57-62

Jesus lived this way.  He calls us to do the same.

None of us will ever match Jesus’ character, concern and impact.  But, there are lots of ways to become a better leader in life.  Doing something every day to be more like Jesus is one of the best.  Where will you start to be more like Jesus today?

Moral Authority

by Ken Idleman 

Let’s be honest and admit it.  We all know it’s true.  No one can effectively lead, in any context, without authority.  You have to have it to both endure and to be effective as a leader.  So what is authority?  In short, it is the power to influence others.  And while this may be a good, concise dictionary definition, it forces us to ask questions of ourselves.
 
So how do you get this intangible, yet indispensable, leadership commodity?  
 
It is not a set of techniques you learn. It is not a personality adjustment you make.  It is not a particular style you adopt. Deference is uniquely the by-product of genuine morality.  Your most important authority as a leader is moral authority. 
People don’t necessarily follow someone just because he/she has the highest salary, the corner office or their name at the apex of an organizational chart.  We have all seen people who have been conferred with lofty titles, honorary degrees and monetary perks who have not endured; nor have they been truly effective.  In fact, they often fail spectacularly because of the organic lack of followership that results from being perceived as secretive, insular and self-serving.  
 
But, by contrast, people naturally defer to someone they admire, someone they trust, someone who is perceived to be genuine, someone who is believablesomeone who is good.  

Jesus Christ is Exhibit A.  He did not take the political, military, fiscal or popularity path to exert His influence and change the world.  He took the pathway of humility and righteousness.  He chose to quietly and patiently love, serve, teach and extend grace to people.  And throughout the ages since His death and resurrection, right up to the present, more people freely bow their knee to Jesus as Lord of Life than any other.  
 
His secret: “He faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  He is the incomparable Leader of Leaders because “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every Name” (Philippians 2:8-9).  People instinctively follow those that they consider to be morally underpinned and personally sacrificial.

There is a reason why every single one of the ‘qualifications’ for a church leader/elder in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are character qualifications, except one – the ability to teach.  Jesus wants His church to be led by righteous men, moral men who embrace God-honoring holiness.  They were to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:5).  The Church is the one place where a man’s financial portfolio/net worth, academic credentials, business acumen, name recognition and connectedness in the community are simply beside the point.  We respect and select promise keepers to lead the church.  What are the commitments that the leadership candidate has dared to make and cared to keep in his life?  That’s it. 

So that was then … what about now?  Hebrews 6:6 clearly says that it is possible to ‘crucify the Son of God all over again and subject Him to public disgrace.’  This is happening most often today as Satan succeeds again and again in his quest to either immediately destroy or gradually erode the moral authority of the shepherds of Christ, church leaders, professed Godly influencers.

  • Gordon McDonald’s book, Rebuilding Your Broken World, is a personal testimony about the consequences of his loss of leadership because of his adultery. 
  • Jim Bakker was honest about the fallout from his moral failure and greed in his book, I Was Wrong. 
  • Jimmy Swaggart was nationally televised as he dramatically confessed through tears to his immorality, “I have sinned against you my Lord!”  His church and TV ministry tanked.
  • Ted Haggard, Robert Tilton, W.G. Grant and many other ‘leaders’ over the years have been publicly exposed for their sexual proclivities and financial improprieties.
  • Pedophile priests & cover-up cardinals have produced congregational disillusionment and incalculable financial loss for Catholicism.
  • Bill Hybels categorically denied the testimony of sexual impropriety by 10 different women and the abuse of power by several close coworkers… and then disappeared into thin air leaving behind a traumatized church.
  • Jerry Falwell Jr. has recently been indicted by pictures and videos posted online, along with his juvenile responses to his immoral choices, before walking away with $10 million of severance pay from Liberty University.  

Too ungracious of me to name names? Too much brutal honesty?  I am sorry, but we as the church have got to apply some kind of discipline to stop these 20th & 21st century public scourgings of the Lord Jesus.  We have got to do something to block these gut punches to the Body of Christ / the Church.  The perception of moral authority in Christian leaders has been and still is being undermined.

A Christian leader living a duplicitous life must repent!  A church leader involved in secret sin must repent!  The only other path is to resign and quietly slip out of the leadership yoke at least temporarily, if not permanently.  

Jesus and His mission for us – to lead all people everywhere to know His salvation and His loving Lordship – will suffer eternal loss if a leader fails to guard his heart and value his moral authority as the indispensable Christian leadership core. 

What Committed Elders can Accomplish

by Lynn Laughlin 

Growing up in a minister’s home can be a blessing or a curse, or a combination of the two.  Mine was an absolute blessing.  My father, Ernest Laughlin, was the minister at the West Side Christian Church in our brotherhood.  My father believed that the church would only grow if the eldership gave solid leadership and clear direction to those in their care.  His task was to help raise up men who understood and accepted that task.  He accomplished that goal over and over with dedicated men who responded to that challenge.  In return, our family was totally supported in every circumstance by those wonderful servants of the Lord.

