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.

To Elders’ Wives…

by Keren Hamel 

My husband recently received a call from an elder at a church in another state. His face fell as his friend described that a third of his congregation and several staff have left in the wake of Covid-19.

Over the past few months, my husband and I have spent many hours with friends whose marriages are falling apart. Our hearts break as we hear the sordid and devastating details.

Plus, we’re experiencing the same thing as many of you. Personal friends have decided not to return to church because we have a mask requirement. Some of our favorite congregants are leaving for new church homes. Church members and staff have said untrue and unkind things.

These are heavy times. Covid-19 has laid bare some ugly realities. As church leaders scramble to respond, we don’t have the usual relational touch points and face-to-face grace that often make resolution possible. In speaking to elders and wives across the nation, I’ve heard the same sentiment: this has been the hardest and most fatiguing season of leadership in our lives – even when we are spiritually healthy ourselves.

As I share the leadership load alongside my husband, I sometimes forget that my first ministry is to my husband. During this season, as our husbands have taken on so much extra weight, God has impressed upon me my unique ability to minister peace and rest to him. As much as I was his primary companion and greatest encourager before, I am even more so during Covid-19. No matter what kind of challenges he faces, I want him to find rest when he’s around me.

In full disclosure, we have a 1-year-old son, I’m 7-months pregnant, and I have a painfully limiting back injury. So, you can imagine how often I fall short and how often my husband makes sacrifices for me! But, I am earnestly trying to help him find rest in four specific ways.

Most importantly, I want to give him the gift of a gentle and quiet spirit. Each day, I set aside my growing list of prayer requests to take time to enjoy the presence of the Lord – to seek God for His sake alone. He’s my peace, and in His presence is the fullness of joy. I also avoid the toxic Covid-19 diet: slanted journalism (both ways), social media, rumors and gossip. I want more of God’s Spirit and less of the spirit of the age. When my spirit is restful, my husband is the greatest beneficiary.

Second – and this is easier said than done – I try to say and do the things that bring my husband rest and avoid the things that bring stress. These lists are vastly different for each of our husbands, but we do know what they are. For my husband, it’s apple pie, sweet tea and family walks around sunset; it’s not packing our calendar with several engagements every single night.

Third, when my husband is extra fatigued, I try to get creative. This month, I asked a friend if I should help my husband get some alone time. She wisely texted, “No! He gets his energy from adventures and good conversations with people he loves.” She was right! So, I invited her family to come to town for a jam-packed weekend of fun. My husband’s tank will be full for at least a month.

Finally, I pray for God to create life-filled moments for us. God loves to answer this prayer. Just a few weeks ago, I told my husband I wanted to build our son a slide from the deck into the yard. The next day, my husband came home with two large, high-quality slides in the back of his truck. He found them on the side of the road with a sign that read “FREE.” Our son enjoys that gift from God every single day.

Though this is a season of heavy-lifting, I’m more confident in my role than ever. As wives, we are essential workers, vital to the health of the men on the front lines. 

When God Moves: how Promise Keepers Started

by David Roadcup 

(e2 enjoys ministry partnership with Renew.org, and David earlier recounted his experience with the start of Promise Keepers on their site.)

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us.  We want to present them to God, mature in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1.28-29 (NLT)

I was one of the founding leaders of the Promise Keepers men’s movement of the 1990s. 

It was truly one of the most exciting and stretching experiences of my fifty-three years of ministry service to the body of Christ.  I was invited to pen this series to share with our readers the history of this movement, its impact and influence on the men of America (and other countries) and what I learned and experienced as we saw the mighty hand of God move in the lives of the men of America. 

This is how things began for me: 
In August of 1988, I moved from my Vice President role at Cincinnati Christian University to Boulder, Colorado to become the Lead Minister at Boulder Valley Christian Church.  As we arrived, several of the men of the congregation invited me to attend a popular interdenominational men’s prayer breakfast which was held each Friday morning at 6:30 a.m. the Boulder Country Club. 

