by Doug Peters
The premise of this series suggests that leadership groups of elders and ministers do well to proactively establish some Useful Understandings for their ministry together. The interim season is an excellent opportunity to ask some important questions in several categories and develop some “ground rules” for leadership teams.
Regardless of contextual diversity, there are some important basics for all leader groups to consider.It should be noted that all ministry is contextual and all churches are different. A church of 100 members with two elders and a single paid minister will obviously function differently than a church of 1500 members with twenty elders and a staff of several ministers. Regardless of contextual diversity, there are some important basics for all leader groups to consider. In this blog segment we consider Useful Understandings among elders.
What level of accountability will exist among elders?
- Will each single elder be in spiritual submission to all the others? If so, how?
- Commitment to confidentiality? Confidentiality and spouses?
- Group self-regulation?
- Commitment to spiritual disciplines?
- Elder covenant / written agreement?
- Commitment to hold each other accountable to spiritual standards of interpersonal interaction and communication? (Serving by the fruit of the Spirit instead of the works of the flesh [Galatians 5:19-26], wisdom from above instead of wisdom from below [James 5:13-18], maintaining unity [Ephesians 4:1-3], and wholesome talk and interaction [Ephesians 4:29-32].
- Commitment to peaceably resign if requested by a majority of elders?
How will elders be selected and what determines their periods of service?
- Directive selection process controlled primarily by current elders?
- Participatory selection process involving administrative team of members?
- Level of congregational participation in selection?
- Congregational spiritual discernment / spiritual practices in selection process?
- Selection regularly scheduled or as needed?
- Set terms of service?
- Once an elder, always an elder?
- Will elders be periodically reaffirmed?
- Provision for sabbatical or leave of absence?
What basic style(s) of leadership will we value and commit to practice?
- Single, united style?
- Multiple styles encouraged? (directive for some things, participatory for others)
- Basically authoritarian / autocratic / directive?
- Basically participative?
- Ministers viewed as part of the leadership team? How so?
- Congregational participation?
- Emphasize “elder,” “overseer,” and “shepherd” equally or according to availability / life stage / giftedness?
- Elder teams? (Oversight / Administrative team, Shepherding team, etc.)
How will we organize ourselves to serve faithfully and effectively?
- Consensus (if so, how defined)?
- Dissent in and following decision-making?
- Agreed upon post-decision unanimity?
- Silent dissent?
- Open but majority-supporting dissent?
- Procedure for when a leader(s) cannot support the group decision?
- Commitment to spiritual discernment processes?
- Minister involvement in decision-making?
Delegation of decision-making?
- All involved in each decision?
- Decision made by those present only?
- Individual elders or elder teams to make decisions in defined areas?
Quorum requirement for meetings?
- Any present make decisions?
- Definition of quorum, if required?
- Chair Tenure / Rotation?
- Minutes / Notes?
- Open meetings?
- Topic Control?
- Meting Times / Frequency?
- Time discipline in meetings?
- Meeting dismissal discipline?
- Spiritual disciplines?
- Leadership team meetings to include all or some staff ministers?
- Except when? (salary or personnel discussions?)
- Elders only?
- Separate elder team meetings? (Oversight Team, Shepherding Team, etc.)
- Invited participants?
- Always open to all?
- Except for when?
- Spiritual disciplines and prayer in meetings?
- Different kinds of meetings? (ministry / administration / mission-vision, prayer only, etc.)
Prayerful consideration of the above categories and questions will result in Useful Understandings that will enable leaders to serve together more effectively into the future. The next installment of this series further explore the relationships between elders, minister and others within the congregation.
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