New Arrangements for Congregation Organization
As announced at the district assemblies, there will be some new arrangements in the congregation organization. All elders should carefully read this information which is based on talks given at the assemblies and follow through accordingly.
SECRETARIES TO BENEFIT THE FLOCK OF GOD
1 In these modern times when the Kingdom work is well established with more than forty thousand congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, it is necessary to have certain records for the benefit of the congregation. This is in keeping with the Bible principle stated at 1 Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.”
2 Therefore each congregation will benefit by having an appointed Secretary to take responsibility for handling the communications and important records of the congregation. During the coming six months (when the circuit overseer visits) the body of elders in each congregation will recommend one of the elders to be appointed as Secretary of the congregation. He should be a brother who has the abilities to properly care for the records and files of the congregation and who is able to write communications well. Some brothers are better qualified for such work than others. (1 Cor. 12:28-30) Hence the elders should carefully examine the qualifications of the brother to be recommended, taking into consideration the duties that must be performed and his willing spirit of wanting to serve his brothers. In some congregations there may be several who are well qualified. Since only one can be assigned to this service the elders will have to select just one to recommend. They will also have in mind that when the Secretary has been appointed, he will not rotate out of this secretary assignment but will serve continuously from year to year until such time as the body of elders may see fit to recommend a change.—See 2 Kings 12:10, 11 and 2Ki 22:3.
3 The Secretary should be recommended by the local body of elders during the first visit of the circuit overseer after September 1. Such recommendation will be made when the usual recommendations on appointments of elders and ministerial servants are sent in. The word “Secretary” must be written in the margin of the recommendation form (S-2) before the name of the individual, under elder recommendations.
4 The full name and address of the Secretary should be included with the recommendation on the S-29 form. Circuit overseers have a supply of this form. The Secretary’s address will become the permanent mailing address for the congregation. All of the correspondence for the congregation from the Governing Body or the Society will be directed to that address.
5 The brother who is appointed as Secretary for the congregation ought to be regular in attendance at the meetings and make the congregation records available to the other elders for the benefit of the congregation. If at some time he knows he will have to be absent from the area for any reason, then he should make arrangements for another brother temporarily to take care of his duties and check to see about any mail or communications coming to his address.
6 The Secretary will be required to maintain vital records of the congregation in an orderly way, including the appointments of elders and ministerial servants, all letters from the Society to the elders and the congregation, copies of the reports of the traveling overseers, orders and remittances to the Society, records concerning ownership of the Kingdom Hall or other congregation properties, information about any Kingdom Hall loans, insurance, deeds and other documents. There are also records on disfellowshiping cases handled by judicial committees that should be kept in the congregation files.
7 The Secretary should be a punctual person who will keep track of dates when the congregation’s needs have to be cared for. If the congregation has formed a legal corporation in order to carry on its service to Jehovah, the Secretary should know what the government requires in the way of reports to government offices, annual meetings, keeping of minutes of meetings, and the posting of any required announcements concerning the corporation. He should keep the files of the corporation and see that the one responsible for preparing the minutes has them in order.
8 If the congregation owns a Kingdom Hall or other property, the Secretary should be sure that local government requirements are met to insure receiving any exemption from taxes that may be available locally. If any legal notices are received he will follow through to see that these are brought to the attention of the body of elders and are given prompt attention by the congregation.
9 The Secretary will be interested in coordinating the business activities of the congregation, such as the prompt payment of utility bills, insurance when it is due, payments on any loans, paying any taxes due, sending in orders for Memorial invitations well in advance, and getting reports sent off on time.
10 He will send in communications to the offices of the Society, including orders and remittance forms which are prepared by other brothers serving in the congregation. It will be his responsibility to check these to see that they are legible and figures are accurate.
11 Whenever letters to all of the elders are received from the Society he will circulate these to all of the elders, having each elder put his initials on the letter to show that he has read it. He will keep track of such letters and get them back after all elders have read and handled them and put them in the congregation files.
12 The Secretary will keep the publisher’s record cards and compile the field service reports for the congregation. In some congregations the body of elders may wish to assign an elder (if available) or a capable ministerial servant to assist the Secretary in caring for some of the records.
13 It is not expected that these duties will take up all of the time of the Secretary, but those who are appointed as secretaries will be able to share in conducting congregation book studies and will take the lead in field service in connection with those study groups, and serve as any other elder with the congregation, handling meeting parts, as a member of a judicial committee, and so forth.
14 In large congregations where there are a good number of elders appointed, the recommendation may mean that one who now serves in a capacity where he is very busy, such as Bible study overseer or field overseer, may be recommended as Secretary. If that be the case, then the body of elders may wish to arrange for another elder to take over such service when the Secretary is appointed for his new work. In small congregations the Secretary may be able to serve in other offices too.
