Recently a pastor friend asked this question in an online discussion forum.
I can’t speak for every church but here was my response.
“It depends on what the expectations for an Elder are.
At Richardson Seventh-day Adventist Church we have ten Elders (membership 850, attendance 615). In the future I imagine many more Elders will emerge.
All our Elders are involved in 3 specific ways –
- Worship Elder. Rotation. Meet with participants 15min before service for prayer. Available to assist with any unforeseen needs during the service (prayer, scripture, preaching!). Minister to people with the preacher/pastor 15 min after the service.
- Mentoring Church Board Mentors. During Church Board huddle with their designated 3-7 Church Board Mentors for 15min. Mentor outside church board meeting as needed/desired.
- Geographic Zones. Each Elder oversees ministry to group leaders, members and interests in their designated 1-3 geographic zones. Phone contacts, connecting people with other people and groups, visits, hospitality, etc.
Before ordaining someone as an Elder we expect them to lead 1-3 ministries successfully (e.g. Sabbath School group leader, Bible Workers leader, Young Adult leader, Pathfinder Leader, Visitation Leader, Bible Study Group leader, Mission Team leader, etc.). Before electing anyone to the Church Board, including Elders, they need to be cleared by treasury (evidence of returning both tithe and local church budget offerings) and clerk (member of local congregation at least 12 months and no ministry restrictions because of church discipline or criminal sexual conviction).
The Bible says to not lay hands on someone too quickly. We put all willing members and attenders into ministry immediately, but we are very careful who the Church Board Mentors (including Elders) are.
I hope this helps.”
Why not re-evaluate the role and expectations of the elders in your church(es). This might be a good discussion starter at your next Elders meeting. Don’t overlook the wonderful counsel we have in the Bible and the writings of Ellen White.
Blessings to you,
P.S. Check out our recently upgraded website at http://www.RichardsonSDA.org.