One of the most important parts of successfully planting a church is the critical process of Officer Training. While I plan to write something in a while that goes into greater detail about how to go about training candidates for the office of Elder or Deacon, I wanted to give a short list of books that we have used in training officers in the past along with links that show where to get them. In some cases I have used selections from these works, and with others I have gone ahead and assigned the entire book. Please note that merely because the book is listed here, that should not be construed as an endorsement of every jot & tittle in the work, and as always the church planting pastor will need to be very familiar with their contents before he hands them out to officer candidates.
A Manual for Officer Training by David W. Hall and Mark A. Buckner
This is a wonderful modern workbook by PCA Pastor David Hall and one of his RE’s Mark Buckner. It is split into 6 different sessions each of which may be taught in 90 minutes. It also has 8 useful Appendixes. It’s strength is that it equips Elders by teaching Presbyterian theology and history from an Old School Perspective. It also goes into detail about the history and politics of the PCA. It doesn’t have much in the way of practical shepherding advice, but it provides a good foundation for any officer candidate. This is the central book for all my officer training.
The Elder and His Work by David Dickson
This is an updated version of the classic 19th century work by David Dickson, it includes study questions, and in addition to talking about the biblical origins of the office of Ruling Elder, it includes a lot of practical advice for things like Pastoral Visits and Church discipline. It has 13 chapters but they are short and easily digested.
The Ruling Elder by Samuel Miller
This is the classic work by Miller, it contains the longest biblical examination and defense of the office itself, in addition to a briefer discussion of the duties of it. The drawback to this work is that the language and style is somewhat unapproachable for contemporary readers unused to reading 19th century theological works. It also tends towards overkill on the biblical evidence for the office.
The Elders of the Church by Lawrence Eyres
At 69 pages this is the shortest of the various volumes on the Elder. It’s value is that it focuses on the office of elder from a strictly scriptural standpoint. Unfortunately this is also a drawback at points, as unlike Dickson there is very little practicle advice or examples from life. If I can put it this way, Eyres teaches us why we should visit the sick, Dickson teaches us how we should visit the sick.
The New Testament Deacon by Alexander Strauch
Probably the best examination and defense of the office of Deacon in print, it is very similar style to Eyres work. [Strauch also has a book for training Elders, but not having read the revised version all the way through, I cannot yet recommend it]
Parliamentary Procedure at a Glance: New Edition by O. Garfield Jones
One of the most neglected aspects of Elder training is instruction in the parliamentary procedure that governs the flow of every Session, Presbytery, and Committee meeting. The average new elder doesn’t have a clue how to correctly make a motion, address the chair, or what the difference between a “point of order” and a “point of personal privillege” is. Robert’s Rules, which cover that proceedure in detail is far too intimidating for the average pastor, much less the Ruling Elder. Get him a pocket guide and make sure he reads it.
An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith by Robert Shaw
I was shocked when I realized that most Ruling Elders have never read or even owned a commentary on the Westminster Confession, and as a result are often ill-equiped to discuss or debate the more difficult doctrines contained in the Standards. This to my mind is the best Commentary on the Confession, followed closely by A.A. Hodge’s work. Also, if you have an elder who is serious about theology, pick him up a copy of J.G. Vos’ commentary on the Larger Catechism.
Additionally, you should pick up copies of the Book of Church Order for your Denomination, and in the PCA a copy of Morton Smith’s Commentary on the BCO is a must have. Both are available at the PCA bookstore.