15 It is our firm belief that the appointment of a Secretary for each congregation will fill a need that now exists in the congregations and will result in added benefits as the body of overseers pays attention to all those in the flock of God.—Acts 20:28.
“THEY WILL ALL BE TAUGHT BY JEHOVAH”
16 Christians in these last days continue to be persons “taught by Jehovah.” (Isa. 54:13) They also appreciate the provision of having “gifts in men” who, among other things, have the responsibility to teach. (Eph. 4:11-13) On this point the disciple James wrote: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment.” (Jas. 3:1) Hence, elders constantly seek to improve in their teaching. Some are effective on the individual level or in giving talks. Others are good teachers in the field and in aiding new ones. There are elders who are particularly successful in aiding others to advance spiritually by conducting instructive Watchtower studies or Theocratic Schools. Abilities vary but whatever gift one has, he is encouraged to use it to benefit others.—1 Pet. 4:10, 11.
17 As we learned at this year’s district assemblies some adjustments have been made that will affect the oversight of two congregation meetings. After the annual rotation takes place in September 1977 two of the five positions of elder service will not be subject to rotation thereafter. These will be (1) the Watchtower study conductor and (2) the Theocratic School overseer. The body of elders should consider who among them would serve particularly well in these two positions. The elders who rotate into these positions in September will serve temporarily until the circuit overseer next visits the congregation.
18 In making their final selections the body of elders may be helped by the suggestions of the circuit overseer during his next visit. It is understood that the actual assignments to these two positions will be made by the bodies of elders and not the circuit overseer. No appointment letters from the Society’s branch office will be needed in these cases. However, so that there will be some record to which the branch office may refer, the circuit overseer will make an appropriate notation on the back of the recommendation form (S-2). Along the left side of the names in the list of all appointed elders in the congregation, he will indicate which elder has been assigned to care for the Watchtower study and which elder will look after the Theocratic School. He will use the abbreviations “WSC” and “TSO” respectively. In this way both the branch office and the local congregation will have a record of who have been assigned to serve continuously in these two positions.
19 In addition to assigning the elders who will oversee each of these two positions, the body of elders, along with the circuit overseer, will designate other elders who do particularly well in teaching at these two meetings, to assist the Watchtower study conductor and Theocratic School overseer. Depending on local circumstances, the Watchtower study conductor would welcome other elders to assist him in conducting the weekly Watchtower studies for periods of a month at a time. The Watchtower study conductor would be responsible to schedule such additional elders for the Watchtower study. The same would be true of the Theocratic School overseer, who will be glad for the help the additional elders can give in conducting one or more schools of the congregation, usually for two-month periods. The Theocratic School overseer would be responsible for the scheduling of these.
20 As indicated earlier, these two elders would be left in their teaching positions for an indefinite period of time. If at some future time the body of elders, along with the visiting circuit overseer should find it advisable, changes could be made. This improved teaching arrangement will enable brothers to serve as they are best fitted. In congregations where there are few elders it will be necessary to adapt as best they can by using the one or two men selected, even though the chairmanship will be kept rotating annually.
21 CIRCUIT OVERSEER’S VISIT: The traveling overseers of Jehovah’s people have long been serving congregations as appointed teachers. They meet the Biblical qualifications to teach in the congregation. They contribute much on their visits toward the sustained enlightenment of the congregations.
22 Up until now, congregation meetings have been held on four days of his visit, plus a meeting with the elders and ministerial servants, a meeting with the elders, and the meeting with the pioneers. Such a schedule has been a full one for the congregation members as well as for the circuit overseer.
23 Beginning in September 1977, an adjusted week’s program will go into effect. Congregation meetings will be held on only three days during the visit.
24 It is recommended that the Theocratic School and the service meeting be held on Tuesday of his visit. The regular Theocratic School and a 30-minute service meeting will be followed by the circuit overseer’s closing service talk, for a total session of two hours, including the songs and prayers.
25 The whole congregation will meet again at the Kingdom Hall, preferably on a regular meeting night, perhaps Thursday or Friday; the body of elders will choose one of their number to conduct one large book study for that night. The book study will be reduced to 45 minutes, but the effort should still be made to cover the assigned portion for that week.
26 Following the book study, the circuit overseer will present an audience-participation feature to be called “Continue in the Things That You Learned.” (2 Tim. 3:14) This may include information on any points that the circuit overseer feels would be helpful to the congregation. He may consider it appropriate to cover material not only from recent Watchtowers but also from the Organization book, Our Kingdom Service and other publications. This 30-minute part will be followed by a concluding service talk by the circuit overseer. All together, this midweek meeting would last for one hour and 45 minutes, including the songs and prayers.
