Eldership Ethics

Eldership Ethics

Let us consider 1 Tim 3  when considering eldership ethics.

Qualifications for Deacons

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

The Mystery of Godliness

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.


There are 8 ethical issues the author writes about:

1. Who serves who?

1 Timothy 3:10-13 (ESV)

The ethical questions emerge in how pastors respond when sheep (people who they lead) come to serve them

Borrowing homes or cars from people you lead is ill-advised. However if it happens the vehicle should be returned with a full tank of petrol, you should have it cleaned, leave a present on the dash etc. If you dent or damage it in anyway, pay for it (don’t accept their leniency in this regard)

From this example, we can apply the same ethics to some practical circumstances in our lives:
  • It is never a good idea to ask a sheep for money, but if you do, then pay them back.
  • If you ask someone to babysit your kids, pay them well if that is appropriate. If they would be offended by money then give them a  gift.
  • When an elder is in need it is preferable to get other elders to help meet the need rather than rallying the church to that need.

2. Sabbath days rest
Managing your private world well includes rest

12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.

As a general rule calling people to more than 3 meetings a week begins to wear them down.
Saturdays ought to be rest days for our people. If they work Monday to Friday and go to church on Sunday, it makes sense to allow Saturday as a rest day
Wise planning is planning with margin and space to handle emergencies. The principle is found in Leviticus 19 v 9

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.
When planning, it’s a good idea to draw up priority lists instead of “to do” lists. Your theology shapes your values and priorities, and this should be reflected in your diary.

3. Morality and ethics
12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.

  • As a general guide we do not counsel across the gender line.
  • This is possible on one-off occasions if the counselling is in an interruptible place.
  • Repeat counselling across the gender line is foolish, even if it is not of an emotional nature.
  • However if the counselling takes a turn toward intimate matters, stop the session immediately and bring in your spouse.
  • I never ride alone in a car with a lady (except family). While I do not expect elders to follow my example in this regard, regular lifts (alone) with anyone of the opposite sex is definitely not a good idea.

4. As an elder you need to be comfortable with what the lead elder preaches.
They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.

Preachers are not speaking for themselves, they represent the team. For example, we stand for tithing, worship as a lifestyle, inviting friends and being people of our word. This is why we honour the start and finish times of a meeting. If your lifestyle is inconsistent with your churches preaching, it is considered hypocrisy.

When the elders debate theology and doctrine we place our conclusions into 3 categories:

  • Issues of faith
  • Honour
  • Disputable matters

5. Manners are important in ministry
dignified (v8)

Here are a couple of examples of having manners in ministry:

  • Don’t command people to stand, sit, or raise their hands, rather suggest or ask.
  • Keeping people after the ending time is rude.
  • Look people in the eye when you talk to them.
  • When someone pays you an honorarium, either decline it, or thank them very sincerely, don’t forget to say thank you.
  • If you stay at someone’s home, offer to take them out to dinner and when you leave either make your bed or strip the linen and fold the duvets .
  • When you call people forward remember the price they have paid to walk forward, treat them with dignity.
  • Not to return phone calls and text messages is very rude.
  • If you find it difficult to live up to all you promise then don’t promise, tell people to phone you rather than offer to phone them.

6. Dealing with sheep from another field

Hiring from the outside (someone from another church) is an exception, not the norm

7. When and when not to speak

  • It is often best to be silent under attack. Leave room for Gods wrath, a gentle answer turns away wrath. Kindness to an enemy heaps coals on his head.
  • Talking about people’s weakness: Test what you are saying by asking whether you would say that if they were present with you.
  • Be careful under pressure.
  • Be careful of your pillow talk (husbands and wives).
  • The honour principle is ” say only what you would be happy for the subject of your conversation to overhear”
  • If you crucified others you will be crucified your self.

8. Addicted to wine, ie “ethics while we play ”
It might not be a sin to smoke cigars and drink wine, but it may be a good idea to ask yourself how wise it is. You can read more about this in 1 Cor 8 as Paul deals with this dilemma.

We hope that this resource blesses you and the way you deal with eldership ethics. Feel free to print, edit and distribute this document.