Traveling Overseers—Fellow Workers in the Truth
In the Christian congregation of the first century, there were traveling overseers who visited congregations to build them up. They gave of themselves, not seeking personal gain, that they might help those in the congregations to continue walking worthily of God.—Acts 11:23, 24; 14:21, 22; 15:32; 20:2, 31-35; Philippians 2:20-22, 29; 1 Thessalonians 2:5-12.
Today the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses also receive the benefits of traveling overseers. These men have many years of experience in the preaching activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses and as overseers. They freed themselves of secular work and household responsibilities so that they could offer themselves in the full-time ministry. For those who are married, usually the wives have also shared in the ministry full time with their husbands.
A circuit overseer is assigned to care for a circuit with about 18 to 25 congregations. He visits each congregation in the circuit about twice a year and after two or three years is assigned to another circuit. In this way the congregations can benefit from the varying experience and abilities of different circuit overseers.
The circuit overseer checks into the spiritual condition of the congregation and its activity. He gives several talks to the congregation and also meets with the elders and ministerial servants to consider how they can improve their service to the congregation.
During the week both he and his wife, if he is married, accompany the local Witnesses, helping them to improve in their house-to-house ministry. He and his wife will also visit newly interested people to encourage them in the faith. You can ask for such a visit.
The district overseer has similar spiritual qualifications and background of experience. He travels from circuit to circuit, rendering service each week in connection with the circuit assemblies. He and his wife also work in the field ministry with the Witnesses in one of the congregations of the circuit he is visiting. He supervises the final preparation of the circuit assembly program and gives several talks during the assembly, including the public talk.
When the traveling overseers have concluded their visit in a congregation or a circuit, they continue on to visit another, following the same schedule, until all congregations or circuits have been visited in about six months; then they begin over again.
In many countries the traveling overseers travel by car or use public transportation. In other countries they may use a bicycle or even walk. The Society covers the transportation expenses of the traveling overseer and also provides him and his wife with a modest reimbursement for their personal needs. Usually the traveling overseer and his wife are provided with rooming accommodations and meals by members of each congregation.
This service calls for a spirit of self-sacrifice. The traveling overseers and their wives are determined to render their service to the congregations without placing an expensive burden on them.—1 Thessalonians 2:9.
• What was the purpose of traveling overseers in the first-century Christian congregation?
• How have traveling overseers today become qualified and available for this ministry?
• Describe the service of the circuit and district overseers and how they live.
[Picture on page 20]
District overseer addresses a circuit assembly
[Pictures on page 21]
Circuit overseers give instruction in preaching from house to house, talk to congregation elders, visit Bible studies with newly interested ones, address congregations