Elders—Train Others to Carry the Load
IN CONGREGATIONS of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, there is an urgent need for men who can serve in positions of oversight. There are three main reasons for this development.
First, Jehovah is fulfilling his promise to make “the small one a mighty nation.” (Isaiah 60:22) By his undeserved kindness, almost one million new disciples have been baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past three years. Responsible men are needed to help these newly baptized ones to progress to Christian maturity.—Hebrews 6:1.
Second, some who have served as elders for decades have been forced by advancing age or health problems to reduce the work load they are carrying in the congregation.
Third, a number of zealous Christian elders now serve as members of Hospital Liaison Committees, Regional Building Committees, or Assembly Hall Committees. In some cases they have had to achieve balance by relinquishing at least some of their responsibilities in their local congregation.
How can the pressing need for additional qualified men be met? Training is the key. The Bible encourages Christian overseers to train “faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2) According to a dictionary, the verb “to train” means “to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient.” Let us consider how elders can train other qualified men.
Follow Jehovah’s Example
Jesus Christ was certainly ‘fit, qualified, and proficient’ in his work—and no wonder! He was trained by Jehovah God himself. What factors made this training program so effective? Jesus mentioned three, as recorded at John 5:20: “The Father  has affection for the Son and  shows him all the things he himself does, and he will show him  works greater than these.” An examination of each of these factors will provide insight into the subject of training.
Note that Jesus first said: “The Father has affection for the Son.” From the dawn of creation, a warm bond existed between Jehovah and his Son. Proverbs 8:30 sheds light on that relationship: “Then I [Jesus] came to be beside him [Jehovah God] as a master worker, and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time.” There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind that Jehovah was “specially fond” of him. And Jesus did not hide the joy he felt while working at his Father’s side. How fine it is when a warm, open relationship exists between Christian elders and those whom they are training!
The second factor that Jesus mentioned is that the Father “shows him all the things he himself does.” These words confirm what is stated at Proverbs 8:30, namely, that Jesus “came to be beside” Jehovah while the universe was being created. (Genesis 1:26) Elders can follow that excellent example by working closely with ministerial servants, showing them how to carry out their duties in a fine way. Newly appointed ministerial servants are not the only ones who need progressive training, however. What about those faithful brothers who have been reaching out for the office of overseer for many years but who have never been appointed? (1 Timothy 3:1) The elders should offer specific counsel to such men so that they will know how to direct their efforts.
For example, a ministerial servant may be reliable, punctual, and conscientious in caring for his duties. He may also be a fine teacher. In many respects he may be doing excellent work in the congregation. He may not realize, however, that he tends to be abrasive in his dealings with fellow Christians. Elders need to display “a mildness that belongs to wisdom.” (James 3:13) Would it not be a kindness for an elder to speak with the ministerial servant, clearly outlining the problem, giving specific examples, and making practical suggestions for improvement? If the elder carefully ‘seasons his counsel with salt,’ his comments will likely be well received. (Colossians 4:6) Of course, the ministerial servant will make the elder’s task much more pleasant by being open and receptive to any counsel he receives.—Psalm 141:5.
In some congregations, elders are providing practical, ongoing training to ministerial servants. For example, they take qualified ministerial servants along with them when they visit the sick or the elderly. In this way the ministerial servants gain experience in the shepherding work. Of course, there is much a ministerial servant can do to further his own spiritual progress.—See box below entitled “What Ministerial Servants Can Do.”
The third factor that made Jesus’ training so effective was that Jehovah trained him with future progress in mind. Jesus said of the Father that he would show the Son “works greater than these.” The experience Jesus gained when on earth enabled him to develop qualities that he would need for carrying out future assignments. (Hebrews 4:15; 5:8, 9) For example, what a weighty assignment Jesus will soon receive—that of resurrecting and judging billions of people now dead!—John 5:21, 22.
When training ministerial servants, elders today should have future needs in mind. While there may seem to be enough elders and ministerial servants to care for present needs, will that be the case if a new congregation is formed? If several congregations are formed? During the past three years, there were more than 6,000 new congregations worldwide. What a large number of elders and ministerial servants are needed to care for those new congregations!
Elders, are you following Jehovah’s example by cultivating a warm personal relationship with the men you are training? Are you showing them how to carry out their work? Are you mindful of future needs? Following Jehovah’s example in his training of Jesus will result in rich blessings to many.
Do Not Be Afraid to Delegate
Capable elders who are accustomed to juggling a number of weighty assignments may be somewhat reluctant to delegate authority to others. They may have tried to do so in the past but with unsatisfactory results. So they may adopt the attitude, ‘If you want a job to be done well, you have to do it yourself.’ But does this attitude harmonize with Jehovah’s will, as expressed in the Scriptures, that less experienced men receive training from those more experienced?—2 Timothy 2:2.
The apostle Paul was disappointed when one of his traveling companions, John Mark, abandoned his assignment at Pamphylia and returned home. (Acts 15:38, 39) However, Paul did not allow that setback to discourage him from training others. He selected another young brother, Timothy, and trained him in the missionary work.* (Acts 16:1-3) At Beroea the missionaries encountered such fierce opposition that it became impractical for Paul to remain there. So he left the new congregation in the care of Silas, a mature older brother, and Timothy. (Acts 17:13-15) No doubt Timothy learned a great deal from Silas. Later, when Timothy was ready to assume further responsibility, Paul sent him to Thessalonica to encourage the congregation there.—1 Thessalonians 3:1-3.
The relationship between Paul and Timothy was not businesslike, cold, or impersonal. There was a warm bond between them. When writing to the congregation at Corinth, Paul referred to Timothy, whom he planned to send there, as his “beloved and faithful child in the Lord.” He added: “[Timothy] will put you in mind of my methods in connection with Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 4:17) Timothy responded to the training he received from Paul, becoming qualified in carrying out his assignments. Many a young brother has become a capable ministerial servant, an elder, or even a traveling overseer because he benefited from training received from concerned older men who took a real interest in him, as Paul did in the case of Timothy.
Elders, Train Others!
Unmistakably, the prophecy at Isaiah 60:22 is being fulfilled today. Jehovah is making “the small one a mighty nation.” In order for that nation to remain “mighty,” it must be well organized. Elders, why not consider ways in which additional training can be given to dedicated men who qualify to receive it? Be sure that each ministerial servant is well aware of any improvements he needs to make in order to make progress. And you baptized brothers, make the most of any personal attention you receive. Take advantage of opportunities to increase your ability, knowledge, and experience. Jehovah will certainly bless such a program of loving assistance.—Isaiah 61:5.
Later, Paul once again worked with John Mark.—Colossians 4:10.
[Box on page 30]
What Ministerial Servants Can Do
While elders should provide training for ministerial servants, there is much that ministerial servants can do to further their own spiritual progress.
—Ministerial servants should be diligent and reliable in caring for their assignments. They should also develop good study habits. To a considerable extent, progress is dependent upon study and application of the things learned.
—When a ministerial servant prepares to deliver a talk at a Christian meeting, he should not hesitate to ask a capable elder for suggestions on how to present the material.
—The ministerial servant may also ask an elder to observe how he delivers a Bible talk and to offer counsel for improvement.
Ministerial servants should seek out, accept, and apply counsel from the elders. In this way, their advancement will “be manifest to all persons.”—1 Timothy 4:15.