I have lived long enough to know that at some ministers’ homes there are words that are spoken about elders that are rather derogatory and hurtful.  I also know that in some elders’ homes that Sunday lunch was about the minister and his shortcomings.  I can honestly say that we never had the elders discussed in a negative way at any time.  Because of this trust and bond between my father, the minister, and the elders, great things were accomplished for the sake of the kingdom.
 
In the late 1940s the church decided to build a large two-story educational wing to house an expanding Sunday school program.  After the building was completed, my father began to cast a vision to the elders about how to be better stewards of what God had provided for them in that building.  Standing idle for the larger part of the week was not good stewardship.  So the elders gave my father their blessing in sending him to the west coast to look at the possibility of starting a school centered on Christ in that new building.  The end result was the establishment of the Christian Day School which is still a part of West Side with a new name Springfield Christian School.  Today it has a pre-school and a K-8 with an enrollment of over 400.
 
There was another program that my father, through the elders, thought was important and that had to do with the establishment of other churches in the Springfield area.  Out of that push, three churches were started: South Side Christian Church, Monroe Street Christian Church which was an African-American congregation, and Bunn Park Christian Church.  Members of West Side were encouraged to go to these churches to help them grow and provide leadership for them.
 
In the late 1950s my father was stricken with Parkinson’s disease.  Slowly but steadily his health began to decline.  The elders were supportive in helping him continue his ministry at West Side with some limitations.  In the summer of 1962 my father went on an extended Holy Land tour.  While the group was in Rome, he had a nervous breakdown and my mother was contacted by the leader of the tour.  My mother immediately got in touch with the elders and together they planned out what to do.  My father was helped by a missionary serving in Bari, Italy that he had influenced to go to Bible college.  The elders sent my mother and younger brother to be with them in Bari until he was able to come home.  The elders prayed and made weekly calls to check on us just to make sure we were doing well.
 
We couldn’t thank them enough for all that they did during that time, and with the closing years of my father’s ministry at West Side.  The names of several of those elders are on my Ordination Certificate which I cherish to this day.  The rest of the names of those elders are written on the Lamb’s book of life.  West Side still has strong eldership who faithfully serve with their minister Eddie Lowen.  To God be the glory for the things He has done.

Intentionally Younger Leaders

by Dick Wamsley 

I am serving as interim minister for a rural church in southern Illinois that averages about 100 in worship attendance.  They have four elders.  Three of those elders are 40 years of age or younger.  That unusual ratio of young elders did not just happen.  It was an intentional decision made by their four previous elders, who were all over 60 years old at the time.
 
About three years ago they began to see that they were in a rut as a church.  They were hearing comments like “we’ve always done it that way” and young adults were not engaged in the life of the church.  So they challenged some of their young men to consider opportunities for leadership as deacons and elders. 
 
At this church, elders serve three years, so three of them determined that when their three years elapsed, they would not serve again.  Instead, they would add a younger leader.  The first of those three young men was 37 at the time he became an elder in 2018.  Two more young elders came on the next year, one about 40 years old and the other about 30.  They also added several younger deacons during that two-year period.
 
During the transition to younger elders, they kept the congregation informed about why they were intentionally encouraging younger men to serve the congregation as elders, that it was time for a younger generation to lead.  They assured the people that the change in leadership was purposeful and that the younger elders were not just “taking over.”
 
While there were some questions from older members at first, the transition has been smooth.  When I came to serve with them last January, I was impressed by their eldership.  They were leading, not just maintaining the status quo.  The congregation was vibrant with an eye to the future.  They saw how their transition in senior ministers was an opportunity to break out of the “rut” they were feeling and make a greater impact on the communities they serve.
 
The first younger elder to join in 2018 is now leading the elder team.  His leadership has been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.  After several Sundays of online worship, the elders decided to begin services in the church building using the Center for Disease Control guidelines for face masks, social distancing, surface cleaning, serving communion, closing off sections of the building and other preventive measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.  In spite of their best efforts, after eleven weeks of Sunday worship several members tested positive for the virus.  So the elders met immediately and decided to take another three-week break from live services.  As leaders, they were decisive when they needed to be.
 
Churches of any size need to occasionally evaluate the demographics of their leaders.  Are most of them from a single generation or two?  Is it apparent that there is some disconnect among the leaders and the younger generations?  Are the leaders encouraging younger men to consider taking leadership roles as elders or deacons?  Are they developing formal or informal mentoring relationships with those who express an interest in those roles?
 
Intentionality and expressions of confidence are keys to developing young leaders.  It may take longer than two or three years to bring new young leaders on board, but until there is a plan to intentionally challenge younger men to take up the mantle of leadership, it will not happen.

