You are here because you are taking Approach #1, Function First, Then Form. This means you will begin working with a team of men, training them to function as shepherds—sort of quasi-elders. Here are some ideas:
Forming the team
Selecting the men
- Pray: Pray the Lord would show to you those who already have a shepherd’s heart or a desire to shepherd people. Elders must be men of God’s choosing.
- Observe: You are looking for evidence of God’s work in men’s lives in relation to shepherding God’s people. Key things that you should look for in men are those who:
– Desire the work of an elder.
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do” (1 Tim. 3:1).
– Have an aptitude for teaching the Word.
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim 2:2).
An overseer, then, must be . . . able to teach (1 Tim 3:2).
– Show concern for people’s spiritual lives.
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you . . . shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness (1 Peter 5:1-2).
– Live an exemplary Christian life—morally and doctrinally.
. . . in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified . . . (Titus 2:7)
- Watch on Sunday mornings as people interact with others. Take note during small group times and social times.
Who is starting spiritual conversations, who is directing people’s thoughts to spiritual things, who is showing hospitality to others, who are the first ones to welcome visitors on Sunday mornings? Ask your wife and other spiritually minded people you know to identify whom they observe shepherding others.
You might use or adapt the Prospective Shepherding Team Worksheet.
Studying the BE Workbook
- Invite the men God brings to your mind to join you in a one-year study, using the “Biblical Eldership” text and workbook by Alexander Strauch.
- This intensive study should not be rushed, so we suggest covering this material over a period of twelve months, at a pace of one workbook chapter per month (the twelve chapters are keyed to specific readings in the textbook). Plan to meet as a group once per month to discuss answers and to interact with the material.
- The designated facilitator will lead the discussion, selecting which questions to emphasize. This will give the men a great foundation of what BE is all about. We suggest the facilitator use the companion, “Biblical Eldership Mentor’s Guide.” While this manual is geared toward one-on-one mentoring, it can be adapted to group study.
- Here is a 90-minute format that works well:
– 15 minutes of prayer (on your knees). This teaches the men the importance of prayer. The length of time depends on the number of men involved.
– 5 minutes review of memory verses—memorizing Scripture is not only beneficial for “shepherds” who need to be “apt” to teach, but also sets a good example for the congregation.
– 70 minutes of review/interaction. You will probably not be able to cover all the questions. Be selective—give attention to those which for your group of men require extra time for discussion.
- Encourage the men to write their answers down in the workbook and complete all the questions. This has the following benefits:
– The men will have had adequate time to ponder the questions deeply.
– A pen or pencil is marvelous “mental crowbar” that forces people to think!
– This discipline will encourage men to summarize and crystallize their thoughts concretely.
– Time will not be wasted during the monthly meetings while men try to “figure out” or remember their answers.
– Observing (even at a distance) their workbooks will help you determine who is taking this training seriously, by seeing whether they have done the work.
– Seeing other men’s answers written out will encourage a camaraderie and sense of accountability for each of the men.
This part of the shepherd training is mostly cognitive. We feel God can use this material as a spiritual tool to bring about not only much self-inspection, but a challenge to godly manhood to which spiritually minded men will aspire.
Training in Practical Shepherding
Elder training needs to involve instruction and practicums in the practical “hands on” work. There is no better training than “on the job” training. Universities have long recognized the value of “work-study” programs where students intersperse academic study with practical hands-on job training. The time invested in both of these for potential elders will pay off in the long run.
Potential elders need to develop experience in visiting the sick and encouraging the downtrodden. They need opportunities to be part of baptisms, funerals, and marriage ceremonies. They need to develop skills in small group leading and basic shepherding skills.
You will want to provide written materials (see our “Effectiveness” tab above) or your own verbal instructions, as well as practical experiences where there will be training and feedback.
In addition, you will want to give each of the potential elders the opportunity for being mentored by an experienced individual. This will give them personalized attention and an opportunity to observe and learn from good examples. These mentoring relationships should meet on a regular basis to help the potential elder discern how he is doing, including both the strong areas and the weak areas.
Teach the Congregation
- Public teaching
While working with the Shepherding Team, we recommend that you, as the pastor, launch a significant teaching series for congregation about the New Testament church as seen in the book of Acts and the epistles (especially 1 Timothy and Titus). You will need to decide when the best time for this would be (Sunday mornings, selected membership meetings, etc). This will orient the congregation to BE while you as a plurality of men are beginning to practice the pastoral side of BE. This website has video and audio taped sermons covering BE which can be used either in their entirety or as a basis for your own sermons.
- Circulate literature
We recommend development of the shepherd team to take at least a year, to give opportunity for the men to not only learn about eldership, but also to begin doing the work of elders. This will give the congregation time to get accustomed to men other than the pastor sharing in the shepherding/pastoral function of the church, as well as have adequate time to absorb biblical teaching about church leadership, and eldership in particular.
As the congregation begins to see the benefit of having other men sharing the practical shepherding ministry, you can begin leading them in asking questions like this: “Since we have seen the benefit of a team of men sharing in the shepherding of the church, should we consider making a change in the formal structure of leadership to best support this kind of shepherding leadership?”
When the time is right, as you sense the Spirit’s leading and the congregation seems positive to the teaching on BE, you can move on to the next step: forming a transition team to guide the church in the transition. The shepherding team will continue their shepherding, but their “training” is over for now—if and when BE is adopted for the church, more training will be provided. Some or all of these men may also serve on the transition team, but the transition team serves a different purpose: to guide the whole church to making the structural changes necessary to support a BE form of leadership.
NOTE: you need to be careful not to overload any of the men with too much responsibility, which could result in burnout.
You are now ready to move to the next step. Click on “Form the Transition Team.”