Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Should "Shepherds Conference" have an apostrophe?

If there is but one gathering worth a pastor's time and investment, it's next month's conference.

With the weight of that upon us, one question bugs bloggers above all else: is it Shepherd's Conference, Shepherds' Conference, or Shepherds Conference?  The question concerns what function the word "shepherd" serves, and whether it should be possessive.


Obviously, with such a jam-packed gathering, we are dealing with multiple pastors in attendance.  It is also coordinated through the efforts of multiple spiritual leaders, meaning that we would have a hard time defending the singular possessive (as in, John MacArthur's Conference or My Conference).  The plural form of shepherd seems therefore appropriate.


The word Shepherds modifies Conference, making it adjectival or attributive in nature, answering the question as to what kind of conference.  Thus, without the apostrophe, we have a conference aimed at gathering pastors: a shepherds conference.


The only time we would place an apostrophe after and attributive noun is when it shows ownership, as in "the conference belonging to those in attendance."  It is a shepherds' conference: belonging to those pastors who join the fellowship.  It would be as if the spiritual fellowship and discipleship, biblical exposition, and wonderful catering was there just to bless those who, in turn, bless the rest of the body of Christ.


Thus, the grammar question becomes a philosophical one: what does Grace Community Church intend to communicate with the name?  Well, the question can be answered easier than reading this blog post: check out their published materials to see if there's an apostrophe.  


In fact, there is one on their website's logo... so there you have it.  Pastors, come join in a conference made just for you.