We have received at the Ministerial Association many letters from pastors and elders asking for a comprehensive job description for elders in the local congregation. Here we are including in this issue of Elders's Digest these guidelines that reflect the experience of pastors and elders in different places and cultures. -The Editor
The Elder's Relationship with the Congregation and Pastor
Pastors and elders are partners in ministry. Each should be able to say of the other, as Paul did of his associates, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."(Phi. 1:3-5, RSV).
Elders need to find time for doing their work. Elders are seldom chosen who are not busy, successful people. The time they can spend in church work is limited by their vocations, families, and health. However, they need to understand that many pastors, reading what has been said in the chapter 3 of Elder's Handbook about sharing work with their elders, will do so with a skeptical eye. The reason these pastors sometimes feel they must do everything themselves is that they have given assignments to elders who have proven undependable. Elders should probably not be elders if they see their work exclusively as a Sabbath morning responsibility.
Elder's Activity General Guidelines
1. Visit every family on your parish list at least once per year -Take a deacon with you.
2. Participate in Communion Services - Head Elder will make assignments.
3. Regularly attend bimonthly elder's meetings. These always fall on odd-numbered months - six hours per year; we need inter-elder communication.
4. Regularly attend bimonthly afternoon meetings, elder's homes. These always fall on even numbered months, Meeting time - fifteen hours yearly.
5. Platform duties of the Presiding Elder:
a. 9:00 a.m. meeting with the Pastor for announcement period and orientation.
b. Prayer requests and congregational prayer - short, three minutes maximum, upbeat.
c. Work with, explain particulars etc. to person giving invocation.
d. Reading of Word - Go over texts for day.
e. Assist worship hour speaker wherever possible,
f. After service, stand at exterior door and greet folks as they leave.
6. Platform duties 2nd Elder:
a. Offertory prayer.
b. Benediction - summarize sermon, or Gen 31:49; Num 6:24-27; Joshua 1:9; Psa 19:14; Isa 60:1, 19; Rom 15:15; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 3:20, 21; Jude 24, 25; Phil 4:8, 9; 1 Tim 1:17; Philemon 3; Heb 13:20, 21; 2 Peter 3:18
c. Assist other elders.
d. Invite special music into elder's preparation,
e. After service, mingle with and greet folks.
7. Participate as requested in ordinations, baptisms, special services.
8. Be actively involved in Spiritual Gifted areas of ministry.
9. Regularly review Elder qualifications: 1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 2:1-9, 1:5-9.
10. Assist or lead out sometimes in member anointing services.
11. Regularly attend all church board meetings, at least 10 out of 12 per year.
12. Be especially attentive to welcome, and incorporate new members into the church body.
13. Be a "spiritual" leader, role model, in your circle of influence.
14. Remember all are called to be disciplers: Matt. 28:19.
15. Visit the sick on your parish list. Contact a pastor if it is a serious illness.
16. Make it your business to get close to your parish families, know their spiritual condition, encourage their continued growth.
17. Maintain a daily, growing, personal devotional life.
18. Plan your ministry hours so as not to burn out, or underachieve your possibilities.
19. Be an affirming person with praise on your lips. It's catching.
20. Uphold the Bible message of the S.D.A. Church and its organizations.
Parish Minister's Responsibilities
1. Become personally acquainted with each family in your parish, visiting each at least once every three months and the elderly or ill once each month-more often if necessary. Use report forms to register visits. The report forms should be given to the Pastor on the Sabbath after the visit.
2. Report to the pastor the names of all who, because of physical handicaps or other circumstances, are not able to attend the Sabbath services.
3. Encourage regularity in church attendance and active participation in church activities. Arrange transportation when necessary.
4. Take special note of the sick, birth dates, wedding anniversaries, new babies, etc., by sending appropriate cards and by passing information along to the church office for publication in the church newsletter or bulletin.
5. Report to the Pastor the names of all in your parish who would like communion in the home on the Sabbath that this service is observed in the church. Assist the Pastor in arranging for this.
6. In case of death, contact Head Deaconess to arrange for meals to be provided for the family on the day of the funeral.
7. Report to the Head Deacon or Head Deaconess any physical or material needs where help may be needed. Report to Community Services when the need is such that it may call for their assistance.
8. Report to the church office any changes of address or family member additions or departures that occur in your parish.
9. Pass on to the church office any news item that would be appropriate for the church newsletter.
10. Be alert to discover prospective church members moving into our area. Get acquainted and invite them to the services.
11. Make a special effort to contact new members added to your parish, doing what you can to help integrate them into the church program by introducing them to leading officers of the church, as well as to others.
12. You are the under-shepherd of your parish. Show a genuine interest. Be concerned about their welfare. Take note of their absence from church. Seek to help stem any trend toward discouragement or apostasy. In this work, you will be a real help to the pastor. The more work the layman can do, the more the pastor can do.
Administration of Visitation
A. Desirable Characteristics
1. Be friendly
2. Be sincere
4. Show genuine love and interest
5. Be natural
6. Be well-groomed
B. Basic Objectives of Visitation
1. To minister to persons, and convey a concern to the person himself.
2. To get to know intimately the persons or family involved. Elders cannot adequately minister to the needs of people until we know them as persons, understand who they are, and where they are emotionally, culturally, and religiously.
3. To minister to the personal needs of those called upon. (The most common barrier to recognizing the needs of persons is the elder's concern to discuss or promote the institutional program of the church.)