The first Friday after the invitations, I arrived at the country club at 6:30 a.m. to find the parking lot full.  I entered the banquet room, got coffee took a seat at a round table up front.  The room was filled with 150+ men who seemed to really enjoy the fellowship and time together.  I introduced myself to the man on my right.  “Hi, my name is David Roadcup.  I am new in town and the new Pastor at Boulder Valley Christian Church.”  

The man on my right said, “Welcome to our fellowship.  My name is Bill McCartney.” 

At that point, I did not know that Bill was the Head Coach of the football program at the University of Colorado in our city.  I also did not know where this meeting would take us. 

If you were a pastor and attended the breakfast regularly, you were asked to join the rotation of speakers who provided the fifteen-minute devotion at the weekly breakfasts.  I began speaking in the rotation and Bill would graciously speak to me about what he had received from my messages.  We made a connection through those brief visits. 

This began a relationship with Bill that led to a phone call a year later. 

Coach Mac and one of his close friends, David Wardell, had traveled together to fulfill a speaking engagement on Coach Mac’s schedule.  As they drove, they sang and prayed together. 

During this trip, Bill shared with David that he thought the Lord was leading him to begin an outreach to men.  David encouraged Bill to pursue what he thought the Lord had revealed to him.  They would work on this project together. 

Immediately after this trip, two men called me to share Bill’s vision.  He believed that the Lord was leading him to begin a men’s ministry that called men to do a couple of focused things.

The first challenge was to be true to the promises they made at their immersions – promises of a life committed to integrity, purity, loyalty and obedience to Jesus.  The second calling was to be the most biblical husband and father they could be, devoted husbands who loved their wives as Christ loved the church, and to love their wives as they loved themselves; to be husbands who would raise their children to walk in faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.  We were to restore the spiritual identity of the sons of God.  

Bill felt he knew what the Lord was leading him to do.  He just was not sure how to make this happen.  The phone call was an invitation to meet with Bill, David and several other leaders to discuss the vision that these brothers had shared in together. 

Our meeting was held at a Perkins Pancake House in Boulder.  It was the fall of 1989.  Eight of us gathered, had breakfast and listened to Bill and David as they shared their vision.  Bill told us that he dreamed of the day when the stadium his team played in on Saturday afternoons would be filled with men seeking the Lord. 

They asked us if we had any input into how this kind of a ministry could be launched.  Being ministers, we told him that we knew the basics of how to create this kind of a gathering.  We also shared our hearts about the need to call men to a faithful commitment to Christ.  Bill asked for our help and we prayed a prayer of unity and dedication to move forward. 

The men at this meeting eventually formed the first Board of Directors for Promise Keepers.  That original group served together for many years, adding new members as others rotated off the Board.  I served on the Board for eleven years, the last five as Board Vice-Chair.

Our first action was to invite a group of men to a meeting where we introduced the idea that would become Promise Keepers. 

We decided to call men in our networks to a meeting that would take place at the church where I preached, Boulder Valley Christian Church.  This first informational meeting took place in July of 1990.  Seventy-two men gathered for dinner, worship and to hear about this new men’s ministry.  (This meeting became known as “The Meeting of 72.”) 

After a worship time, Coach Mac shared his heart about calling men to keep their promises.  Bill was an excellent motivational speaker.  His presentation was powerful and visionary.  It was such a needed ministry for all of our churches. 

In addition, the Lord’s powerful Presence was there that night.  It was palpable.  We all left the meeting, committed to moving forward with the vision of inviting men to come to a meeting where they would be challenged to get more serious than they had ever been before about knowing, loving and following Jesus.

In the following weeks, our Board number grew to ten men.  We began planning our end of July 1991 event, the date Bill requested.   We issued invitations to the men of Colorado and the immediate adjoining states.  Bill and his coaching staff had the entire month of July off each year.  The first of August, summer practices began and Bill requested that we have the mass meeting the weekend before his season officially began. 

We met and decided to lease Folsum Field, the football stadium at the University of Colorado for the last weekend of July.  The date was set.  We planned all fall and winter long, arranging worship leaders, speakers and a myriad of thousands of details which we, as the board, handled ourselves.  We labored in the details of putting together a meeting that would see 55,000 men come together in the name of Christ. 