Healthy Bones: Why Church Governance Matters

by Don Green 

Structures are never neutral; whether a physical building or an organizational, governing structure, they either help you or hinder you.  Structures are either empowering or controlling.  Many years ago, I first came to Lincoln Christian University as a trustee at a time when the Board of Trustees was a very micro-managing Board.  I watched the Board transition to a policy-governance structure and saw tremendous empowerment of the entire entity take place. 

When a congregation plateaus, it’s often because its governing structure stifles the body’s health and vitality.  Seeing LCU’s transformation, and seeing so many churches struggle, was what prompted me to notice this factor in an organization’s health and even write my doctoral thesis on it.  That work involved a survey of every independent Christian Church/Church of Christ congregation within a 250-mile radius of Lincoln, Illinois.  Some 1,400 surveys went out and about 300 were returned.  I’d like to share a few observations from not just that survey, but from decades in observing and coaching churches in this aspect of their health. 

Church leaders often assume their congregation’s governing structure is functioning and working just fine.  I remember working years ago with a particular congregation and I was well into my first presentation when a lady right down on the front row raised her hand and said “If you think you’re going to change our board structure around here, you got another thing coming because it’s working just fine!”  Sometimes, church leaders assume that a Board structure is the biblical mandate.  Sometimes, church leaders have and continue with a Board structure simply out of precedent and example; not knowing of any other way to operate, they simply continue, to put a fine point on it, living an unexamined life.  

Over and again, I have seen an organization, church or otherwise, struggle with their health because two things are not working in a complementary way – a functioning structure, and empowering leadership.  There are many church leadership paradigms out there, but to focus on what’s most biblical, let’s describe it this way…

  • Elders protecting
  • Staff and Servants (“deacons”) leading ministries
  • Congregation doing the ministry

If your congregation hasn’t gone in a direction of “elder governance,” how might one get started?  Obviously, start by studying Scripture.  While “governance” is not mentioned as a term in the New Testament, all the parts, as we think of governance in the 21st century, are there.  Governance focuses on the roles and responsibilities of all involved, and those are highlighted throughout the New Testament.  The roles and responsibilities of elders, of preachers/pastors/teachers, of servants/deacons, and of the people of the congregation in general, are all shown quite clearly.  Of course, one could study Acts for such insights, but beyond that, other texts help us think about this as well.  One text that I frequently work through with churches is Ephesians 4:11-16. 

Additionally, church leaders should get familiar with John Carver, who wrote about policy governance going all the way back to the 1970s.  More recently, John Kaiser wrote Winning on Purpose and he specifically applies much of Carver’s ideas to the church realm.  When reading any book, especially secular books, think along this principle: adapt, don’t adopt.  We are good stewards and leaders if we adapt what’s biblical, along with what works and isn’t non-biblical, to the church.  We should not assume that we can adopt, wholesale, everything any given author says, save for one Author.

Finally, what does the eldership do that no other group in the church can do? 

Ultimately, we need to define responsibility, delegate authority, and determine accountability so that we can, to the best of our ability, see that the church achieves what God wants and avoids what’s unacceptable.  This is how we can “work like it all depends on us, while praying like it all depends on God – because it does.”

Unsung Heroes

by Brad Dupray 

Every organization has those people who stand out.  We think of them as the shoulders upon which we stand – and we do.  At CDF Capital, those are names like Ralph Dornette, Jim Campbell, Al Mills, Jackie Charnell, and others.  But every organization also has the people behind the scenes who receive little of the glory but are crucial to its success.  When I think back through my own ministry history, both at CDF and elsewhere, one of those unsung names is Harold Purdom.
 
When I was a young minister, Harold was the Chairman of the Board of the church where I served, Lawndale Christian Church (Lawndale, CA; now Restoration Life Christian Church).  Harold was also on the Board of Directors of CDF at the time, thus dedicating his life to two ministries in his off hours.  Harold took me under his wing and mentored me in the ways of life and ministry.  He was really like a second father to me.
 
Harold had worked his way up through the ranks to the executive level at Continental Airlines and after a thirty-plus year career, he retired, thinking his working days were over.  But no, they were just getting started.  Soon after he cashed it in with Continental, he had a moment that Bob Buford would later define in his book, Halftime, as moving from success to significance.  Ralph Dornette asked Harold to cast retirement aside and come to work at CDF, and that’s when Harold found his real calling.  Rebecca Lyons defines calling as “where your talents and your burdens collide.”  Harold had a magnificent collision.
 
For over a decade Harold worked alongside Ralph to build CDF into the dynamic ministry that it would become.  Harold worked tireless hours, meeting with churches, raising investments, and most importantly, providing paternal leadership to a staff that was growing and experiencing a changing of the guard from those who built the structure to those who would reform it, shape it, and mold it for the future.
 
When I was that young minister, Harold would often take me to lunch to talk about life, ministry, and family; he poured his life into a young man who was trying to make his way, trying to find his own calling.  I can remember the restaurant table I was sitting at when Harold asked if I would be interested in working at CDF.  It was one of the most transformational days of my life.
 
