What elders are not…

Sometimes the best thing you can do in defining who you are is to define who you are not.  It gives you a framework to function within.  With that in mind, on our retreat our elders spent some time looking at what our role is at Suncrest…and some of what it isn’t.  Here’s the list (again, this is always in process).

1.  We are not the complaint department.  We don’t get this a lot, but it does happen from time to time.  Maybe it’s because some people have been in unhealthy churches, but it always surprises us when someone thinks the elders (or an elder) are the first place they think of to express a complaint about the church.  If it is a complaint with our mission or our values, then that makes sense.  If it is anything else, since we are giving attention to “process” (previous post), there are other avenues to explore before the elders will even listen to a complaint.  Those always begin with the person immediately responsible for the area someone is struggling with.

2.  We are not the staff/Lead Pastor.  Healthy attention to our proper roles help Suncrest stay healthy.  We arent’ trying to create silos and collaboration does exist between staff and elders, but ultimately there is a spirit of unity because we don’t step on each others toes.  Suncrest is…elder guided – staff led.  The staff are best prepared (by experience/education/time) to strategize and lead in the direction set by the elders. 

3.  We are not the Business Management Team.  I love this about our elders…we never talk about detailed money issues, facilities issues, etc.  We have a team that serves Suncrest by making sure all of those bases are covered in a healthy way.  That is their expertise.  Again, process is important.  Our elders set the priorities for our ministry so we know what needs to be funded, but it is up to the BMT to figure out how to do it or communicate the potential trade-offs. I sat in our BMT meeting a few months ago and told the team I was thankful for them because it meant all the things on their agenda did not need to be on the elders agenda!

4.  We are not the communion delivery team, after-service counseling team, communion mediation team, etc.  I thought this was an interesting one, so follow the development of this.  Like many churches, when there is a need that seems to have a decidedly pastoral or spiritual tone to it, we might look to our elders to step up and lead/develop those areas.  Our elders have been great to do this! 

Unfortunately, after leading the development of these initiatives, sometimes churches make an unconscious shift to thinking those things are “elder jobs”.    We thought it was good to clarify that these are not elder jobs and that often elders are working to reproduce others to serve in these areas.  Two important distinctions: (1) You do not have to be an elder to do these things. And… (2) Not all elders need to do these things (instead it may often be based on personal giftedness).  As these develop, while elders may choose to serve on teams like these, they will only do so because of their gifts/passion…not because “that’s what elders do”.

5.  We do not have individual authority as elders.  This is slightly different than the previous ones in the list in that it is not a category, but a principle.  It is super-important.  Biblically and at Suncrest, elders are accountable to God for the health of the church they oversee.  Since they are accountable for that, they also have a great deal of authority/responsibility.  But we believe it is helpful to clarify that such “authority” is only as group. 

None of us has that authority individually.  On elder-issues, we speak as a group or we don’t speak at all.  Sometimes it is even necessary for us to clarify that in conversation where various church issues might come up.  We’ll say something like, “I’ll give you my perspective, but don’t take this as a declaration from the elders.”  It also helps in volunteer roles.  For example if one of the elders is a student ministry volunteer, in that role he is under the responsibility/authority of our student pastor and the volunteer (elder or not) should follow his lead. 

That’s about it for posts on our elders retreat.  Until next year…


~ by Greg Lee on May 7, 2008.

3 Responses to “What elders are not…”

  1. Great stuff. (Christian Standard article?) Say…does Caler have a blog?

  2. I mean you should right this up as a Christian Standard article…in case I wasn’t clear. 😉

  3. Brandon’s right. This is great stuff, and I’m glad you brought it up. I love our elders, and am so thankful for them!

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