As we planned and prayed, little did we know what the Lord had in store long-term.  The tens of thousands of men who would come to Christ and the myriad who would recommit their lives to Jesus in NFL stadiums around the country were still ahead.  We were excited and had great anticipation concerning what the Lord would do.  Our anticipation grew as the last weekend of July, 1991 approached. 

Laugh Again

by Gary Johnson 

Every Christmas, my wife Leah says that she is going to buy me “Miracle Ear” for my gift.  To her, it seems that my hearing is waning.  Like many, I have what we call selective hearing.  Yet, there is a sound that I have not heard in recent times, and perhaps you can say the same. 
 
Where has all the laughter gone?  Have you noticed its conspicuous absence?
 
Life today is not a laughing matter.  COVID is making a comeback across the country and around the world.  Businesses that were told they could open are now being told to close.  Our nation is divided politically as never before.  Civil unrest is unrelenting.  Even Christians are at odds with one another.  Even the American Psychological Association recently stated that 70 percent of Americans say this is the lowest point in US history they can remember.  These are heavy-hearted days and there is little about which to laugh.
 
Yet, we need to laugh again – loudly and often.  We need to enjoy belly-busting laughter.  And why?  Proverbs 17:22 reminds us that “laughter is good like a medicine.”  We all want a vaccine for the virus, but we already have some great medicine for our souls that is readily available – laughter!
 
Laughing actually improves our breathing, increases our blood flow, reduces our stress, activates our “feel-good” hormones in the brain, and makes for a stronger immune system.  Knowing this, who would not want to “take this medicine” and laugh out loud?      
 
Think with me.  Jesus had a fun side.  In John 21, the resurrected Jesus appeared to some of His disciples at the Sea of Galilee.  Peter and six other disciples decided to go fishing.  It wasn’t an afternoon of recreational fishing, hoping to get a few bluegills for supper.  The text reads that they fished through the night – and caught nothing.  Ashamed for having denied knowing Jesus three times, Peter reverted to his old ways and went back to commercial fishing.  Jesus appeared to them early in the morning and the boat was about one hundred yards from shore.  He could have called out to them, “Hey guys!  It’s Me, Jesus!  Get in here!”  But, He didn’t.  He told them to “throw their nets on the other side of the boat,” and as they did so, the nets were filled with 153 fish!  Been there.  Done that.  Jesus performed this miracle with the disciples when He firsts met them some three years earlier.  Immediately, they knew it was Jesus and they took off for the shore.  Peter even jumped in the water and swam, the laden boat moving too slowly for him.  Talk about a practical joke.  I can “hear” the gut-busting belly laughter coming from Jesus.  Luke reminds us that Jesus “was filled with joy through the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21), and the same can happen with us.  After all, the fruit of the Spirit includes joy (Galatians 5:22).
 
We have been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and God has a sense of humor.  We often think of God as being serious 24/7, but we need to think of God as being our ultimate joy-giver.  In Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale (HarperCollins, 1977), gifted author and pastor Frederick Buechner describes a joyful moment from Genesis 18.
 
The place to start is with a woman laughing.  She is an old woman, and after a lifetime in the desert, her face is cracked and rutted like a six-month drought.  She hunches her shoulders round her eyes and starts to shake.  She squinnies her eyes shut, and her laughter is all wheeze and tears running down as she rocks back and forth in her kitchen chair.  She is laughing because she is pushing 91 hard and has just been told she is going to have a baby….  The old woman’s name is Sarah, of course, and her old man’s name is Abraham, and they are laughing at the idea of a baby’s being born in the geriatric ward and Medicare’s picking up the tab.  Maybe the most interesting part of it all is that far from getting angry at them for laughing, God told them that when the baby was born, he wanted them to name him Isaac, which in Hebrew means laughter.  So you can say that God not only tolerated their laughter, but blessed it and, in a sense, joined in it himself.
 
Does it look like we have been baptized in vinegar and weened on a pickle?  Maybe it’s time we start smiling and laughing again.  Let’s resolve to watch more comedies than we do action, suspense, or even horror movies.  And speaking of horror, rather than binging on fear-driven news updates, let’s read humorous stories.  Are there funny stories from your past?  Tell them again and again as if they were happening for the very first time.  And let’s not forget to laugh at ourselves! 
 
