by Roger Storms
For 42 years of active ministry and 36 of them as a Lead Pastor, I’ve come to love and appreciate my Elders. For some of those years, though, I feared my Elders. Please allow me to explain.
For much of my ministry, the Elders regarded me as a fellow team member in the church’s leadership. In fact, I recently retired from serving my last church for 29 years as the Lead Pastor, also serving as an Elder. Early in this ministry, a man would occasionally come on board with a personal agenda contrary – not complimentary – to the vision shared by the Lead Pastor and current Elders. Some even viewed the Lead Pastor as an “employee” of the church’s leadership. In those times, we walked through difficult seasons of leadership.
If you find yourself in such a scenario, be encouraged; there were several ways we overcame those challenges.
First, we determined that Elders were recognized and recruited by the existing Elders, not selected by popular vote from the congregation (Titus 1:5).
Second, we term-limited lay Elders. They could serve two three-year terms, with a mandatory one-year leave between. To come back on for a second term, they had to go through the same extensive scrutiny that all prospective Elder candidates face – an extensive application process, questionnaire, written statement of vision and personal interviews. No one was assured a position. After that in-depth process, the new candidates were appointed by the existing Eldership.
Third, the Elders participated in a spiritual and leadership self-assessment and subjected themselves to an annual written review by all the currently-serving Elders.
Fourth, the Elders set the vision and direction of the church, delegating to the Lead Pastor the responsibility of administering the staff. The Elders support this effort by enacting policies that protect the spiritual, biblical and legal integrity of the Church.
Finally, we described our Elders’ role ultimately as Lead, Feed and Weed. Let me break that down:
Lead: The Elders work with the Lead Pastor to develop, examine, review and support the vision and direction of the church, which will be something along the lines of “to lead people to find and follow Jesus.” Jesus’ mission while He was here was “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The Elders lead with the Pastor in expressing and pursuing that vision.
Feed: The Elders lead the congregation by example into continued, deepening discipleship. They examine the teaching, preaching and doctrine of the church, making sure that what is presented is theologically sound and in keeping with the best tenets of Biblical hermeneutic and Restoration principles.
Weed: The Elders protect the church from division and impurity, (and, overlapping with Feed, from false teaching).
By clearly determining the scope and function of Elders, we create fertile ground for continued unity in the leadership and congregation. We will also successfully keep our church on mission with the Church in our community and across the world.