Saturday, March 04, 2006

Suggestion from the Topic Hotline

Andrew Seely wrote a post with some thoughts about what it means to be an elder in the PCUSA. He thought it would be interesting to see what other Presbyterians thought.

You can also get to the article here.

3 comments:

Gannet Girl said...

I read that post yesterday and found it confusing. I would comment there but I can't figure out how to do that.

It sounds like Andy wants elders to do more, but in our church the elders do a lot more than what he lists -- they do pretty much what the Book of Order suggests they do. And it sounds like he wants everyone else in the congregation involved in ministry, which in my experience most of them are. We hear a lot in our church about discernment of gifts and working to complement each other's and it seems to happen with reasonable frequency. I would be more specific, but I'm not sure what the OP is getting at.

jledmiston said...

We have changed our congregation's paradigm and it seems to be working in that we have more participation, fewer burned out elders, and a healthier church. (The change was introduced in late 2003 and it's taken this long to get things clarified/working.)

No longer are elders "allowed" to run one of the ministries. We now have a large staff of paid & volunteer ministry coordinators who run things while the elders spend their meetings looking at the big picture and reporting on contacts with "their members" (our congregation is divided into shepherding groups). Elder/Deacon teams connect with members for spiritual and pastoral care.

The key term -- which is also a Biblical model -- is equipping. If you want to hear more, send me an email. I can even send you a flow chart. It's pretty cool.

DennisS said...

Seems to me that we must consider the ministry context, well before we determine the responsibilies, duties, and criteria for effective ministry of the Elders currently on Session.

The very small, rural, elderly settings, are much different than the large suburban church which has a large percentage of members under the age of 60. There is generally a vast difference in the education and interests of Session members in these two settings.

In the small, declining church, people are more likely to visit someone in the hospital because they are friends - rather than because they are an Elder. There's a rotation of fellows who take turns being moderator of buildings and grounds - but they all pitch in to take care of things. There's a rotation of women who serve as moderator of Church Life - planning the occasional potluck (though it's so routine that it would happen without this person).

How much training is needed for those who have been in the small church for many generations, and have served as Elders under 4 or 5 pastors?

The large suburban church is vastly different, and the criteria for being an effective Elder is more substantial.

Thus to have a stringent standard of expectations upon Elders, is to place the small church at even a more distinct disadvantage. Sure, let's continue to train Elders. But for the small church, 20 minutes at the monthly Session meeting should be quite substantial training indeed.

In the small church I described, I see little difference between the Elders and the rest of the membership - in regards to ministry.