One of the words used to describe biblical church leaders in the New Testament is "overseer" (1 Tim. 3:1). Traditionally, we've understood the word "oversight" to refer to physical matters (the legal, financial, and operational concerns of the church) sometimes referred to as the ABCs--attendance, buildings, and cash.
While this emphasis has truth behind it, is has also led to an over-emphasis on physical things, meetings, and the "order" of/within the congregation. Relational shepherding has taken a backseat, sadly, in many of our churches. Sure, we may refer to our leaders as shepherds (instead of elders, overseers, pastors, or bishops), but they typically do less shepherding and more overseeing.
But what is oversight? In his excellent book, Emerging Elders, Ron Clark states that the role of the elders is to tie together both oversight and relational shepherding. Oversight is much more than administration; it is modeled on God's oversight of his people, Israel (in the OT), and seen in Jesus' leadership of people (in the NT; John 10).
Clark discusses four categories of oversight that he draws from God's and Jesus' examples of oversight: accountability to the God and the church (Ezekiel 34:10); awareness of people and movements within the congregation (Acts 20:28); visitation of members to identify problems and build awareness of ministry needs (Acts 20:31); and empowerment of members to grow in maturity and ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Oversight is relational. Certainly, physical needs and administration are part of oversight. Sometimes administrative tasks can be delegated to competent people within the congregation (deacons, perhaps) as an act of empowerment. Sometimes meetings are useful to discuss how to bring greater awareness of people's needs to the elders.
But oversight must begin and be maintained relationally.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? How else can elders engage in relational oversight?