Advice For A New Elder

Your office as an overseer is contingent upon your character

“As a new elder you will likely feel the pressure to “prove yourself.” Don’t fall into this trap. Jesus has called you to serve, and the church has recognized this calling. Listen to the other elders, especially those who have served for a long time. During meetings, listen to how the conversations progress and keep your input succinct.”

 

Our church recently recognized a brother named Mark to serve as an elder. To welcome him, I reached out to a few dozen friends who serve as elders at other churches and asked them to send me advice they would give to a new elder. Here’s the summary of what they would say to a young man who is stepping in as a new overseer.

1. Pray. (1 Sam. 12:23) 

Self-sufficiency will be your most persistent temptation. Trust in the Lord is cultivated through prayer. Pray for yourself. Pray for your family. Pray for the church. Pray with and for the other elders. Pray, and then pray some more.

2. Learn to listen. (James 1:19)

This was by far the most often repeated advice you were given. As a new elder you will likely feel the pressure to “prove yourself.” Don’t fall into this trap. Jesus has called you to serve, and the church has recognized this calling. Listen to the other elders, especially those who have served for a long time. During meetings, listen to how the conversations progress and keep your input succinct. Listen to the congregation. Be among them and ask questions. We learn most when we listen, so listen twice as much as you speak.

3. Learn to speak. (Prov. 25:11)

Some brothers feel intimidated as a new elder and want to avoid being viewed as pushy or prideful. But the Lord has given you a unique perspective that, after you have listened, should be shared if it will be profitable to the conversation.

4. Trust the wisdom of your fellow elders. (Prov. 11:14)

You must trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding each of your fellow elders. Expect to be edified, encouraged, and challenged by them. Learn to be patient and see how the Spirit works through them. As you humbly serve along side these men, you will be amazed to see how the Lord uses each of your unique gifts and perspectives to lead and love the congregation.

5. Be willing to lose votes. (Eph. 5:21)

There are hills to die on, but you must choose them wisely. It is wise and humble to defer to other brothers. This can be difficult when you have a strong opinion about something, but you must trust that God may be leading the church in a direction you can’t see. When you feel you’re not being heard, pause and pray silently. You must learn to trust the other brothers with whom you serve.

6. Beware the fear of man. (Prov. 29:25)

Fearing others’ opinions can keep you from saying things you should say. It can also tempt you to say things you should not say. Remember that you live to please the Lord, not everyone else. Do not try to impress others. Do not hold back needed words of confrontation. Speak, serve, and love people as unto the Lord—this will keep you safe.

7. Don’t compare yourself to the other elders. (Rom. 12:3)

The Holy Spirit has gifted each of us uniquely. Don’t get drawn into fleshly comparisons or competitions with other brothers. You are a fellow servant of the King called to serve alongside brothers who are gifted similarly and differently than you are. Rejoice in the gifts he has given them and be content in what he has given you.

8. Build friendships with other elders. (Prov. 17:17)

You and the other elders are fighting together against the gates of hell. You need each other. And though you won’t be best friends with every elder, you should pursue personal time with them. Do breakfasts, lunches, or double dates together. Spend time with them, especially with ones you don’t “click with.” Do all you can to be a “Barnabas” for the other brothers; they will need your encouragement. Be the friend you desire others to be for you (Matt. 7:12). The relationships you build with your fellow brothers will sustain you in the mist of battle.

9. Speak well of other elders and church members. (James 4:11, 5:9)

You can always find reasons to speak complaints against other people. You will almost always do well to hold your tongue. Look for evidence of grace in other people and be sure to highlight those in your conversations. There certainly will be time for critique and rebuke, but speaking well of others will glorify God and allow people to trust you as a peacemaker.

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