“There is an appointed time for everything.”—ECCL. 3:1.
1, 2. Circuit overseers have noted what situation in many congregations?
THE circuit overseer was about to conclude his meeting with the body of elders. As he looked at their faces, he felt warm affection for these hardworking shepherds, some of whom were old enough to be his father. Yet, he also felt concern, so he asked them, “Brothers, what have you done to train others to take on more responsibility in the congregation?” They well remembered that the circuit overseer during his last visit had urged them to pay more attention to training others. Finally, one of the elders said, “Frankly, we have done very little.” The other elders nodded in agreement.
2 If you are a Christian elder, can you relate to what took place at that meeting? Likely so. Circuit overseers around the world have noted that in many congregations, more needs to be done to train brothers—younger and older—to help care for the flock. This presents a challenge. Why is that the case?
3. (a) How do the Scriptures show the importance of training, and why should all of us be interested in this? (See footnote.) (b) Why may some elders find it hard to train others?
3 As a shepherd, you no doubt realize that personal training is important.* You know that more brothers are needed to keep existing congregations spiritually strong and to allow new congregations to be formed. (Read Isaiah 60:22.) You also know that God’s Word urges you to “teach others.” (Read 2 Timothy 2:2.) Even so, like the elders mentioned in the introduction, you may find it hard to do so. After you have taken care of family needs, job requirements, congregation responsibilities, and other urgent matters, there just seems to be no time left to train others in the congregation. That being the case, let us consider what importance should be given to the training of others.
TRAINING IS A PRIORITY
4. What might be one reason why training at times is postponed?
4 What could be one reason why some elders may find it hard to set aside time for training? Perhaps some think: ‘Training is important, but it is not as urgent as other congregation matters that simply cannot wait. If I have to postpone training for a while, the congregation will continue to function.’ Though it is true that numerous matters require your immediate attention, delaying training may harm the spiritual well-being of the congregation.
5, 6. What can we learn from the example of a driver and his view of engine maintenance, and how can this be applied to training given in the congregation?
5 Think of this example: A driver may know that to maintain his car and keep the engine in running order, he must regularly change the oil. Still, he may feel that it is not as urgent as filling the tank with fuel. After all, if he does not put gas in the tank, his car will soon come to a complete stop. ‘If I don’t have time to change the oil,’ he may reason, ‘the engine will still keep running, at least for a while.’ But what is the danger? If the driver keeps postponing the maintenance of the engine, the day will come when the car will grind to a complete halt. If that happens, he will have to spend a lot of time and money on getting the car repaired and running again. What is the lesson?
6 Elders care for many important tasks that have to be handled promptly; otherwise, the congregation would be adversely affected. So just as the driver in the example makes sure to keep refilling the fuel tank, elders must “make sure of the more important things.” (Phil. 1:10) However, some elders are so busy looking after pressing matters that they may neglect the training of others—the maintenance of the engine, so to speak. But if elders keep postponing necessary training, sooner or later the congregation will lack sufficient qualified brothers to care for all that needs to be done.
7. How should we view elders who set aside time for training?
7 Clearly, then, we should guard against thinking that training is of low priority. Elders who take a long-range view and invest their time in training less experienced brothers are wise stewards and a true blessing to the entire congregation. (Read 1 Peter 4:10.) How does the congregation benefit?
A WISE INVESTMENT
8. (a) What qualities and considerations move elders to train others? (b) What urgent responsibility do elders who serve as “need greaters” have? (See the box “A Compelling Mission.”)
8 Even the most experienced elders must modestly recognize that advancing age will gradually limit the amount of work they personally can do for the congregation. (Mic. 6:8) Also, they should realistically take into account that “time and unexpected events” may bring about a sudden change in their ability to care for congregation responsibilities. (Eccl. 9:11, 12; Jas. 4:13, 14) So out of heartfelt concern for the well-being of Jehovah’s sheep, forward-looking elders share in a timely fashion with younger brothers the experience they have acquired during their years of faithful service.—Read Psalm 71:17, 18.
9. What future event makes training of vital importance?
9 For what other reason are elders who train others a blessing to the flock? They strengthen the congregation’s defenses. How? The efforts of elders to train others result in more brothers who will be ready to help the congregation to stand firm and united, not only now but especially when turbulent times come during the great tribulation. (Ezek. 38:10-12; Mic. 5:5, 6) Therefore, dear elders, we appeal to you to make training a regular feature of your ministry today.
10. To have time to train others, what may an elder need to do?
10 Of course, we understand that the time you spend on caring for important congregation activities may already make you feel stretched to the limit. Hence, you may need to take some of that time and use it for training. (Eccl. 3:1) Doing so would be a wise investment.
CREATING THE RIGHT CONDITIONS
11. (a) What is interesting about the suggestions on training given by elders from different lands? (b) According to Proverbs 15:22, why will it be beneficial to consider the suggestions of other elders?
11 Recently, a group of elders who are successful in helping brothers to grow spiritually were asked what approach they use when training others.* Though the circumstances of these brothers vary greatly, the advice they gave was strikingly similar. What does this indicate? That Bible-based training is applicable to learners “everywhere in every congregation”—just as it was in the apostle Paul’s day. (1 Cor. 4:17) Hence, in this article and the next, we will consider some suggestions that these elders made. (Prov. 15:22) For the sake of simplicity, the articles will refer to those giving training as “teachers” and those receiving it as “learners.”
