What your elders wish you knew, but are reluctant to tell you
The joy of serving as an undershepherd of the Chief Shepherd is all the greater when shared with other called and qualified men.
If you’re a pastor, you know the joyful burden that comes with shepherding the people of God. And if you have the privilege of ministering alongside a team or board of elders, you know the remarkable gift that a model of “shared shepherding” can bring to your life and ministry. But I’ve found that there are a number of things that senior pastors can often miss when it comes to leading their fellow elders in the work of the ministry. Here are just a few.
We want to shepherd, not manage.
While you may think we are more eager to talk about personnel or budgets, or facilities, you are likely mistaking our comfort zones with our heart’s desire. Most of us are longing to join in this work of shepherding, we just don’t always know where to start. We don’t want to function like your board of directors. We want to pick up the shepherd’s tools and get into the work alongside you. We want to pray more, we want to consider how best to comfort the afflicted, how to admonish the idle, how to bind up the broken, how to spur on the saints to love and good works. When you “stiff arm” us in that, you keep perpetuating the same problem and bearing a burden alone which we really want to carry with you.
We want you to lead.
While we want to shepherd, we are looking to you–the man tasked with the preaching ministry of the church–to lead and, specifically to lead us. We realize you didn’t go to business school. We realize your primary love is teaching and preaching the Bible. But rather than negating the necessity of your leadership, that’s what makes us all the more eager to follow your lead. So lead us! Cast vision for us. Shepherd us. We are eager for you to keep the central mission before us, to remind us of those things that are most central. Never apologize for asking us to spend more time in prayer in our meetings together. We are looking to you for that kind of spiritual leadership.
We want to partner with you. We might even want to be your friend.
One of the greatest joys you can have in ministry is to have genuine friendships with other men, especially those men who labor with you in the same plot of land. As someone in a seminary context, looking out over thousands of alumi, one of my concerns is the problem of men who have no close male friendships. I am alarmed when I meet a pastor who seems to have no close male friends. The biblical pattern for healthy leadership seems to consistently be one that is characterized by friendships. And we, your fellow shepherds, want to be your friends too.
We have full-time jobs.
Of course, you know this. But it sometimes seems like you just forget. Start meetings on time. Follow an agenda. Finish on time. Many of us have to get up really early the next morning. Whatever doesn’t get done can wait until the next time. Really, it can.
We will follow your lead if we trust your integrity.
Don’t be deceived. We thank God for your gifting. We love your preaching. We see your leadership abilities on display. We rejoice in how you can mobilize and organize our church to be effective in the work of ministry. We see how well you manage the staff. But the thing that makes us ready to follow you off a cliff is that we see your consistent and godly integrity. You tell the truth. You are not two-faced. You keep your promises. You’re faithful to your wife. You are loving, even when you need to say difficult things. And that’s what engenders our loyalty and trust in your leadership.
The joy of serving as an undershepherd of the Chief Shepherd is all the greater when shared with other called and qualified men. Rather than leading in isolation and bearing the burdens of ministry alone, a model of shared leadership is a gift from the Lord. If you’re a pastor, pray the Lord surrounds you with men like this. And if He has, don’t take them for granted. In the end, we all long to receive the “unfading crown of glory” promised to those found faithful to our charge (1 Peter 5:4).