Equipping Elders

A few days ago I was musing on the training and continuing education (or lack thereof) of ruling elders in Presbyterian churches.  This has been a continuing reflection of mine to try to figure out how to better equip ruling elders for not just their administrative duties but their polity and spiritual shepherding duties as well.  Being a good elder is not easy and takes work.

It is always worthwhile for ruling elders to be reading their branch’s confessional standards on a regular basis, and to be familiar with their polity documents (The Code, Book of Forms, Book of Church Order, Book of Order).  But there is a need for resources to fill in between those documents and to help understand their context.

For a broad overview of Presbyterianism for not just ruling elders but members as well, my church, and others I know, have used Donald McKim’s Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers with good response. For theological background I have enjoyed the “Armchair Theologians” series of books on religious figures like Augustine, Calvin and Barth.  These are easy reads that give a good overview of each individual’s life and theological thought (which are usually linked).  I could see that academic theologians might have problems with the details, or lack of details in the books.  And for some the illustrations might be a problem either because it always represents God as the stereotype man with the flowing beard, or because it portrays God at all in violation of the Second Commandment.  And the PC(USA) has a low-cost set of studies at ThePresbyterianLeader.com that are designed for leadership training and discussion of current hot topics.  I can not tell you anything further about these because I have not purchased any yet but I have seen good reviews from others in the PC(USA).

But that is a perfect lead-in to a brand new resource that is both comprehensive and free for download…

A big thanks to the Presbyterian Church in Canada for putting together Equipping Elders.  (And to Colin Carmichael, the Associate Secretary for Communications, for bringing it to my attention.) This 194 page resource is available as either the free download or for 20$CAN from the PCC Book Room. for a 3-hole punch loose-leaf version to put in a binder.  And what surprised me is how “platform independent” this is; it is very much about being a ruling elder and some, but not much, is directly tied to the PCC.

Probably what impressed me the most about this resource was how comprehensive it is – how much useful material is in one place.  It addresses important topics that ruling elders need to know to be good shepherds of their flocks:  Congregational care and home visitations along with suggested prayers for praying for members’ needs on those visits.  Understanding the implications of different sized congregations.  Why membership matters.  Stewardship.  And, relevant to this post, why and how elders need to keep on learning themselves.  The book says:

Ordination to ruling eldership in The Presbyterian Church in Canada is a lifelong commitment to a call to ministry in and with the church. Whether serving as term elders, experiencing periods as inactive elders, or attending session meetings monthly for 20 years, all elders are always elders.
     This ordination for life means that elders have responsibility for developing their skills, learning more about their ministry and growing in the faith. Elders need to be lifelong learners. Lifelong learning assumes that we all continue to learn new things over the years, whether this is through formal training, reading, discussions with others, experience, or picking up new information and ideas from a variety of sources.

Check it out, and if you know of any similar resource that puts that much practical information for ruling elders in one place, at any price, please let me know.

14 thoughts on “Equipping Elders

  1. Jason Goroncy Post author

    Steve. Many thanks for the heads up about this new resources. There’s a real dearth of this kind of material around and so I’m very grateful to have this.



  2. Lee Post author

    The Elder and His Work by David Dickson was a very useful book. It talks a great deal about the practical aspects of being an elder. ISBN: 978-0875528861

  3. Colin Carmichael Post author

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the Equipping Elders mention. I wanted to point out that one of the reasons the resource is so comprehensive is that it is an edited compendium of several years worth of the Elders section of our quarterly “Equipping For…” publication that is mailed to all PCC churches.

    Very shortly, we will be launching a website dedicated exclusively to Equipping For that will deliver the various article blog-style with both email and RSS subscription. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s ready!


  4. Steve Post author

    Hi Jason –
    I was excited to have Colin bring this to my attention because, as you point out, there are resources to teach the creeds and confessions, which are important, but I have seen almost nothing else about the day-to-day practice of being a ruling elder.

  5. Steve Post author

    Lee – Thank you for reminding me of this book. I had seen references to if a few years ago when it was edited and reissued and had forgotten about it. As I looked at it again one great aspect to recommend this book is that it was written by a ruling elder for ruling elders. I now have a copy on order.

  6. Steve Post author

    Thanks again Colin for both the resource and the heads-up about it.

    The idea of having this available in a blog-style format is interesting, especially for the RSS feed as well as the opportunity for discussion about the topics.

    Looking forward to where that might go.

  7. Ruth Santana-Grace Post author

    Funny you should be reflecting on this. I have landed on my project for the d.min and it is precisely a one-stop resources for equipping elders. topics will include call, leadership models, church history, beliefs, spiritual health, leadership temptations, polity and structure, table theology – with Biblical reflections. I am developing a power point as a companion. My frustration has been that there are many books on one dimension but very little (if anything) that is comprehensive.

  8. Colin Carmichael Post author

    I happy to announce that the new Equipping For website is launched! (sorta)


    It’s still very much in a beta state at this point so there are wrinkles to iron out, etc.

    I welcome you, though, to take a look, poke around and leave a comment or two as we get geared up for the “official” launch next month.


  9. Steve Post author

    Thanks for the “sneak preview.”

    Your timing on letting us in  on the pre-launch version is interesting because today at the Theology After Google Conference there has been significant discussion about the value of Beta versions of an app or software being publicly available (like Google does) as a way of countering the “myth of perfection” and empowering the collaboration of the community.

    Thanks also for putting that site together. I have probably gotten more feedback and comment, on and off-line, about this post than almost any other. There is a real need around the world for this sort of thing.

  10. Steve Post author

    Ruth – Thanks for taking that on. Based on the response to my comments here it appears to be a real need. I know your annual Winterfest events have been a great contribution in this area.

  11. Al Clarkson Post author

    One other P.C.C. Eldership Resource is The Elder’s Institute, working out of St. Andrew’s Hall, the PCC’s presence at the Vancouver (British Columbia) School of Theology (not far from where some of the recent 2010 Winter Olympic Hockey games were played, and Canada WON both Mens and Womens, hopefully for sledge hockey at the Paralympics, too!)
    Online and live events; MY Presbytery of Pickering (Toronto area) has a live session this Saturday, and the Pre-Assembly Workshop has been well-received the day before our General Assembly starts in the host area…..

  12. al clarkson Post author

    When Colin replied to this message, I thought I had submitted something about another Eldership Training tool in the P.C.C.–The Elders Institute out of St. Andrew’s Hall, the P.C.C. Presence in Vancouver (home of the recently-completed Winter Olympics and Paralympics)….

  13. Steve Post author

    Sorry Al – My Bad!

    Your first message came in with a big load of spam that got by the filter and I missed it. My apologies for not looking more closely.


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