Quakers with eldership and oversight responsibility care for the people that attend meeting and the life of meeting itself. Eldership involves nurturing the meeting's spiritual life. Oversight ensures the pastoral care of individuals and the community.

As a new or experienced Quaker with eldership or oversight responsibility, Quaker faith & practice offers a first port of call for guidance and advice. Chapter 12 'Caring for one another' offers help for meetings making nominations for these roles. It is also a valuable source of information for Friends considering a nomination to either of the roles.

In Qf&p chapter 12 you will find ideas for how eldership and oversight might be set up in local and area meetings.

More support for eldership and oversight


    Engaging with families

    Recording Clerk, Paul Parker introduces our approach to engaging with families and building all age community. This video was shown at the two conference days for Elders and Overseers and other interested Friends last year and has been widely requested. It speaks of the importance of making all welcome and the meetings being places of spiritual nurture and growth for all.

    Pressing play on the video below will set a third-party cookie. Please see our cookies page to find out more.

    With a tender hand: a resource book for eldership and oversight

    This comprehensive publication supports new and existing elders and overseers, drawing on the experience of many different meetings across Britain.

    With a tender hand is available as an e-book or in print from the Quaker Centre Bookshop at Friends House, London. Also accessible on this website is a range of support material that complements the publication.

    Eldership and oversight handbook series

    This series of handbooks deals with various issues concerning meetings, and comprises:

    1. Patterns of Eldership and Oversight
    2. Funerals and Memorial Meetings
    3. Spiritual Reviews
    4. Conflict in Meetings
    5. Quality and Depth of Worship and Ministry
    6. Committed Relationships
    7. Pastoral Care of Children and Young People
    8. Moving into Membership
    9. This Is Who I Am: Listening with Older Friends

    Information, advice and support leaflets

    Free information, advice and support leaflets are available on a wide variety of subjects that are relevant to elders and overseers. Leaflets are available from the Quaker Centre at Friends House, quakercentre@quaker.org.uk, 020 7663 1030. Large-print versions are available from our publications team at publications@quaker.org.uk or on 020 7663 1162.

    Dying, death and end of life resources

    Mental health in meetings resources

    We have lots of other resources for meetings. Follow the link below to the resources section of the website where these are available to download.

    More resources for Quaker meetings available here

    Living eldership practical course

    This is a seven-session programme designed for elders or anyone else interested in enriching the spiritual life of their meeting. Living Eldership and all course materials can be downloaded

    free of charge. Printed copies can be purchased from the Quaker Centre Bookshop at Friends House.


    Ministry and outreach staff team

    The ministry and outreach staff team at Friends House can assist with general and specific enquiries about eldership and oversight. You can ask for help with worrying, long-standing or seemingly intractable meeting problems and gain advice on creating a meeting community where all are welcome.

    Quaker Life Network

    The Quaker Life Network supports eldership and oversight in a variety of ways. A request might be made for a bespoke workshop or event. It is helpful to have a conversation about what is needed before filling in a request form for a Quaker Life Network workshop.

    Conflict in Quaker meetings

    There is a cluster of Friends within the Network that support Quaker meetings that are experiencing challenges of conflict within the community. It explores these themes and shares experiences and practice to work with meetings to help resolve issues.

    Quaker Life works with Woodbrooke to develop and deliver support for role holders on handling conflict in Quaker meetings.

    Living with Conflict

    Living with Conflict is an independent project and offers online resources and advice on living with conflict in one's own life and communities. Working with Quaker Life and Woodbrooke it has been part of a consultation looking at how Quaker meetings might be better equipped to handle conflict effectively.

    Mental health in meetings

    What support can meetings be expected to offer to Friends who experience mental illness? When is it right to say that the support requested is beyond the capability of a meeting and needs to be met by professional expertise or the state? This cluster has been developed to help meetings find a balance that is realistic for their community. Read more in the mental health in our meetings leaflet.

    To find out more or request support from the Network call 020 7663 1007 or email qlnetwork@quaker.org.uk.

    Encounters with mental distress: Quaker stories

    In 2015 the Quaker Life Network Mental Health in Meetings Cluster published the book 'Encounters with mental distress: Quaker stories'. The book is a collection of stories of Quakers' experience. Now available is an accompanying document with ideas of how meetings might use the book to explore mental illness in Quaker meetings.

    Opening the door to talking about mental health

    This is a 2-2½ hour workshop for everyone in a Quaker community. The workshop is deliberately at a basic level to be accessible to all whatever knowledge or experience of mental health. Participants will explore together in a supportive environment and learn about some of the issues that can create difficulties. The workshop can be delivered on the same day after worship or as an area meeting learning session. Read more in the Opening the door... information leaflet.

    Ask about a workshop in your meeting using the Opening the door... online request form.

    Young people's mental health

    Look on the YQSpace mind section page which gives suggestions for supporting young people's mental health. The page gives links to organisations that offer support on areas that are commonly experienced by young people.

    For further advice and guidance on all areas of mental health you can contact Bev Smith, beverleys@quaker.org.uk, 020 7663 1177.

    Training and events

    Quaker Life and Woodbrooke in partnership offers training on eldership and oversight. Weekend and midweek training courses take place at Woodbrooke and other venues. We are now offering Patterns and examples gatherings for people serving in Quaker roles. Three of these events will be offered annually in locations across Britain.

    Yearly Meeting

    Quaker Life holds an event for elders and overseers each year at Yearly Meeting. It is a chance for elders and overseers to come together and learn from each other. It is available to all Friends whether or not serving as elders or overseers. More information about this is available in the Yearly Meeting events listing.

    Safeguarding and oversight

    Safeguarding is the term to describe protecting children, young people and vulnerable adults from abuse. When you are working with children, young people and adults at risk in a Quaker setting you will need to consider safeguarding and ensure you have a policy and procedures. It is important that those responsible are aware of your policy and procedures and are clear about what to do to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place and what to do in the event of a concern.

    Area meeting trustees are responsible for safeguarding in their local meetings, and at area meeting events. It is good practice to have a lead trustee for safeguarding (otherwise this falls to the clerk of trustees), and an annual report to trustees about safeguarding. Each area meeting appoints a safeguarding co-ordinator, and many have a deputy.

    In practice Friends with responsibility for oversight are often a first point of call for enquiries about safeguarding from Friends as they hold responsibility for the pastoral care of individuals. Area meeting oversight groups should be aware of their meeting's safeguarding coordinator as this person will be the first point of contact if a disclosure is made. Read more about the role of the safeguarding co-ordinator to help understand how you can work with them.

    On our main Safeguarding page you will find links to the other safeguarding pages on our website, an explanation of how Quakers organise safeguarding, and a range of people to contact. The page I have a concern about abuse explains who you can talk to in a variety of Quaker situations, as well as links to external organisations.

    Header image © Zélie Gross 2014

    Contact us

    Oliver Waterhouse
    020 7663 1007