by Darin Mirante
In my almost year and a half of being in the role of lead pastor, I have been incredibly blessed to be surrounded by eight elders who are constantly there for me. I have a group of elders who don’t just keep me accountable, but keep me encouraged. They are not just leaders, but friends. We don’t meet just to plan and discuss, but to also share life and a meal. Our partnership in ministry is deeply personal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We all understand we are a team and that what we GET to do is an absolute privilege. Every single person at the table comes with a posture of humility, because we are all in tune with our lack of competency, fully dependent on our availability and God’s guidance. We recognize our need for each other.
For me, the greatest attribute an elder can have is simply the ability to “be-with.” An elder who chooses to walk alongside me and link arms in both ministry AND in life is an incredible gift. I am surrounded by elders who are in the trenches with me, having no desire to be “above the fray.” We really are in this together. They’ve got my back and I have theirs.
Every Sunday, after giving the message and our worship time over, I walk out to the lobby and see multiple elders approach me, smile, put out their hand, and say “great job.” This means the world to me. They are pulling for me. They want me to succeed, not just for the church, but for me. They love me and they sincerely like me.
That’s a big deal.
The elders that surround me are some of my greatest cheerleaders. Knowing they are always for me helps me preach better on Sunday morning and sleep better on Sunday night. Their constant encouragement and affirmation allows me to be fully present with my wife when at home and totally at rest when away on vacation. I’m continually reminded that I’m not in this alone.
What I wish elders knew is how much we as pastors value their emotional support and encouragement over their knowledge, advice, or even accountability. Those things are necessary – great, even – but what lifts our spirits and keeps us going is not more strategy or vision, but more “walking with.” My greatest challenge is not in needing help with my head, but my heart. My heart is what brings insecurity, uncertainty, and exhaustion. An elder’s encouraging word, and most importantly his presence, is what truly fills me up.
I have eight men in my life who are walking alongside me in the greatest responsibility of leading God’s church and the question they ask me the most is, “How is your wife doing?” Such a simple question, but it reflects their heart and the priorities they have in mind when they think about me.
Simply put, they care. My elders are a beautiful gift and a daily blessing to me. They make me better in all the ways that matter most.
If you are an elder reading this, choose not to live above the fray focusing more on presence in meetings over presence in life. Choose to walk with. If you are a lead pastor reading this, always lead with gratitude and humbly recognize the elders God has put in our lives for such a time as this. We GET to be a gift in each other’s lives. May we lean on each other well.