Elders: The Care and Feeding of Elders in a Progressive Congregation: Defining the Relationship

* If the elders haven’t said, the ministers should ask the elders what their relationship should be.

I think the relationship between ministers and elders should be defined and stated. Some elders fall into the habit of treating ministers as mere employees to receive orders with no input. Others let the ministers run free, only intervening when the ministers violate some unspoken hot button issue. Much of this would be avoided by first defining in a broad sense what their relationship ought to be.

Now, I’m not saying it’s the ministers’ fault if their relationship isn’t defined. I’d urge the elders to be the first to take this step. If their relationship is not defined, it’s both their faults.

In many congregations, there’s a long-established practice of how elders and ministers work together (or don’t). Don’t let the needs of the 1950’s dictate the realities of today. Put the question on the table for discussion and consideration. Are we working the way we work together out of habit? Or because it’s the very best approach for God’s mission in this place?

I’m a big believer in the doctrine of spiritual gifts. And the more gifts, the better. Therefore, I advocate for a collaborative relationship, because it allows the Spirit’s gifts to be combined and to build on each other.

* If the elders haven’t said, each minister should ask what involvement the elders will have in their ministry

The same principle applies at the ministry level, and the answer may be different. Ask about and discuss the relationship.

The elders may wish to have a collaborative relationship as to the overall church but may be quite content being hands off as to the minister’s own ministry. After all, the elders may feel they have little to contribute to a youth ministry or children’s ministry. Then again, they may wish to be very hands on.

How much leeway will the elders give the youth minister? May girls pray in the presence of boys? May instrumental videos be used in devotions? Instruments? What are the boundaries?

Are these permanent, doctrinal boundaries? Or are they pragmatic boundaries that the elders wish to push over time?

Ask. Discuss. Don’t get mad. Just put it on the table, make sure both sides feel free to express how they really feel, and sort it out. Far worse than an unpleasant conversation at the beginning of a ministry is a much more unpleasant conversation that ends a ministry. No one likes surprises.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to Elders: The Care and Feeding of Elders in a Progressive Congregation: Defining the Relationship

  1. Royce Ogle says:

    I believe that in most cases the minister (preacher) should be an elder.

  2. I agree with Royce's comment. It sure should would change the nature of this conversation wouldn't it?

  3. Royce Ogle says:

    Both of our pulpit guys are elders.

  4. abasnar says:

    Do they receive double honour as well?

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