Tomorrow's Shepherds Today - Universal and Future Implementation
While this development plan is specifically designed for the Central North church of Christ in Perth, Western Australia, the principles can certainly apply to any church in any country desiring to build leaders for the future. As was stated earlier, most churches do not have a plan for developing their young men to become elders.
One qualification not mentioned was the necessity of “desire” to serve as a shepherd in the church (1 Timothy 3:2). Perhaps men do not have the desire when they get older because there has never been emphasis, encouragement, and training towards becoming such men and leaders. Something needs to change. If there is to be a change however, there must be a perceived need and urgency. One of the most respected authorities on leadership states that, “Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed cooperation. With complacency high, transformations usually go nowhere because few people are even interested in working on the change problem. With urgency low, it’s difficult to put together a group with enough power and credibility to guide the effort or to convince key individuals to spend the time necessary to create and communicate a change vision” (Kotter 37-38). If churches see the need and have the necessary urgency, they can gather their young men ages 13 – 30, and implement the same program/plan, making changes where necessary.
A second way it can be utilized is by evaluating the current elderships. How do they measure up with the proposed training? Are there any areas in which they could grow and develop? The stronger and more mature our elderships are, the greater possibility will exist of developing future leaders. If churches have elderships, the next generation of shepherds will only be molded and built because the current core is focused on doing so. Lastly, with the cooperation of other churches and those who have developed similar programs, perhaps one day there could be a formal “Elder Training School” just as there exists for training preachers. The church absolutely needs preachers, but she needs strong, biblical, godly shepherds even more. There was once a day when preacher training seemed unlikely. Nonetheless, there were men, elders, churches, and Christians who had the vision to make their dream become real. They had the leadership. Why can today’s generation not do the same with training elders?
As with any training program adaptations will be necessary. Culture changes and so do certain leadership principles. However, as we already know, Scripture never will change. Since that is true the qualities given in the Bible of an elder will always remain the same. To evaluate and maintain the program is important. Perhaps the best way to accomplish this is to have the young men who were part of the program be the ones who do the evaluating. After the five years is completed there should be a thorough vetting with suggestions for improvement. Because many of the young men would not even be of age to be an elder for many years, they could even do the program again having made the improvements and introducing new participants. The goal would be to get new converts who fall into the age range or even those who have now come of age; however, because many of the leadership principles apply to all facets of life, the program could be used as a tool to reach out into the community. Invitations could be given to friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and more. Certain aspects of the program could be broken down into smaller segments form such a purpose.
There is a great and immediate need for the development of future shepherds in the Lord’s church all around the world. All churches want to have elders (or, at least they should). Unfortunately, despite having such a desire, most churches do not have a plan in place to make their hope a reality. This plan is by no means perfect. There are no doubt better ones out there. It is the goal of this author to have churches at the minimum to begin thinking and talking about this issue. Hopefully such talk will turn into action. We are the Lord’s church. There is no greater institution on this planet. God has called us and given us the responsibility to “set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). The task and the church is too important to fail in this endeavor!