I have friends who remember Harold, but most of them are in their twilight years.  And there are a few of my co-workers who can hearken back to things like Harold’s “change game” where he would shake the change in his pocket and if you guessed correctly within a certain range he would hand it over to you; it was the game of a loving father figure.
 
The real change game for Harold, however, occurred when he came out of retirement and blessed a ministry with his leadership and helped lay the foundation to help churches grow long after he passed from this life to join his heavenly Father.  He told me how he looked forward to that day.
 
Like the unsung heroes of the New Testament who helped lay the foundation for the future of the church (think Priscilla, Aquila, Epaphroditus, Onesimus, Nicodemus, etc.) people like Harold Purdom didn’t seek the spotlight.  He was one of the many quiet heroes who gave his only life for the benefit of countless others.  God bless you, Harold Purdom, and the unsung heroes all around us.  You are the real shoulders upon which we stand.

Tools for the Times

by Jeff Faull 

Chances are, you saw the same stuff I’d read.  Dust storms all the way from the Sahara are the latest threat to our safety.  One person humorously responded to the news like this:

“Always wondered what it would be like to live during the times of the Civil War, the Spanish flu, the Great depression, the civil rights movement, Watergate and the dustbowl.”

And, I might add, murder hornets, giant asteroids, Cyclospora food-borne illness and the list goes on…  Seems that threats are multiplied.  We definitely live in a V.U.C.A. world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

So how do we live on this planet in these chaotic times?  How do we respond to 2020?  And what can elders do to understand the times and help believers navigate this increasingly insane culture?

We who are shepherds can start by identifying some tools for God’s people to have in their discipleship toolbox to face uncertain times.  We can’t merely tell them what they are supposed to think, but we can provide biblical tools to help them learn to think and use the tools well.

At Mt. Gilead, where I serve, we are highlighting and demonstrating some of these tools and how to use them in our next sermon series, 2020 Tools for the Times.

We are building our toolbox and developing our skills with things like…

  • Courage and Conviction
  • Discernment and Wisdom
  • Spiritual Awareness
  • Active and Prayerful fasting
  • Good Theology and Hermeneutics
  • Uncommon Decency
  • Healthy Community
  • Righteous Justice
  • Honest History
  • Enduring Effort

Our responsibility as leaders and elders is to equip our people, including our children, with these essential cultural tools to use in an increasingly confusing and unsettling future.  

We can do this.  

Indeed, we must.

No Strangers Here

by Jeff Stone 

All leaders have had that awkward moment when encountering someone we’ve met, but find ourselves struggling to remember his/her name.  Remembering names is a leadership tool we all can develop that pays large Kingdom dividends.
 
Dale Carnegie, in his best-selling business classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, observed, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”  Making the effort to learn, remember, and call people by name, is a path to make a genuine connection and have spiritual influence on their lives. 
 
Jesus thought it was important enough to mention in John 10 that the Good Shepherd “calls his own sheep by name” (v. 3).  A moment later He also said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…” (v. 14).
 
As shepherds of the flock, taking a personal interest in people makes a profound difference as we lead the flock.
 
I’ve often had people tell me, “At first when I visited the church, I felt a bit intimidated because it was larger than our previous church, but when you called us by name on our return visit, it made us feel ‘at home’ and that the church wasn’t too large for us to matter here.”
 
Remember that “people want to know and be known.”
 
Here are some practical tips to help us do a better job of learning people’s names:

  1. When meeting someone new, make a conscious effort to remember the name.  Often, we fail to concentrate or are distracted when being introduced, then later when we can’t recall the name, we realize that we weren’t focused when we met.
  2. Repeat the name when you meet.  “Don, it’s good to meet you.  I’m really glad you chose to worship with us today, Don.”  That will ensure you heard the name correctly and the repetition will reinforce the name, better engraving it in your memory. 
  3. Write it down as soon as possible for later reference.  After meeting, when you walk away, jot in down on your bulletin or in the flyleaf of your Bible the name of the guests you just met for future reference.  It’s also OK to say when meeting, “Could you spell your name for me, please?  I’d like to write it down to help me learn it and be better able to remember your name.”  Few people object to someone making an extra effort to take a personal interest in them.  Also, the exercise of writing it improves our retention since we remember 10% of what we hear, 20% of what we see and hear, and 40% of what we see, hear, and write down.
  4. Review your list on Sundays before arriving at worship.  Study the names of new guests who have recently visited your church and pray for them on following weekends that God will bring them back to your services that day.  Refreshing yourself on their names will help you call them by name when you see them.  That’s done not to impress them with your recall, but to impress on them that God knows them, loves them, is interested in their struggles, and wants to enter their lives on a personal level.  He demonstrates His love through each of us.

That’s your assignment the next time you see a new face.  Go out of your way to welcome and authentically connect with that new person.  Remember what Will Rogers said: “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met.”
 
