[Below is an article written by the elders of Christ Fellowship on how we seek to develop men in our church. Our church is made up of several home congregations, each led by an elder. This provides a structure to mentor men that is natural and effective. In fact, it is our commitment to mentor every man in the church! If your church is not set up this way, you may find other ways to subdivide the church in order to train men. We hope you get some ideas from this article.]
The elders of Christ Fellowship believe that a relational approach to training men is superior to an institutional or programmatic method. We are committed to this concept because we see it so clearly demonstrated in our Master’s training of His disciples and in the Apostle Paul’s strategy with Timothy, Titus and a number of other men he led. For instance, Jesus chose men He wanted to be His disciples “so that they would be with Him, and that He could send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). In this case, “preach” means to evangelize or herald the good news. The combination of “being with Christ” and having opportunity to evangelize under his supervision provided the perfect environment for spiritual growth. Therefore, at the heart of all that we do for Christian maturity and leadership development, we intend to promote loving and purposeful mentoring relationships between the men of the church and their elders. Every man who is a member will be involved on this level with his pastor.
The elders will help every man under their care to grow in six significant areas: character, knowledge, skills, enthusiasm, faith, and affection. Although there are other ways of analyzing development, these six items provide an excellent evaluative guide concerning key biblical qualities integral to Christian growth that will move men toward better leadership in the home, community and church.
If a man is strong in knowledge, yet weak in skills, his knowledge may never make much difference for the kingdom of God. Or, if a man has exceptional skills, yet lacks character, his efforts will consistently be undermined by his lifestyle. Or, if he has character without enthusiasm for carrying out God’s will, he may be severely stunted in his ability to stimulate his family and friends to follow after Christ. Therefore, the elders will seek to develop these six areas of maturity concurrently and evenly in each man, with the intent of maximizing his effectiveness at every level of growth.
Emulating the method of Christ, the elders of Christ Fellowship are also committed to promoting experience as a teacher and trainer of men. Jesus “sent them out to preach.” In other words, we want to foster the best environment possible for a man to exercise his gifts and leadership. When a man tries and fails, he will ask questions that are pertinent. He will desire good answers. He will listen, learn and apply.
With these two concepts in mind (relational mentoring and opportunity for experience), how does Christian growth and leadership development for men work out practically in our context?
First, the home congregation meeting itself is a seedbed for spiritual growth and improvement of leadership. For instance, the open session portion of our weekly meeting gives opportunity for men to speak out about Christ, the Scriptures and their life with God. Also, the willingness of our men to guide us in the Lord’s Supper each week provides opportunity to grow in the formulation and expression of biblical messages. Some men will even be given opportunity to expound the Scriptures as the main teaching of the home congregation meeting. It goes without saying that the relaxed sharing of ideas and discussion of the Bible truths naturally taking place around the table during our meal time is perfect for spiritual growth in a variety of ways. Mature believers often find themselves instructing younger believers as an extension of these meetings.
Second, each elder will spend time with his men as a small group (or one on one as necessary) in a weekly mentoring time. Usually these meetings take place early in the morning before work. Most of the time, a book of the Bible is studied, or a theological book read, with the underlying purpose of training and maturing the men. In these meetings problem issues may be shared, challenges given, prayers offered, and questions discussed in such a way that life change is taking place. Because the elders are intent upon knowing each of their men well, and are motivated to bring them to spiritual maturity and into the use of their spiritual gifts, these meetings take on a personal tone saturated with pastoral care. The pastors and men who enjoy this close relationship will be together in other informal ways as a natural outgrowth of such commitment to each other. We believe it is essential for each man to be part of such a relationship with other men and his elder.
Additional gatherings of men are provided in order to train, encourage and instruct. For instance, a men’s Bible study takes place weekly in six to eight week blocks throughout the year. This is for all the men of the various congregations. The “open home-open heart” hospitality of the church affords men further learning experiences. A yearly retreat, trips to conferences, work outings for the members, and other special gatherings promote growth as well.
Eldership and other vocational opportunities
Through mentoring relationships, the elders come to know their flock well. They become familiar with the inner life, struggles, interests, qualifications, weaknesses, and desires of each man. When the need arises and certain men known to the elders are ready, qualified, and motivated to serve as fellow pastors, the elders will seek to prepare them in whatever way is necessary. Some men may also be ready for service as deacons, missionaries, or evangelistic laborers. The men are encouraged to talk about their desires with their elders. The elders themselves are seeking to know God’s will about potential leaders as a regular part of their work for the church. Not every man is ready immediately to lead just because he senses the desire. The church has a plan for choosing and installing elders (and deacons) outlined in other documents.
Sometimes men from either within or outside of our church will be asked if they are willing to be considered as potential elders. These men will already have pastoral skills, spiritual gifts, and maturity that the elder team considers beneficial for our church. Careful evaluation of the six characteristics of mature leaders and a comprehensive look at the biblical qualifications will be part of the process for discovering God’s will for these men. The elders will spend extra time with them to help them understand the church and its characteristics. When ready, these men will assume the role of a designated leader of a home congregation. After some time of leading in this way, they will be ready for our process for approving and installing elders. This process will serve as a final check on determining the Lord’s will for the church and for them. If approved, they will take on the full pastoral responsibility that was originally intended for them.
On occasion, some men from outside our church may move to our area for the purpose of internship with our elders. These men come at their own expense to be part of the life of the church. Their involvement with us does not guarantee that they will be invited to be leaders in our church after the internship is over. Other interns will arise from within our church. Internship is limited to men who are hopeful of future pastoral or missionary service, regardless of where they may eventually labor.
Our plan for interns will be the same as for all the men, mentoring by the elders and opportunity to exercise gifts and graces God has given. In addition to these, the interns will be asked to interact with the elders in three ways: 1. They will be asked to interview elders individually about certain pastoral issues. 2. They will be invited to meetings to discuss pastoral issues with the elder team. 3. They will at times be asked to join in the elders’ weekly meetings in order to get a feel for the kind of ministry we do. They will also be asked to participate in what we call “synagogue evangelism,” that is, getting involved with religious groups in our community that do not have a clear understanding of the gospel. The elders may guide them into various disciplines, experiences, and ministries as needed to prepare them for their future.
The elders will discuss the strengths, weaknesses and possible plans of action for each man as a regular agenda item in their meetings in order to remain focused on the objective of building godly men and capable spiritual leaders. They will also seek to observe their own weaknesses and strengths in order to mature and grow in leadership.
To summarize, we intend to know the men well, to address their needs, aspirations and growth issues as an extension of authentic pastoral relationships, and to provide numerous opportunities for each man to grow by using his gifts and abilities both inside and outside our church.