4. Every call must convey God's love and the church's concern for those called upon.
5. To establish a relationship that will serve as a bridge for more effective pastoral care in the future. "It is highly important that a pastor mingle with his people, and thus become acquainted with the different phases of human nature. He should study the working of the mind, that he may adapt his teachings to the intellect of his hearers." G.W. 191
C. Purpose of Visiting
The primary aim of all our visitation must be spiritual and not merely social.
1. To win the lost. (Visiting is the only way to reach and help some people.)
2. To regain the backslider
3. To help straighten out spiritual difficulties.
4. To comfort the sorrowing. (Visit the bereaved after the funeral too.)
5. To minister to the lonely and afflicted.
6. To comfort and encourage the sick.
7. To welcome new members.
8. To contact prospects.
9. To bring cheer to the aged and those who are unable to attend church.
10. To learn the home conditions of the members.
11. To encourage family worship.
12. To encourage regular church attendance and active participation in church activities.
13. To represent Christ and the Church.
14. Important in visiting members, an item often overlooked, is to secure names and addresses of prospects for church membership. This will include:
a. Members of the family
e. Former Adventists
e. Other contacts
"We should visit every family... to inquire into the spiritual condition of every member of the household. His own soul must be imbued with the love of God; then by kindly courtesy he may win his way to the hearts of all, and labor successfully for parents, and children, entreating, warning, encouraging, as the case demands." Evangelism, p 347.
D. What to Do on a Pastoral Visit
1. Pray before leaving to visit.
2. Make the call.
3. Remember the objectives of pastoral visit described above. It is absolutely essential to know why you are engaged in visiting.
4. Accept people as you find them.
5. Remember that the main concern of visiting is not what you say, but how you relate to the person.
6. Be a good listener, and not ears only. Give your undivided attention to the person being called upon. Most visits would be improved if the elder listened more and talked less. (Usually the quickest way for an elder to get a parent to open up for free discussion is to ask about the children in the family.)
7. Speak a word of encouragement or counsel (depending on the situation.)
8. Read a portion of God's word.
9. Don't look at your watch too often (better if you don't have to at all.)
10. Don't appear anxious to leave.
11. Pray in each home.
12. Never use God's word lightly or facetiously.
13. Have a sympathetic heart - be understanding.
"Visiting from house to house forms an important part of the minister's labors. He should aim to converse with all the members of the family, whether they profess the truth or not. It is his duty to ascertain the spiritual condition of all; and he should live so near to God that he can counsel, exhort, and reprove, carefully and in wisdom. He should have the grace of God in his own heart and the love of God constantly in view." 2T 338
E. What to Talk About on a First Visit
1. Informal self-introduction, telling the member you just dropped in for a few minutes to get acquainted and a few friendly remarks about the home. Hand them your calling-card if you have one, so that they can remember your name and phone number.
2. Ask how this individual came into the truth and how long ago. (A valuable background in cataloging a member in your mind.)
3. Ask what Sabbath School class the member is in. (If not attending regularly, this brings out an admission of non-attendance, opening the way for you to urge greater faithfulness in the future and your desire to be of any help and encouragement possible.)
4. Take mental note of all the children, their names and ages, to jot down when you get out to the car.
5. Ask if they have any relatives, neighbors or friends in the area who are interested in the truth.
6. Give the member a brief enthusiastic preview of plans, enlisting interest and prayers.
7. If any children of church school age are not in our schools, put in a word urging the parents to give earnest study to getting them into our schools.
8. Find out the general schedules of the member or family, when they work, when generally home, etc. This is valuable for planning later visits.
9. Conclude with a word about the "lateness of the hour" and the need for us to have a full, day-by-day consecration and readiness for the Lord's return and faithfulness in Sabbath School and church attendance.
10. Close with prayer.
11. As you leave assure this member that you want to be considered a friend-a friend available in sickness or trouble, day or night and that their names will be on your heart.
12. As you cover the Parish List, you should draw up two lists:
a. The shut-ins and sick,
b. The discouraged, the irregular and the slipping members.
These two groups will need additional attention regularly. Never neglect the sick. Those needing spiritual help must be visited as often and as soon as your schedule will allow.
F. Emergency Calls
Emergency calls need special attention. They include serious accident cases, deaths, illnesses, disturbance in the families, in fact, all cases of life. The elder should be available for all such cases as far as possible.
Visitation of the Sick
1. Make your call as soon as possible. Take your spouse if it seems advisable.
2. A visit of probably no more than ten minutes is wise. Let your visit bring courage and optimism to the one who is sick.
3. Previous to the visit, choose an appropriate scripture to read one of faith, courage, God's love, His watch-care, a gospel story. Suggestions: Ps. 103:1-13, ha. 26.3.4, 3 John 2, these are only samples. Many quotes from Steps to Christ, Ministry of Healing, Desire of Ages are excellent.
4. Finish with a short, uplifting prayer that the presence of God might be strongly felt.
5. Promise them that you will continue to pray for them in your own home. This means much to them.
6. It is good, many times, to leave a denominational paper or booklet with them if they can read.
Visitation of Newly-Baptized or Transferred Members
1. Make your call as soon as possible after they are received into church membership.
2. Let this family know that they are welcome, and that the church wishes to help them in every possible way
3. Make it known, inconspicuously, that your visit is on behalf of the church board.
4. If this is a divided home, exercise careful tact in every phase of the visit.
5. Note carefully any problems discovered, with which we can help.
6. Attempt to discover if any members of the family have experience in any line of church work, including musical talents.
7. If you can arrange it, invite them to your home for dinner in the near future.
8. Have prayer before leaving, and pray for each one in the family.
9. Report carefully your findings to the Pastor.
10. Re-visit within three to six months.