We want to always be willing to enlarge the circle and include the next new person whom God sends our way.

Do youth ministers make you nervous?

by Andy Hansen 

Do young youth ministers, especially those fresh out of Bible College, make you nervous … especially if you are an Elder?

Well, I was that guy as a 20-year-old long blonde-haired recent graduate. As a matter of fact, when the church hired me, I hadn’t even graduated yet. I did grow up in a church, attended local Christian camp & CIY faithfully, and served as a weekend youth minister for a couple of years. However, “seasoned” did not apply to me! One of my saving graces was my sweet wife Marcia – everyone wanted to have her on stage to sing special music for Sunday services!

As one who wasn’t even sure youth ministry was his calling, this was definitely a grand experiment! Gratefully, it turned into an incredible 10-year experience of calling youth to Jesus and building a youth ministry system within the church. As a young church plant, I guess you could say we grew up together.

Honestly, though, I never would have made it except that I had a Senior Minister who was in my corner, other people twice my age who signed on to serve as youth coaches, parents who were encouraging, and an Eldership which was clearly supportive. In fact, three elders served in the youth ministry all the years I partnered with them to teach and model God’s word to the children and teens in the church.

Thirty-five years later, I can still tell you the names of Elders whose walk with Jesus influenced me. Yes, I could realistically also tell you some of their flaws (as they certainly could tell stories about mine), but overall they left a positive spiritual mark on my life.

One specific Elder was Ted Hammond. He was an exceptional businessman and salesman who created a major company from scratch though he never went to college and, for a while, sold shoes door to door. He had a big grin and a twinkle in his eye, and a soft spot for an optimistic yet green youth minister (he often asked me how many times I used the word “exciting” or “excited” each day ).

He allowed me to drive his new deluxe station wagon with six young people and a sponsor to a Bible Bowl tournament back in the day. I really did pay attention and drove fairly conservatively. However, when a car suddenly stopped in front of us, even though I really hit the brakes, there was this sickening feeling as the car (loaded with 8 bodies) just kept moving forward until there was a little contact with the other car.

After examining both vehicles, we saw a small crease in the very nose of the Hammond station wagon. I just felt sick. It was a miserable tournament as I knew later that evening I would have to show my Elder what had happened to his vehicle.

To my great relief, he really didn’t react much at all, was glad we were safe, etc. The next day, on Sunday, he did call me out to the parking lot after the service with a stern look on his face. I really thought, “This is it! He’s going to let me have it! I’m going to lose my job!” At that moment Ted whirled around and pointed to the crease in the nose of his station wagon – which now had an oversized band aid applied to it! Ted immediately doubled over in laughter and came up gasping and with tears in his eyes! I was dumbfounded, forgiven, and made fun of for a while (though he did allow me to drive the car again).

A couple of years later, our church sponsored what we called a “State-Wide Rally.” There were only half a dozen Christian Church youth ministers in the state of Michigan, but the little regional youth rallies

were dying out. So, we programmed a weekend event and invited all the churches in the state to come. To our shock, over 400 attended and packed out our church facility. To get to the next level and rent a high school facility, promote and build the program, bring in special talented guests, etc., would take capital that our youth budget couldn’t sustain. We were stuck. We could stay the same, fade away, or find some other way.

That led to lunch with Ted Hammond. As his sparkling eyes focused in on me with a slight grin, it’s as if he knew why I wanted this lunch (and to this day I believe he really did)! Mumbling and bumbling about the dream for this event and how we just didn’t have the capital to move forward, he graciously spoke up during a pause and said, “Just tell me what you need.” I explained the need for a loan of $5,000 to get us to the next level, and how with the projected numbers of attendance we could pay him back in two years.

Ted not only supplied the loan, he helped me craft a “business plan” (I had never heard of this in Bible College) and allowed me to use one of his business numbers for free to call all the Christian Churches in the state to promote the event. Within a couple of years, the Michigan State Wide Rally was running over 1,200 and located in the nicest high school in Western Michigan. This rally even continues today! And by the way, Ted donated the payment check for the loan back to the ministry.

What actions do you observe, what gifts of expression did Ted Hammond as an Elder provide to this young youth minister?

Words that come to mind to me: grace, encouragement, forgiveness, relationship, laughter, belief, training, generosity, coming along side to take a ministry risk, accountability, mentorship, friendship.

Does your Eldership have such contact and interaction with the staff at your church?

I know our mantra is “Staff Led, Elder Oversight” … but I wonder if we have too easily faded the influence of the Elders of the church out of the lives and ministry of her staff?

I asked a number of youth ministers to respond to several questions concerning their Eldership, and here are their responses with a few observations.

Feel free to highlight key words or concepts and discuss your observations with your fellow elders.