Years ago, someone gave me a piece of art as both a gift and a reminder.  This piece of art has never left my desk.  It is a well-known sketch of Jesus.  Drawn in 1973 by the late Canadian artist Willis Wheatley, Christ, Liberator (probably more commonly known as “Jesus Laughing”) became a sensation.  Why?  Few Christians ever gave thought to Jesus having a sense of humor.  This sketch reminds me to laugh like Jesus.  After all, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
 
Go ahead.  Laugh out loud.  People will wonder what we’re up to. 

News Story by Vancouver Sun about Willis Wheatley and the image:
https://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/meet-the-creator-of-the-laughing-jesus-photo/

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

Elders Know…

by Bob Hightchew 

As Senior Minister at South Fork, there are three things that I love about the Elders I serve with: they know the Word of God, they know our congregation, and they know me personally.  I believe these three factors led to the success of our ministry together and I believe these three things will lead to a successful ministry in any church.  Let me explain what I mean.

Know the Word2nd Timothy 2:15  
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

I love the ministry with all my heart.  I really do.  But as any minister will say, there is nothing more exhausting than being the only 22resident Bible “expert” in your church.  People desire to go to someone they know is studied for the answers to the questions they have.  This allows them to grow.  When it is only the minister they can go to, there is a bottleneck in the system.  I love that my elders are not only studied, but the congregation knows they are.  When elders become studiers, the whole church will follow their example. 

Know the Congregation1st Peter 5:1-3
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing…  

Our elders have their finger on the pulse of the church.  They work to know every family and as many individuals of that family that they can.  It would be a lie to say that they knew every person, but I will say it is not for lack of trying.  If you remember the song from the show Cheers years ago, there was a line in the theme song: “You want to be where everybody knows your name.”  That is true.  When people know that their elders know who they are, it makes a world of difference when they come in.  There is also an accountability that comes with being known.

Know the Preacher1st Timothy 5:7
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.  

Often times, there is a division between the elders and the minister.  I feel sorry for the brothers I know in ministry who talk about how terrible it is when they meet with their elders.  I am so blessed when it comes to this.  The elders I work with are like my brothers.  I really mean that.  When I go to them with church issues, they carry the load as well.  I never feel like I have the weight of the church on my shoulders alone.  My elders will often pull me aside just to see how me and my family are doing.  They ask if there is anything I need.  I cannot tell you how cared for that makes me feel.  They know me personally and they care about the needs of my family and myself.

These items above can be done by an elder at any size church.  I often hear, “Well, that may work at a big church, but not one our size.”  These three steps work no matter what size church.  Try them and see.  I bet you will be very happy with the results. 

Provision During Pandemic

by Gary Johnson 

I have lived in Indianapolis for 31 years.  The month of May here is all about the Indy 500: a festival, a mini-marathon, parades, celebrations of all kinds, practice sessions and Carb Day, all culminating in 33 cars vying for the world-famous checkered flag on Race Day.  This year, race officials looked ahead, through the impact of the COVID pandemic, and rescheduled the race to August 23rd.  Looking ahead, they took necessary steps to make the race happen.  

Are we doing the same in our local church?  Are we, as elders, looking ahead and making plans for the steps necessary in light of all that has been happening?  Are we working with the church staff to determine how we are going to address our summer schedule, change our ministry methods, and more?  Let’s consider three essentials in taking our next steps.  This is part of strategic planning – a skill that elders must cultivate in leading the local church.  Below, we have included a link to our e2 Talk on Strategic Planning.  It’s free for the time being on our YouTube channel and may be a benefit to you. 

In the news cycle’s dominance by COVID-19, one story came and went quickly, but still caught my attention.  It told of how teens had completed driver’s education, but because of social distancing, were given waivers on their road tests. 
 
That story brought back memories of my driving test.  After pulling out of the parking lot and going through all the paces, the examiner had me pull onto the expressway.  It was both exciting and unsettling.  I remember glancing in the rear-view mirror to see who I left behind as I sped off. 
 