27 The Sunday schedule for the visit will also be adjusted to two hours, including the songs and prayers. The circuit overseer will present a public talk for 55 minutes. The change comes in the form and length of the Watchtower study, which will be conducted without reading the paragraphs. Thirty minutes will be devoted to having the audience participate in answering the questions. This will be followed by the circuit overseer’s concluding talk.
28 It is believed that this adjusted week’s schedule will present a more balanced program for the week. It will eliminate an additional evening meeting which time the brothers can use for other activity. Plans should be made for increased efforts in field service during this special week. In this way all in the congregation will be sharing in shining as a collective light in their community.
29 KINGDOM MINISTRY SCHOOL: Elders have expressed great appreciation for the training provided at the Kingdom Ministry School. In fact, many of them have asked whether they could have another opportunity to attend and keep up to date. With the organizational adjustments that have been made over the years it seems advisable for all elders to be given additional training. When several elders go through the school at the same time the congregation seems to reap the greater benefits.
30 For these reasons the course has been revised and tailored to meet the current needs of the Christian congregations. Revised textbook material has been prepared.
31 Arrangements have been made for all elders to attend the Kingdom Ministry School this autumn in their respective circuits. We feel confident this provision will be a source of great encouragement and spiritual refreshment.
ADMINISTERING GOD’S LAW IN THE CONGREGATION
32 The arrangement for administering God’s law in the Christian congregation today is similar to what existed in the first century of our Common Era among early Christians. Working in conjunction with the “faithful and discreet slave,” there is a central or governing body of older men that has a special responsibility in directing the administration of Bible laws among Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Congregational elders and also traveling overseers are empowered to act as judges on behalf of the congregation. These administrators are appreciated as a loving provision of Jehovah and are viewed with respect because of their work. (1 Thess. 5:12, 13; 1 Tim. 5:17) In order to educate others and uphold God’s requirements these men need to be well acquainted with Bible laws. They realize that judging is not just a matter of hearing cases. Administering God’s law on their part involves observing and teaching it, urging obedience to it as well as using it as a basis for judgment when acting in a judicial capacity.
33 There is a need today for qualified counselors as well as judges. (Isa. 1:26) In most situations in life where problems arise, counselors are truly appreciated when they help to resolve questions or problems brought to their attention. Hence, if someone commits a wrong “before he is aware of it,” loving help can usually be given by two or more of the elders. This is done in the “spirit of mildness” as they counsel and readjust the erring one. (Gal. 6:1, 2) Where elders observe an individual starting on a course that is in direct conflict with divine law, they should make a diligent effort to help him, giving repeated admonition as necessary. (Titus 3:10, 11) Being merciful, they may succeed in ‘snatching him out of the fire,’ sparing such one from severe judgment. (Jude 23) Flagrant cases require elders to ‘reprove with severity’ in order to restore a healthy faith. To benefit properly from congregational shepherds all serious cases should be brought to their attention, so that they can apply the laws of God according to need.
34 In the present arrangement the presiding overseer, field overseer, and Bible study overseer have served as a judicial committee. But these brothers already have many responsibilities. Furthermore, experience and time are needed in handling judicial matters and in dealing with serious cases of wrongdoing, which often become involved and require careful deliberation, discussion and the giving of Scriptural counsel and reproof, or the taking of disfellowshiping action where repentance is lacking. Sometimes more than one case is pending and in need of urgent attention. If certain cases are put off or prolonged unnecessarily, some may become disturbed and feel that nothing is being done or that the protection of the congregation is being neglected. While all elders who serve in the congregation have a sense of responsibility, the facts show that those who have been automatically taking on judicial committee functions have not always been prepared or experienced to the extent that the careful administration of God’s law within the congregation requires.
35 When serious matters requiring judicial action are brought to the attention of elders, from now on how will the process of selecting a judicial committee be initiated? In some cases, individuals guilty of serious wrongdoing, or those who definitely know of such wrongdoing, may approach any elder they feel they wish to talk to. He, in turn, may ask the chairman to call a meeting of the elders. In the absence of the chairman the matter would be brought to one designated by him to serve temporarily and he would preside at such a meeting. The elder first hearing of the problem would relate briefly the nature of the case to the entire body of elders present. This does not mean going into unnecessary details but simply stating the name of the person or persons involved and what the problem is, whether immorality, fraud, drunkenness, drug abuse, or some other serious wrong. The body of elders would give thought as to whether the problem involves a single or married person, youthfulness or some other characteristic that might enable them to make an appropriate selection of elders. For example, if the matter involves a controversy that includes a charge of fraud, they may want to select experienced elders whose background makes them more suitable to serve as a judicial committee to investigate such a charge.