  1. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE ELDER AND WHY?
  • Rod is involved in serving as a greeter at church and in the community of our campus. He invites his neighbors to church. Rod is a huge encourager and we respect and look up to him.
  • Keith serves in our youth ministry as a driver, cook, small group leader and helps with anything.
  • Geoffrey was with me in youth ministry for seven years as his kids went through the ministry. He randomly calls to check in and pray for me and my family.
  • Micah is wise beyond his years. He is good at waiting to make a big decision and is not afraid to be honest.
  • Geoffrey spends time investing in me, checking in on me and my family, and has pushed me to invest in student ministry.
  • Nick sees the need to move in new directions for the sake of the church. He supports our ideas/vision and gives us full trust.
  • Rick uses his spare time to visit members of the church and cares for people. He seeks people out. I go to him for advice because he is wise and understanding. Trust is so huge for the relationship between youth minister and elder.
  • I really trust Craig’s judgment. He’s a quiet guy and a good listener. He advocates for all of our staff.
  • Sam regularly checks up on me. He spends time talking to me abut my hopes and dreams.
  • Jon is so committed to the mission and vision of the church, and very transparent. He spiritually provides conversation, leadership and support.
  • Greg is an optimist that believes God is going to do even bigger things in the church! He is always encouraging and uplifting. Greg celebrates even the smallest wins!
  • Richard is so approachable, and full of wisdom and love.
  • Jon intentionally encourages us by sending cards, randomly stopping by the office to chat – asking how we are doing and listens for what he can pray for.
  • Rick has his own company, but when a family in our church experienced tragedy while he was out of town for business, he drove 11 hours round trip in one day to be there to minister to the family.
  • Jim is a great listener – he cares about the mental health of the staff. He also is willing to take challenging and uncomfortable steps to move the church forward.

Review your “highlights” and discuss the top five key words or concepts you discovered with your fellow Elders!

What two or three attitudes or actions can you consistently demonstrate to the staff as an Elder?

Personal Thought Question: What staff member would list you as their favorite Elder?

In today’s growing churches, it can be hard to minister to every staff member, and there is much focus on management and prayer with the executive leadership. However, could an Elder or two focus on the Children and Youth Ministers of the church as a focused portion of their responsibility?

  1. HOW OFTEN DO YOU MEET WITH THE ELDERS FORMALLY?
  • I meet with our Youth Elder once a month. I don’t really meet with the other Elders.
  • Never formally, informally, probably every other week (calls/texts/prayer/meals/disk golf).
  • Never formally, informally, probably once or twice a year.
  • Never formally. Two or three times I went to eat with an Elder in the last three years just to check in with me.
  • I meet with my Elder liaison for lunch often. Other Elders get a coffee and check in. Other than giving approval for events and prayer, the current elders don’t have a big role in person with the ministry … at all, really. One elder out of 20 is involved in my ministry.
  • Never formally. Once a week [I meet] with one elder. He lives in my neighborhood.
  • Unfortunately, this has not been a part of my experience as a minister. I have gone to lunch with an elder one time in fifteen years.
  • It is rare for me to formally meet with the elders. Our Senior Pastor and Executive team meet on Wednesday night. Informally, I see them at church and in the community and at the staff Christmas party. I do have a first name relationship with most of them.
  • We used to meet as a staff monthly with the elders, but now just the Senior Minister meets with them. There is an elder assigned to my family and he takes me out to eat once and a while.
  • A couple times formally and maybe 10 times informally a year.
  • Never formally, once or twice a year informally.
  • Never formally. I attend an Elders Meeting once a year to update them on children and youth ministry. The Elders do check in with us during church meeting times, rarely over a lunch or designated time.
  • I’m on the Leadership Team so I meet with them once a month.
  • When the Elders have a question they reach out to me.
  • Just on Sundays when we see each other.
  • I attend Elders meetings once every three months and send a youth report every month. One Elder takes me out twice a year to talk about student ministry.
  • I had a formal meeting with an Elder one time, over lunch. Informally, two are youth coaches and I call and talk with them regularly.
  • I’m in elder’s meetings every month formally. Informally I meet with several of them.
  • At the Staff and Elders Christmas party, and maybe a couple of other times a year.

What are the common denominators you perceive after reviewing the above? How do you believe your Youth / Children’s Minister(s) would respond? Should elders be more involved in the staff? When I was in youth ministry in the 70s & 80s, I often was involved in elder meetings and my wife and I were often in elders’ homes. I had at least two or three elders who were youth coaches whom I met with and bounced off ideas, vision, direction for the youth ministry. Before I ever made a proposal for a new youth ministry concept or need, it was elder tested!

Times have changed. Larger churches have supervisors, team leaders, etc., and the elders have high, over-arching oversight. Pros? Cons?

