A church is only as healthy as its leaders. And for this reason, as we enter a season of elder transitions, I’m grateful to say that Park has been blessed with faithful leaders.
Serving as an elder at Park Church is a three-year commitment, with an option to renew for another three. At this time, four of our seven elders have come/are coming to the end of their six years. They (and their families) have served and sacrificed more than you know, so we’ll be sure to take time in the near future to properly thank and honor them.
But for now, it’s time for elder nominations. If you don’t know what that means, or if you have an idea but would like to learn more about how eldership works at Park, keep reading.
What is an elder?
Usually, in the English language, the word “elder” refers simply to someone who is older than others. In the New Testament, and throughout church history, “elder” (also called “overseer” in the New Testament) can also refer to a particular leadership position in a local church. Elders in this sense are those who have been appointed to the highest level of authority and therefore bear responsibility for the spiritual health and well-being of a church – all under the ultimate authority of King Jesus. At Park Church, we articulate the responsibility of elders as four-fold:
- Vision (ensuring we’re headed in the right direction as we follow Jesus together)
- Doctrine (ensuring we’re saying the right things about Jesus)
- Finances (ensuring we’re resourced to do Jesus’ mission)
- Church discipline (ensuring we’re reflecting the heart and character of Jesus)
What are the qualifications of an elder?
As Christians, we believe that the gospel fundamentally redefines power and authority around loving service (Mark 10v42-45). Therefore, at the most basic level, an elder should look like Jesus. Besides the person of Jesus himself, the best place to look for elder qualifications are found in 1 Timothy 3v1-7, Titus 1v6-9, and 1 Peter 5v1-4.
Can women be elders?
Depending on your perspective, this may seem like an odd question. But it’s an important question, one that has led to many debates and even divisions among Christians. Some churches and church traditions read Scripture and conclude that God forbids women from serving in certain leadership roles in the church, such as the role of elder. At Park, we love and respect our brothers and sisters who come to this conclusion, and we believe that faithful Jesus-followers can and do disagree over this question – including within the Park family. However, Park’s leadership is united in our conviction that women should be free to utilize their full range of giftedness in the church – which includes serving in positions of spiritual authority such as elder. In other words, we do not believe that God in the Scriptures universally restricts the role of women in the church. We come to this conclusion not despite but because of our commitment to the authority of Scripture. We believe God’s vision for his church family is for men and women to lead together from a posture of mutual love and submission while celebrating the beautiful differences men and women bring as co-image-bearers. Obviously much more could be said here, so if this is something you have questions about or would like to discuss further, reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or any of the elders (email@example.com). We love to talk Bible and theology.
What are the roles of an elder?
Most of the various tasks a Park Church elder may perform fit under one of five key roles. While ideas behind these roles come from Scripture, this specific list comes from a book called Eldership and the Mission of God, which our elders are reading together and find helpful. The primary roles of an elder at Park Church are as follows:
- Overseer – providing spiritual and organizational oversight
- Shepherd – protecting the “flock” from anything that might bring harm
- Teacher – able to instruct others in the good news about Jesus (doctrine) and the way of Jesus (ethics) in accordance with the truth revealed in Scripture
- Equipper – intentionally helping others grow in their apprenticeship to Jesus
- Example – following Jesus in a way that inspires imitation
What is the process?
- An open invitation for nominations is sent to the congregation.
- The elder team reviews submissions (and/or suggests others) and determines who may be fitting.
- The Lead pastor (and potentially other elders) meet with potential candidates to determine their interests and help in their discernment. Once a candidate has been selected, they are presented (in front on Sunday) to the congregation as a candidate for a period of 1-3 months. (this period has in some cases been as long as 6 months)
- At the end of that period, the elders, the Lead Pastor, and the candidate discuss whether all parties still agree on eldership.
- If so, the candidate is presented to members, which are given a period of 2 weeks to share any reason they may disagree with the candidate becoming an elder.
- At the end of those two weeks, the candidate is presented to the congregation as an official elder.
Please pray for this process. From the beginning, God has blessed Park with faithful, servant-hearted elders. Do you know of someone in Park who might be an elder (even if they don’t know it yet)? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate them. (*Please note: nomination does not guarantee eldership.) Other questions? Again, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or the elders (email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Grace & Peace
Michael, on behalf of the elders of Park Church