Article 20 — Task of elders
The elders shall together with the ministers of the Word govern the congregation with pastoral care and discipline. For the up-building of the congregation they shall make home-visits as often as is profitable but at least once a year. They shall watch that their fellow office-bearers are faithful in carrying out their duties and ensure that in the congregation everything is done decently and in good order.
First a general description of the task of elders is given: They shall govern the congregation with pastoral care and discipline. Together with the ministers they shall be the pastors of the congregation.
1. supervision over the ministers, their fellow-elders, and the deacons. All must be faithful in the carrying out of their offices.
2. making home-visits, at least once a year at each ‘address’. This article does not say what these home-visits should consist of, but it may be clear that comforting, instruction, warning, and admonitions
– whatever may be needed – belong to the task of the elders.
Making a good home-visit is an ‘art’. However, as this article, correctly, states that home-visits must be for the up-building of the congregation, they have to be put in the light, and under the authority, of holy Scripture. Therefore it is advisable to begin with Bible-reading, to be followed by a few sentences – not a ‘sermon’! – intended to open a discussion.
It is also advisable that the children from school-going age and older are present, although the home-visits are not intended as an examination of their Bible-knowledge etcetera.
The visiting elders shall ensure that every member of the family present is included in the discussion.
Older children, who have already made public profession of faith, may be visited separately.
It would be wise to sub-divide the congregation into as many sections as there are elders, so that each elder will be able to keep a special eye on those who have been particularly entrusted to his care.
In the meantime it may be clear that each elder is an elder of the whole congregation.
3. exercising church discipline, together with the ministers.
4. ensuring that everything in the congregation is done decently and in good order – which is another reference to the apostolic command of 1 Corinthians 14: 40 —, the foundation of our Church Order.