Who’s Responsible for Elder-Preacher Communication?

One of the most frustrating parts of the “try-out” process has been the failure of elders and/or search committees to call when they promise a specific day to inform me of the progress of the search. In my experience, it’s been a significant problem. Read: Be Slow to Promise and Quick to Perform

When I do workshops, I beg elders, “Please do what you said you would do. It’s a difficult time for a preacher looking for a church. He waits, listening for you to call. When you don’t call, it’s upsetting.” I was giving this message at Faulkner University in an elders’ retreat. I was coming down hard on elders for not doing what they said they would do.

After the presentation, David Short, the director of development for Faulkner and an elder at the University church in Montgomery, gave me a great idea. He said, “We experience the same thing when talking with families about giving to Faulkner. We discuss the opportunity to give to the school. They reply, ‘We need to discuss this as a family. We’ll decide and call you Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.’ Sometimes they do. Often they don’t.”

I reply, “Thank you for considering this gift. I will be waiting for your call Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. — AND — if something prevents you from doing that, I’ll check with you Thursday night. “

I observed, “What a great idea. I’m 100% responsible for our communication with each other. You are 100% responsible for our communication with each other. If both of us do that, we’ll have 200% communication. But if we fail half the time, we still have 100% communication.”

I told him, “I teach that all the time. I haven’t been practicing that in this situation. I’ve been feeling like a helpless victim. I will take responsibility for the information I need.”

But what if you call and it upsets the elders or search committee who didn’t call when they promised? You received the communication you needed. If they get upset when they didn’t do what they said they would do, and you did what you said you would do, they’re telling you how it would be if you worked with them. That’s all you need to know. When people don’t keep their word and get upset with you when you hold them accountable, that’s not a good fit for a healthy relationship.

What can help preachers and elders to keep their commitments to each other?

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

One Response to “Who’s Responsible for Elder-Preacher Communication?

  • Yes. This is all so critical to practice. That last paragraph needs serious consideration when a preacher is looking at a work. “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25, citing Zechariah 8:16a.)