One of the primary roles of an elder is to promote and model unity to the church body. In many instances, this breaks down when elders and staff members are at odds with one another. So that this tool of the Enemy is never at play, it’s important that the elder body understand their role as it relates to staff members.
The five elder guidelines below, if adhered to, will do much in creating unity between the elders and the church staff team.
- Encourage staff members. – When an elder sees a staff member accomplishing Kingdom advancing work, speak words of encouragement.
- Protect staff members. – One of the most important roles an elder plays is the protection of the church body. Staff members are part of the church body. When someone complains to an elder about a staff member, the elder should follow biblical guidelines (Matt 18), Step 1) Be certain the complaint warrants a conversation. If the complaint is trite or doesn’t warrant a further conversation or if the complainer is wrong, tell them so. Step 2) If the complaint warrants a conversation, encourage the complainer to speak with the staff member directly. If they refuse, graciously let them know nothing will be done with the complaint and that it isn’t to be discussed with others. Step 3) If the concerned church member goes to the staff member and the issue isn’t resolved, they should take someone with them to speak with the staff member. That person should be the elder they first spoke with. 4) If there is no resolution the elder team should become engaged in the situation.
- Execute your role and your role only. – In most instances, elders do not have the primary oversight of the staff team. This is the role of the Senior Pastor and/or Executive Pastor. The elders should only get involved in a staff situation if the staff member has done something that demands church discipline or the Senior Pastor and/or Executive Pastor request assistance or input.
- Give advice only when requested. – Most churches seek God intently and have done intensive research prior to hiring a staff member. In almost every instance, the staff members at these churches are extremely effective or they wouldn’t have made the cut. In almost every instance, they know their job better than any of the elders as they have received substantial training prior to arrival and are in the middle of the work on a daily basis. Elders who find it necessary to give unsolicited advice to staff members will become a detriment to the staff member and a deterrent to the unity of the body. When it comes to advice, every elder should envision the door between them and the staff member as having one doorknob, and that doorknob is on the side of the door where the staff member is located. If the staff member opens it, the elder should then feel free walk through it.
- Follow the chain of command. – When working as a volunteer in a ministry led by a staff member, an elder should humbly fall under the leadership of the staff member and function as anyone else does who is part of that ministry.
- Make the staff member’s job easier. – This should be the goal of every elder as it relates to staff members. If you read through the list above again, you’ll see that, if every elder understands and lives by these expectations, the elder team will not only relieve the tension of staff members and create a beautiful relationship between the elders and the church staff, the elders will also play a key role in growing staff members more and more toward Christlikeness, a lifelong endeavor.