  1. HOW DO THE ELDERS ACTIVELY SUPPORT, AND HOW COULD THEY DO A BETTER JOB?

Support answers:

  • Prayer
  • Encouraging Texts
  • Notes of Encouragement
  • Serve at Large Youth Events
  • Supportive Budget (scholarship fund to allow students to also earn enough to attend CIY)
  • Willing to Try New Things
  • Give me space to run the ministry without micromanagement.
  • It is obvious they value my opinions and like to be around me when they can.
  • Serve as Trip Leaders, Small Group Leaders
  • Often check in on me and my family.
  • They let me know they are praying for me and the ministry and ask for specific prayer needs.
  • I receive phone calls from elders just to pray for me.
  • Elders ask to attend our youth team meetings occasionally, ask us to share stories of what God is doing and pray with us.
  • One elder is involved in our youth program and he says he is also there to help with encounters from what he affectionately calls “crazy parents.”
  • This is a crazy statement but in almost 15 years at the church I have never been told “no” on any trip or event, perhaps because I haven’t done anything outlandish. Reaching youth is the church’s #1 priority.
  • The elders financially support our summer camps and mission trips where life change takes place.
  • Not sure. The Leadership team and elders for our church are a bit of a closed loop.
  • Allow me to represent and share an overview of youth ministry with all the elders once a year receive feedback, ask questions, etc.
  • Full health care for our family and other benefits.

Review the above list line by line. Which ones could you identify as currently taking place through your eldership? Which ones need to begin … and by whom?

How might elders do a better job?:

  • Show up at events to support and see what is happening. Appreciate they trust us and let us lead, but [they could] be a little more present.
  • Be more aware.
  • It would be huge if one had the passion and gift to actively serve in our student ministry. Perhaps the elders, if not gifted with youth, should add an elder (or groom a potential elder who has children in the youth ministry) who does have that passion. It makes it hard to cast vision to leadership when they are not around to see the implementation of that vision. I’d love to receive more feedback on how to hone my skills. I appreciate the encouraging texts, but showing up is entirely different.
  • I would certainly have benefitted in my early years of youth ministry with direct elder involvement on a regular basis in our high school youth ministry.
  • Ask me what I am reading in the Bible and what is challenging me from Scripture, and share the same with me. Personal spiritual encouragement and guidance are better than technical advice.
  • Have intentional conversations concerning the plans for future youth ministry, what vision we can have as a church for youth ministry.
  • I don’t get to meet much with the elders so I feel a little out of touch as to what the elders are thinking and what they desire to see from the youth ministry. It is good to have the freedom to run the program, but it would be nice to know what you are doing is valued as well.
  • Have a genuine care for me as a person instead of me as an employee of the church.

Do you identify with the ways that Elders are supporting the youth ministry staff and activities? What are a couple of new ideas that you need to implement? How could your elder group do a better job?

  1. IF YOU COULD SHARE SOME ADVICE TO OVER 1,000 ELDERS IN CHURCHES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, WHAT KEY CONCEPTS WOULD YOU SHARE?
  • Be Available. We need accountability and we need support. It has been HUGE for me to have an elder as a safe person to whom I can ask questions, seek advice from, who can hear our thoughts and help us receive direction.
  • Be Prayerful. For the youth ministry, the youth ministers, their families, the youth ministry volunteers, and pray with them for their goals and dreams.
  • Be Financially Supportive. Make youth ministry a priority of the church.
  • Be Celebratory! Find ways to celebrate what is taking place in the youth ministry in front of the church body. Celebrate youth ministry with spoken word and occasional fun gifts when special occasions, accomplishments take place.
  • Be Involved. Lead a small group, drive a vehicle, help cook for a weekend retreat, serve as a sponsor at camp, drop in regularly. “Get your hands dirty and your heart involved so you can attest to what the church (youth ministry) is doing.” Could at least one elder be dedicated to investing their gifts in youth ministry? This way the elders would have the perspective of student ministry from an insider on their team.
  • Be Perceptive. Youth ministries are basically a church operating inside the big church with needs and challenges. Youth ministry changes methodology (not tradition for tradition’s sake), but the message of Christ and the call to Kingdom work should not.
  • Be Present! Stop and chat with us in the hallway, show up to events, drop by the office, have an occasional coffee time, etc. Just a little of this would be helpful for relationship.
  • Be Encouraging but not Micromanaging. Trust the staff you hired, but lovingly give occasional guidance and suggestions.
  • Be Transparent. How are you growing spiritually? What are you struggling with? I need a spiritual leader who is like this in my life whom I can trust to share Scripture with, prayer concepts, seasons of fasting and times of fun, who can speak into my growth and my actions as a parent and spouse.
  • Be Leaders. “Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Team” is also true for the growth and vision of the church. Ask us about our vision and passion for the church, and share with us the direction the leadership envisions. Let us pray for your leadership!
  • Build Unity! This was one of Jesus’ highest passions in His prayers. So much can be accomplished as well as endured if there is a content spirit of unity in the leadership.

I am so grateful I had personal contact and life involvement with the elders when I was a youth minister!

It made youth ministry better, and it for sure molded me and made me a better candidate for long term ministry! Is that taking place in your church? Can that happen today? How could it creatively take place or be improved?

