I have often voiced my complaints with the direction of the Reformed Church in America. Let me take today to mention one very specific thing I’m thankful for.

In our Book of Church Order, there is an article on the responsibilities of the board of elders. Section 3 reads as follows:

At each regular meeting, the board of elders shall seek to determine whether any members of the congregation are:

a. in need of special care regarding their spiritual condition and/or

b. are not making faithful use of the means of grace, i.e., attending worship and participating in the sacraments and shall provide the means of extending Christian ministry to such persons.

Every year, when the denomination gives us forms to fill out as a church, the elders are asked whether we are being faithful to attend to this question at every meeting. I’m not sure how others treat the inquiry, but we take it very seriously. In my book, this requirement is one of the best things about the RCA. Obviously, it’s only as good as the elders who carry it out, but the focus is squarely in the right place.

I wonder how many churches, from any denomination or no denomination at all, approach their member care this deliberately? It requires a system for knowing your people. It requires elders trained in the work of shepherding. It requires planning to make this a part of the elders agenda every month. It requires an honest and deliberate strategy for membership.

Who needs spiritual help?

Who seems to be drifting from active participation in the church?

Elders and pastors, if you aren’t asking those questions, or if you have no reliable way to answer the questions, you ought to consider what must change so that you will and you can.

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11 thoughts on “A Question for Every Elders Meeting”

  1. Paul Sapp says:

    Feed the flock, and protect the flock, amen to you Kevin.

  2. Dan says:

    Nope, not happening here. Non-denom.

    Shepherding, catechesis, and guidance are big draws for me to Reformed churches. Both doctrine and practice are necessary, but (IMO) must be led with doctrine. As a parent it is a challenge to juggle learning doctrine on my own, to teaching it to my kids, to convincing my spouse of its validity. Reading Scripture together is a good start, but knowing how to interpret it is also key.

    If one has not grown up Reformed there is a great deal of catching up to do; I believe pastor and elders can provide the needed shepherding and guidance if they are fulfilling their biblical mandate. To be clear, all churches, not just Reformed, ought to have a biblical view of eldership, which includes as high priority knowing the condition of those in the congregation. But it strikes me that Reformed churches generally have a clearer biblical ecclesiology than the evangelical churches I’ve been a part of.

  3. Dan says:

    Interestingly, last night I also perused Philip Ryken’s “City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church”. The appendix is an “Action Guide for Pastors and Other Church Leaders” by Jonathan David Olsen. It contains many questions similar to those posed in Kevin’s post here, and other areas pertaining to the life of the church.

  4. Wesley says:

    Great post KD and a much needed encouragement/exhortation to those of us in leadership to care for our sheep (and each other in leadership) well.
    God’s peace –
    W.

  5. Kevin Jandt says:

    I praise God that I belong to a church that functions in this manner. A Pastor and elders that shepherd the church with all diligence.

    I realize how uncommon this is in this modern era. Most sheep and certainly goats want autonomy.

    great article

  6. As important is the training of the people to watch out for one another. The call of leaders to do this (Hebrews 13:17) is also issued to the people (Hebrews 3:12-14).

    And according to Hebrews 3:12-14, watching out for one another is a divine means for perseverance. We’re not permitted to sit back and say, “God will keep all His children in line.” God has called us to watch out for each other. But I repeatedly emphasize the difference between “watching” one another and “watching out for” one another.

    “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Hebrews 3:12-14) http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/watching-out-for-one-another/

  7. Steve says:

    I’ve just written a post about how we use our church member database to mark, and track attendance for the purpose of loving people: http://www.communicatejesus.com/2013/07/use-your-member-database-to-keep-track-of-church-attendance/

  8. Our monthly elder meetings cover these items:
    1. Principle (doctrine, mission)
    2. People (ourselves, newcomers, needs, gifitng, drifters, discipline)
    3. Practicalities (finances, etc)
    4. Prayer

    We try to address all four items over a two-month period. Fairly small church.

    Pierre

  9. Darren Blair says:

    “I wonder how many churches, from any denomination or no denomination at all, approach their member care this deliberately? It requires a system for knowing your people. It requires elders trained in the work of shepherding. It requires planning to make this a part of the elders agenda every month. It requires an honest and deliberate strategy for membership.”

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (most often referred to as “The Mormons”) maintains the “Home Teaching” and “Visiting Teaching” programs, wherein members are placed in pairs and given families to visit each month so as to ascertain the well-being (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) of these families.

    The pairs then report back to the relevant auxiliaries (Home Teaching is a task of the priesthood, while the Relief Society handles Visiting Teaching), and the leadership of these auxiliaries are to report it to the clergy in the congregation at least once a month, more often if there are known problems that need to be addressed.

    It doesn’t always function properly at the individual level (for example, in congregations that serve military bases it can often be difficult to keep touch with people due to sudden deployments of those members who are in the military), but the principle is basically the same as what is being discussed in the article.

    So no, the RCA’s not alone here.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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