36 What is considered at this initial meeting should not be discussed with those not entitled to know. Elders have the responsibility to keep things in confidence. Problems can be caused by indiscreet talk or a breach of confidence on the part of any one of the elders or members of the judicial committee. Proverbs 25:9 says: “Plead your own cause with your fellowman, and do not reveal the confidential talk of another.” The wisdom of those words should be closely observed. If there is a breach of confidence, elders should realize that this may raise questions regarding their soundness of judgment and depth of love for others who may be involved.—Prov. 10:19; 11:13.
37 There may be times when more than one case of a serious nature arises. It may be necessary to select two judicial committees to care for the different cases, provided there are sufficient qualified elders. If not, then whatever is most suitable to meet the needs of the situation would be for them to work out. Where there are less than three elders in a congregation, then qualified elders from a nearby congregation may be invited to serve, if such are available. If a congregation is in an isolated area and it is not convenient to have elders from a distant place sit with the local judicial committee members, then a well-qualified ministerial servant may be selected to complete the judicial committee. Or, if a visit from the traveling overseer is approaching within a week or two, the local elders may decide to await his visit and he can be asked to serve with them. Where it is not possible for more than two elders to be present, then just the two could handle the matter. (Matt. 18:19) If they disagree on what action to take in the matter, each can submit his report to the Society’s branch office. If none of these alternatives is possible in very isolated regions, the local elder, or the responsible one serving as substitute overseer, may write to the Society’s branch office for direction.
38 A judicial committee need not be limited to three members. The Scriptures do not give any specific number of older men who handled cases of wrongdoing in the early Christian congregation. Older men who served in the community during Israel’s history may have heard cases according to their availability at the city gate. For example, Boaz selected ten of the older men of the city to hear the matter he had to present. (Ruth 4:1, 2) However, everyone in the community was under the Law covenant arrangement then, and this added to the number for whom the older men were responsible. Within each congregation today, the number would not be that great in most cases, so three would usually be sufficient to have on a judicial committee. Where the gravity of what is involved warrants having four or even five experienced men to serve, this may be arranged.
39 There would be no need for the one having a problem to be overly concerned about who the individual elders are with whom he will be meeting. In submitting to those shepherding them, Christians can be confident that the undershepherds desire the best for the flock. (Heb. 13:17) They should respect the judgment of those who are appointed to act in administering God’s righteous principles and pointing out what His Word says, just as this was expected in Israel of old. (Deut. 17:10-13) If the wrongdoer or one accused is known to have strong feelings toward one of their number, the body of elders would have this in mind and exercise good judgment when making their selection. By acting out of consideration for all concerned, the fullest cooperation will be gained from them at the hearing itself.
40 There may be rare occasions when one or more of those involved claim that a judicial committee member is partial. If this happens prior to the actual proceedings, the body of elders will consider whether there is any substance to such claim. Proverbs 24:23 says: “The showing of partiality in judgment is not good.” Therefore, it is left to the local body of elders to decide whether a change in the makeup of the committee would be necessary. Elders related to an accused one or who have been in business together or who have had a special friendship would not normally serve on the judicial committee where there are other qualified brothers available. Each one should conscientiously feel that he can serve without partiality.
41 It should be clear that no “rotation arrangement” is involved in selecting such committees. In view of the fact that there are many newly appointed elders who have not had any previous experience in handling judicial matters, the body of elders may invite one of them to serve with a committee in handling matters that are not unduly complicated. In this way, inexperienced elders will have an opportunity to learn while sitting in as a judicial committee handles an actual case.
42 Once a judicial committee begins to handle a case, there are other factors to be kept in mind. Rather than only looking for rigid rules to govern how a situation should be handled, there is a need to determine whether a basic law of God has truly been violated. Bible principles, the circumstances involved, as well as the gravity of the sin committed, are factors that must all be weighed. And what about the attitude of the individual? This, too, is important. By approaching matters in this way and being thorough, judicial committees will avoid being hasty in reproving or disfellowshiping persons where there are insufficient grounds for such actions. (Prov. 25:8) Conversely, they will not be too lenient in dealing with individuals who have not really manifested genuine repentance. We remember how Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians to receive back into their midst a disfellowshiped man who had repented. Yet, in the same second letter he referred to others who continued unrepentant over their wrongdoing.—2 Cor. 12:21.
43 Having truly spiritual men to serve in an impartial judicial capacity within the congregation is a loving provision for our good. Obedience to God’s law and respect for those administering it bring many benefits. Not only are we helped to understand and apply the Bible’s righteous principles, which in itself safeguards and keeps us clean, but the administration of God’s law also serves to discipline, straighten out and restore us whenever such becomes necessary. We are thus able to maintain an approved standing with Jehovah, which is essential to life in his coming new order.—Ps. 19:7-11.