Teens are not the only ones who have learned to drive during this pandemic. 
 
As elders, many of us have had to put the proverbial pedal to the metal.  We were forced to the on ramp of leading ministry in ways never experienced and for which we were not prepared.  It was unsettling for many of us to merge onto the virtual church expressway.  We worried and were greatly unsettled about who we were leaving behind while racing down this new ministry path.
 
We suddenly found ourselves bumper-to-bumper with every fellow American church on the digital highway.  We learned to drive virtual worship gatherings, hold leadership meetings and life groups, pursue student ministry, etc., all on screens.  We have now spent more than two months barreling down this virtual highway, often simply hoping that we would not run out of gas.  We urged people to help refuel the church by giving digitally, and fortunately, many chose to do so. 
 
After being forced to drive the virtual expressway, did we look in the rearview mirror, trying to catch a glimpse of where we had been prior to COVID-19?  Did we look back and wish we could do a U-turn to pre-COVID days?  If we hope to navigate this new road well, we cannot keep looking back.  With steeled determination and Spirit-given courage, we must drive the Church forward – and to do so, we must think forward. 
 
Our Provider
Through all of this, God has been, and will be, our faithful Provider.  One of His many gifts to us is the ability to think.  Being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14), we can think and reason, having been given “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). 
 
To what degree are we using these minds God has provided?  Are we taking time to simply think?  Dr. Thomas Edison would sit for hours at the end of his dock in Fort Myers, Florida.  The good doctor did not like people bothering him while he fished; so much so, that he often did not bait the hook.  He simply wanted to sit and think, with absolutely nothing to bother him – not even the fish!  
 
The COVID crisis has intensified our need to think critically and strategically.  God expects us to ask Him for His wisdom (James 1:5).  There are at least three ways this challenges us and for which we need God-given wisdom. 

A New Perspective
COVID-19 has forced us to adjust our ministry worldviews.  We have all merged onto the expressway of virtual church.  While many of us were not early adopters of “streaming church,” here we are now.  Remember, the sons of Issachar had “minds to understand the times and they knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).  We must understand our culture and know how to respond; what next step to take.  Have we been seeing obstacles or opportunities these last couple months?  How you and I answer that question has much to say about our perspective. 
 
Thinking – and asking – the question “what’s next?” is a discipline of leadership.  Elders must develop this as a regular practice.  Thinking forward moves the church forward.  If we fail to think about the future strategically, the church is in ‘park’ or ‘neutral’ while we simply rev the engine – making a bunch of ministry noise and spending resources to capture the attention of people, but making little or no measurable progress.  Thinking “what’s next” helps us develop and implement a strategic plan for the church.  God provides us with minds to cultivate this perspective.
 
A New Platform
The coronavirus shut down the traffic in Lane A, forcing everyone to merge into Lane B, where everyone did ministry on a digital platform.  With Lane A reopened or soon to be, do not go back!  Merge, instead, into Lane C, where we do ministry in a “both-and” world.  We can be an embodied, gathered church, and a church with global, virtual reach. 
 
God provides us with minds to understand that technology is the way the world works.  We even have wearable technology that syncs to our other devices.  We must make use of digital platforms to preach and teach the Word, to disciple others, to conduct meetings, plan events, receive donations, and more.  The list of possibilities is endless.  Church is not relegated to Sunday only in a specific building.  Our digital platform opens wide the door of the church 24/7.  God provides us with His wisdom to leverage this platform in myriad ways for each unique congregation.
 
A New Place
Gathering physically for church will never be outdated, but cyber church is also here to stay.  Retail stores with a strong internet presence move people from clicks to bricks; from their websites into their store sites.  We can do the same.  What will it take for us to move people from just viewing to actually visiting the church?  Will we invest in our virtual campus, hiring staff, buying necessary equipment and more?  Think with me.  People from all five living generations are online, from websites to Facebook to TikTok. We must meet them there with the Good News.  
 
Before, during and after the crisis, God was, is, and will be faithful.  He provided for all that we needed and more.  Being that God doesn’t change, He has been, and will always be, our Provider.