Traveling a Rough Road

by Gary & Jared Johnson

All of us have driven on rough roads from time to time.  Whether the road was poorly constructed, hadn’t been maintained in a long time, or a detour took us onto some rough pavement, every mile was difficult.  We quickly wanted to get back on smooth pavement so that we could move along at a good clip.

As elders, we may feel that way about life in the present.  Soon into the new year, we discovered 2020 to be one of the roughest roads of life on which we have traveled.  A new and deadly virus began sweeping the globe, and before that crisis had passed we found ourselves surrounded by protests, sweeping across our country, against systemic racism.  Like it or not, we find ourselves on a rough road and we are going to be traveling on this route for a while.  Since a quick transition to smooth pavement is “miles” off into the future, elders need to provide practical help and genuine hope to the local church they serve.  How can we do just that?

Practical Help

First and foremost, pray.  When we hit a baseball, we always run to first base; and life is no different.  With the dawn of every day, always run to God.  Life in America is indescribably broken and as elders, we must pray.  Pray bold prayers.  In the full hearing of the people, Joshua prayed aloud, boldly, for the sun and moon to stand still – and the earth stopped turning (Josh. 10:12)!

Not only should we pray for God’s healing from COVID-19, but also from the deadly disease of racism.  Specifically, we must pray prayers of repentance on behalf of the church we lead.  As a God-follower, Nehemiah recognized the deplorable state of God’s people: “When I heard [about Jerusalem’s trouble], I sat down and wept.  In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”  (Neh. 1:4).  From exile, the prophet Daniel did the same: “O Lord, you are a great and awesome God!  You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands.  But we have sinned and done wrong…” (Dan. 9:4-5).  Individual repentance for corporate wrong is entirely warranted in the face of such pervasive, society-wide sin.  The text is clear: when society is broken and sinful, we all own it.

Second, we need to act on those prayers.  Paul preached that we “must repent of [our] sins and turn to God – and prove [we] have changed by the good things [we] do” (Acts 26:20); and as elders, we must lead by example (1 Cor. 11:1).  In a time of so much tension, when people have already experienced great loss due to COVID, elders must provide compassion-driven kindness and outrageous generosity.  Greek-speaking widows – an ethnic group – “were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1-7).  When they were threatened by starvation and this problem was brought to the attention of the apostles, they took initiative, acted immediately, and solved the problem.

After centuries of racial inequality, elders must take the initiative and be intentional peacemakers in times of conflict.

  • Paul took the initiative to begin healing the broken relationship between Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2).
  • Barnabas encouraged, comforted, and mentored young John Mark when Paul had rejected him as a part of the ministry team (Acts 15:39).
  • Paul took the initiative to heal the relationship between Onesimus and Philemon (Phlm. vv 10-20).

Paul told the Corinthian Christians outright that when a small part of the body suffers, we are all suffering with it (1 Cor 12:26), and in those moments, “we weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  When were we last driven to literal tears by someone else’s pain – COVID, racism, or otherwise?  Look for opportunities to lead the local church, proactively, both individually and corporately, by example.  Later in Nehemiah’s story, public, corporate repentance played a major role (chapters 9-10).  The practical help you, as an elder, can offer will strengthen your brothers and sisters to stay the course when the road of life is difficult and rough.

Genuine Hope

As elders, we not only provide practical help, but we point people to God, who provides us with genuine hope.  First and foremost, “the LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Ps. 34:18) in these difficult days.  God’s presence is real.  It’s His nature to be with His people – from the opening pages of Scripture when He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8) to the closing pages of Revelation when God makes His dwelling with us on the new earth (Rev. 21:3).

While on this rough road, it is essential that we grieve; something that we as Americans do not do well.  Our culture likes to “move on.”  COVID has caused many people much loss: jobs, retirements, graduations, weddings, and lives.  Centuries of racism has caused much loss: lives, human dignity and worth, equal opportunities, freedom from fear, livelihoods and more.  We must grieve our losses.  We must sit in lament because in those moments God’s presence is felt and known.  He is faithful and will never leave us or forsake us.  God promised to be with us in times of trouble; rescuing, protecting, and delivering us in those moments (Ps. 91:14-16).

We can also experience genuine hope in God’s power.  With Israel’s impending destruction by Babylon, Isaiah reminded the people of God of His hope-filled power.  The prophet reminds us that God does not grow tired or weary, that He gives strength to the weary.  When we anchor our hope in the Lord, He renews our strength to press on from day-to-day (Isaiah 40:28-31).

As elders, let’s keep “our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up” (Heb. 12:2-3).

When the road we are on becomes a detour of rough pavement, we are tempted to use Google Maps to find an alternate route – one with smooth pavement.  Though the road of life on which we find ourselves now is more than difficult, stay on it.  God has a purpose for us.  By His grace, serve the church, leading her over this rough road in a God-honoring way.

LINK TO ALL THE SCRIPTURES REFERENCED