12. What does a teacher need to create, and why?
12 A teacher needs to create the right conditions for training. Just as a gardener needs to cultivate, or loosen, the soil before sowing seeds, so a teacher needs to prepare, or encourage, the heart of a learner before teaching him new skills. So how do teachers create the right conditions for training others? By following an approach similar to that taken by one prophet of old. What approach is that?
13-15. (a) What assignment did the prophet Samuel receive? (b) How did Samuel carry out his task? (See opening image.) (c) Why should this Bible account about Samuel be of special interest to elders today?
13 One day over 3,000 years ago, Jehovah told the elderly prophet Samuel: “Tomorrow about this time, I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin. You must anoint him as leader over my people Israel.” (1 Sam. 9:15, 16) Samuel realized that his role as leader had come to an end and that Jehovah had assigned him to anoint a successor. ‘How can I prepare that man for his task?,’ Samuel must have thought. He got an idea and worked out a plan.
14 The next day when Samuel saw Saul, Jehovah told the prophet: “Here is the man.” Then Samuel put his plan into action. He invited Saul for a meal in a dining hall. There he gave Saul and his attendant the best seats and a choice cut of meat, and Samuel said: “Eat, because they have reserved it for you for this occasion.” Afterward, Samuel and Saul walked down to the prophet’s house, talking as they went. Samuel wanted to make good use of the pleasant atmosphere that the fine meal and the leisurely walk had created. So he invited Saul to come up to his roof. In the cool evening breeze, Samuel “continued to speak with Saul on the housetop” until they went to sleep. The next day, Samuel anointed Saul, kissed him, and gave him more instructions. After that, he sent Saul away—prepared for the events to come.—1 Sam. 9:17-27; 10:1.
15 Anointing a man to be a leader of a nation is, of course, not the same as training a brother to be an elder or a ministerial servant in the congregation. Even so, elders today can draw several valuable lessons from Samuel’s approach. Let us consider two of them.
WILLING TEACHERS AND TRUE FRIENDS
16. (a) What feelings did Samuel experience when Israel asked for a king? (b) With what disposition did Samuel fulfill his assignment to anoint Saul?
16 Be willing, not reluctant. When Samuel first heard that the Israelites wanted a human king, he felt disappointed and rejected by his people. (1 Sam. 8:4-8) In fact, he was so reluctant to do what the people demanded that Jehovah three times saw the need to tell him to listen to them. (1 Sam. 8:7, 9, 22) Even so, Samuel did not allow bitterness or resentment against the man who would replace him to take root in his heart. When Jehovah told him to anoint Saul, the prophet obeyed, not reluctantly out of mere duty, but willingly out of love.
17. How do elders today imitate Samuel’s disposition, and what satisfaction does that give them?
17 Like Samuel, experienced elders today show a kind disposition toward those whom they train. (1 Pet. 5:2) Such elders do not hold back from training others for fear of having to relinquish certain congregation privileges to the learners. Bighearted teachers view willing learners, not as competitors, but as “fellow workers”—as precious gifts to the congregation. (2 Cor. 1:24; Heb. 13:16) And what satisfaction such unselfish teachers experience as they observe how the learners use their abilities to benefit the congregation!—Acts 20:35.
18, 19. How can an elder prepare the heart of a learner, and why is taking that approach so important?
18 Be a friend, not just a teacher. The day Samuel met Saul, the prophet could have pulled out a flask of oil, hurriedly poured it on Saul’s head, and sent the new king on his way—fully anointed but totally unprepared. Instead, Samuel kindly took the time to prepare Saul’s heart step-by-step. Only after they had a fine meal, a pleasant stroll, a long talk, and a good rest did the prophet feel that the right moment had arrived to anoint Saul.
19 Likewise, a teacher today should start his training by taking time to develop a relaxed atmosphere and a bond of friendship with the learner. The specific steps an elder takes to create such a warm relationship will differ somewhat from land to land, depending on local circumstances and customs. Yet, no matter where you live, if you as a busy elder set aside time to spend with a learner, you are telling him, in effect, “You are important to me.” (Read Romans 12:10.) That unspoken message will be clearly understood and deeply valued by willing learners everywhere.
20, 21. (a) How would you describe a successful teacher? (b) What will be considered in the next article?
20 Elders, remember: A successful teacher is someone who not only loves to train another person but also loves the person he is training. (Compare John 5:20.) That crucial aspect of a teacher’s disposition is quickly discerned by a learner and greatly affects the way he responds to the training he receives. Therefore, dear elders, as you give training, be more than a teacher—be a friend.—Prov. 17:17; John 15:15.
21 After preparing a learner’s heart, an elder wants to convey to him the needed skills. What methods could the elder use? That will be considered in the following article.
This article and the next are written especially for the elders, although all in the congregation should be interested in what is presented. Why? It will encourage all baptized men to realize that training is needed in order for them to share the workload. And as that is accomplished, everyone will benefit.
These elders live in Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, France, French Guiana, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Réunion, Russia, South Africa, and the United States.