The middle of a year is always a great time to re-evaluate where you are on the goals you set out to accomplish in January. For Christians, that can mean fostering a stronger commitment to Bible study or prayer, or it could consist of a desire to grow the local congregation. If the latter is your aim, it is inevitable that other people will play a role in your plans as well, whether to help you complete your goals or provide valuable advice. Regardless of your intentions, communicating your ideas to the elders and deacons of a local congregation is not just a good idea, but is vital to its success.
But how do we go about that? Bringing up an idea can be intimidating. What if they have already thought about it before and decided it was not a good idea? What if they think it’s silly? What if it’s unscriptural? I think we all have those concerns from time to time, but if there’s something lacking in a local congregation that you feel needs to be fixed, or something you think would benefit the church spiritually, then it is your responsibility to talk to leadership about it. That being said, keep three things in mind before having that conversation in the foyer. Always communicate your ideas:
Our elders and deacons do not get paid for the hours that they spend of their own time in helping Hillside grow (some elders do though, per 1 Tim. 5:17), and ninety-nine percent of the work they do goes unnoticed. They do not serve in those positions in order to get praise from men, but those positions are nonetheless worthy of our respect. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 speaks to this: “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
The elders will answer to God for the way that they direct the local congregation, and the decisions they make, even if we do not understand all the things that go on behind the scenes, are made with our soul’s eternity in mind. Likewise, the deacons spend long hours making sure the day-to-day operations of the congregation run smoothly; their work would become noticeable very quickly if it they all decided to take a two-week vacation. By virtue of their evident love for us, they deserve our respect when approaching them with ideas that we may have.
I have confidence that any idea that is respectfully put forth to our leadership, if it’s Scriptural, will be considered. If it’s rejected, I also have confidence that the reasons for it are legitimate and well thought out, even if we may not necessarily see all of the reasons. It could also not be the right time, so the idea may be put on the back burner for a few months in order for more pressing needs to be seen to first. If leadership signs off on it, then we need to be willing to take a very active role in it to see it through. We have all seen home-based Bible studies that fizzle out after a short period, primarily because it wasn’t embraced by the ones that should have embraced it the most.
The Scriptures demand an active participation by all of its members, and not just dismissing things as “other people’s responsibilities” simply because we don’t want to help out. 1 Peter 4:10 states: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Notice the wording carefully: Peter didn’t say “IF each one has received a spiritual gift” but “AS each one has received a spiritual gift.” Peter assumes, and rightfully so, that everyone has a talent that can be used to the betterment of the church. Use it!
Communication with leadership is not a time to complain about how Sister Back-Pew stole your parking spot, and now is running amuck on Facebook sharing profane memes. Do those things need to be brought to the elder’s attention? Sure, after you’ve already talked about it with them yourself. Leadership is usually juggling anywhere from 450-600 things in the air at one time, so it’s not just expedient to talk to an erring brother or sister before bringing it up to the elders, it’s commanded (Matt. 18:15-17).
It’s also wrong to think of idea implementation as a way of calling down the thunder on one person that you feel is wrong. I know of at least one church that orchestrated their entire yearly theme around the very specific sins of one person, rather than simply addressing it with them privately. Truth needs to be taught, but the pulpit is no place to air your personal vendettas, and anything that the church implements needs to be done with the church as a whole in mind.
None of this is said to scare off anyone from communicating to our leadership different things they believe will help us grow, but we must always understand who it is that we’re talking to. We may have known the men that serve in leadership positions our whole lives or played racquetball with them every Monday for a decade, and while we should certainly talk to them like normal human beings, we also need to speak to them about church matters in a manner that befits their responsibilities and authority.