Tell me about your church’s elders.
In my tradition (Presbyterian/Reformed Christian) the congregation is “ruled” by elders who shepherd the congregation’s ministry in worship, mission, education, and vision. The pastor is the one who equips the elders to lead in this way, but it’s the elders who govern as the official board. You can tell a lot about the health of a congregation by looking at who serves on the governing board.
Are your elders . . .
- The Big Financial Givers?
- The oldest, most longterm members?
- The church bullies?
- The same people for decades – with the required break of one year between terms?
- The community leaders like the fire chief, the mayor, the bank executive, the school principal?
- People with a pulse because it was hard to fill those open slots?
- The Pastor’s biggest fans?
- Descendants of historic members who will preserve the church’s traditions?
- People with spiritual depth who can pray without notes, be trusted with finances and personal confidences, and regularly participate and lead in worship and teaching?
Chances are that all those people on your board, but what kind of leaders dominate?
I occasionally hear what I never want to hear from a pastor or a church member: “I’m not even sure our elders believe in God.” Those words assure me that a congregation will be closing sooner than later.
Healthy congregations are led by spiritually mature elders (who might in fact be among the youngest members of the church rather than “elderly”) who stand up to bullies and speak up when they witness disturbing activity in terms of how the members treat each other.
Healthy pastors are possible because of healthy elders. From the beginning, the right elders ensure that the Pastor Nominating Committee is comprised of people who will be in prayerful discernment rather than push their own agendas. They will give the pastor back up and hold the pastor accountable. They will understand that their pastor’s calling is to cast a vision with them and that vision is about God rather than personal desires.
So, who are your church elders and are they helping your congregation thrive in the name of Jesus Christ? And if they aren’t what are you willing to do to help change that? Things can be different if we want them to be different.
Image of the modern-day shepherds