Good question . . . and one that I’ve been reflecting on for a few years.
I’m currently not an Elder at Journey Christian Church, but it’s an issue that we’re discussing. We want–more than anything–to be biblical in our approach to church leadership.
This week’s Christian Standard has a good article on the subject. Here’s an excerpt in which Eddie Lowen and Bob Russell discuss the cooperative spirit that must exist between a Preacher and the Elders:
At Lowen’s church the senior minister is one of eight elders (down from 16 when he arrived eight years ago).
“He’s not the chairman, but the chairman has a cooperative spirit toward the senior minister,” Lowen said. “No competition. No powering up. No tendency to nitpick. All elders are instructed not to entertain complaints or comments about the senior minister from other staff, unless a major moral or ethical failure has been committed.”
The director of ministries and the director of operations, both senior staff members, attend elders meetings to give their reports but can’t vote. The other elders meet without Lowen when discussing his compensation or semiannual review.
Since senior ministers have the most at stake, they should “serve as leaders of leaders,” Lowen said.
“That doesn’t mean the elders are pushed out, but that the minister is allowed to heavily influence until he proves he shouldn’t be trusted to do so. Too many elder teams invite ministers to ‘come lead’ and then spend a lot of energy reneging on the invitation. Elders should hire the right ministers, then give them as much room as their giftedness and spiritual maturity allow.”
Russell was the only staff member among the 11 elders at Southeast (a number intentionally downsized from as many as 26 for efficiency). He says he likes a setup where the senior minister is considered a “paid elder.” He is accountable to the other elders, “but he is not their hired hand.”
Russell said he deliberately tried not to dominate elders meetings. He said relations were so good that the other elders could joke about his latest idea being his most stupid yet, and he could retort that they were wrong, he’d presented ones much more stupid in the past.
Southeast’s elders oversee the staff; then much of the “hands on” shepherding and discipleship are carried out by the staff or small groups, Russell said.
Well, what do you think? Should the Preacher be an Elder? I’ll post your comments.