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Over and over again, I hear of elders – especially first time elders – struggling to get acquainted with the tasks before them.  Not everything can be overcome through good planning. Some tasks simply have to be done the first time in order to learn the dynamics of the ministry.  But there is no question that planning the transition can help maintain the flow and vitality of ministry. 

Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Read the article Getting Started as a First-Time Elder
  2. Prepare a list of routine tasks that elders do: devotions at meetings, providing snacks, responsibilities on Sunday morning, etc.  Even elders who have served previous terms can benefit from reminders about the routine tasks.  Besides changes that may have occurred, reminders can help build the quality of the ministry. 
  3. Spend some meeting time review the central aspects of the call of the elder as shepherd of the flock.  This is about vision and mission.  This helps the entire group refocus on the core aspects of our ministry for Christ. 
  4. Prepare the new team for a ministry focus meeting in preparation for the coming year.  At that meeting  you would like to develop a strategic ministry work plan for the coming season.  Of all the things we can do, identify what are the strategic tasks that elders need to engage for the mission of the church to be effective in the coming year.  While things may change over the year, this workplan will help elders overcome the enormity and vagueness of the call and focus their efforts. 
  5. Work on the team spirit through sharing, prayer and shared work.  Especially for first time elders working under the guidance of an experienced competent elder is very helpful

Some things will be missed.  But planning now for the transition period can give the entire team of elder a head start.    


It is good to have an informal policy of a good mix of active elders in consistory, also a good mix of active deacons.   While putting in new elders, always make sure that there are some experienced older elders and deacons there to lead and train the others.  The new ones will have some fresh and new ideas which the older ones will appreciate, while the older ones will be able to provide a good framework and context and stability in which the new ideas can work well. 

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