So what exactly do elders do?

I’m going to move on to other topics (I promise!), but some have responded to the series on team pastoral leadership by asking, “So what do elders do?” If our traditional understanding of the pastoral role isn’t entirely accurate, what would a biblical job description for these church shepherds look like? Here is an explanation of the role of the elder, as drawn from Acts 6:4; 20:28-31; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17; Titus 1:6-11; James 5:14-15; 1 Peter 5:1-3.

Pray for the church
The elders are to devote themselves to praying for the spiritual health and vitality of the people in the church, and to lift up to God any needs of the people.

Teach the church
The elders are to be involved in teaching the people the Word of God and overseeing other teachers in the congregation, to make sure that the body is well-fed spiritually, so that the people might grow as fully committed and mature followers of Christ.

Lead the church
The elders are to be continually seeking the will of God for the direction of the church by constant prayer, study of the Scriptures, and wise consideration of the needs and opportunities of the church. They should regularly seek the input and counsel of others in the body, and then should lead in applying biblical principles to specific situations and circumstances.

Care for the church
The elders should demonstrate loving concern for the spiritual well-being of the people in the church. They are to be available to pray with and counsel anyone in the body struggling with spiritual, emotional or physical problems.

Guard the church
The elders are to be constantly on guard against any false teaching or harmful behavior in the church. They must be able to refute false teaching and act decisively against any destructive activity.

Equip the church
The elders are not responsible for all the ministry within the church, but through their ministry (as described above) they are to equip their brothers and sisters in the body to minister to each other and serve one another in love. The elders should help the people discover their spiritual gifts, provide opportunities for them to use and strengthen their ministry skills, and train new elders and pastors.

A couple of final points that I think are very important:

  • Not all elders will be equally gifted in every area of responsibility. Some elders will be better leaders than teachers. Some will be excellent at teaching in small groups or one-on-one, but not at teaching in large group settings. This is healthy and one of the reasons why the biblical pattern is a group of leaders pastoring the church. The strength of the different elders will complement and balance each other. However, all of the elders should be involved, in some way, in each of these areas of ministry.
  • Not all elders will pastor as a full-time vocation. Some will be supported financially by the church, particularly those who devote great amounts of time to studying and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17-18). However, each elder shares in the responsibility to shepherd the church of God, and no elder is to be elevated above the others.

6 thoughts on “So what exactly do elders do?

  1. Greetings!
    I am still in Florida for about 2 more weeks and then will return to PR for the summer at least! I just wanted to tell you, Curt, that the pastor of my church here in Florida is going through many of the same things you are struggling with as far as “pastorship”! He questions the fact that we center so much attention each Sunday up at the pastor and people in the front of the church. He even went so far as to place the chairs of the congregation in a circle with the communion table in the center so we would CENTER on Christ! He has asked the church to come prepared each week when we gather to share Christ in them! We that believe on the name of God have some of God within us to share! He has saved his wonderful scripture teachings for Wed night and has others go up to read passages they think will be for the good of all. It has been a difficult thing to start, but now, after about 4 weeks it is wonderfully alive with the spirit of God. So, I tell you all this, not just to share with you what is going on with me, but because I think God is moving on the hearts of pastors in different places in the same move of the spirit. I miss you very much and will be happy to be back in Rincon very soon!

  2. Hi, Lori! It’s good to hear from you, and it will be great to see you. I’m encouraged by what’s happening in your church there in Florida and how God is working in the heart of the pastor. I’ll be praying for him and for the church there.

  3. dear sir,
    i am of a mind it is even less hierarchical than you have stated.

    lastly – ‘pastor – if i remember correctly is a carry over from the latin. so it is a transliteration, and not even of the original greek.

    best regards
    denis
    ps just checked, it is – the flowing is from Wikipedia:
    “The word “pastor” derives from the Latin noun pastor which means “shepherd” and relates to the Latin verb pascere – “to lead to pasture, set to grazing, cause to eat”.[1]

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=pastor&searchmode=none

  4. Yes, the English word ‘pastor’ comes directly from the Latin, which isn’t unusual for English words. But the meaning is essentially the same as the Greek (poimēn); they all mean ‘shepherd.’

  5. I pastor a small Pentecostal church in Texas for almost 2 years. I have struggled with the title and the expectancy for me to preach a sermon every Sunday morning. I hate that! I am a preacher to an extent. To me, I believe I am more of a spiritual director or facilitater, teaching, directing, mentoring, and exemplifing Christ’s love to the lost. How can I effectively fulfill those roles of which I feel called, with a sort of expected pulpiteering type expository sermon for about 20 minutes on Sunday morning? I have an ordained minister in my church who can “preach the Pentecostal fire down”, but he does not feel called to a senior pastor position. I have known him over 40 years and his doctrinal beliefs line up with mine and that of our church. He would love to preach on Sunday mornings. I could then focus on the children/teens for whom we currently have no Sunday morning teacher/ leader until that position is filled? With the necessity to work full time, a Sunday sermon prep and a Weekly Bible study prep is overwhelming. Do you share your organizational chart? I don’t care for the terms Pastor and Assoc/ Assist Pastor. In my area, “Shepherd” is looked at as borderline cultic. I truly believe as you describe, however I may need to modify the titles depending on how your elder positions are titled and structured. Thank you for sharing.

  6. One of the benefits of the biblical model for pastoral leadership is the flexibility. With a team approach, there is no senior pastor. Instead, in many churches one elder will serve the church as a teaching or preaching pastor, another might be an admin pastor, another a children’s pastor, youth pastor, worship pastor, etc. There is no one set formula. So a church can arrange it’s pastoral team in a way that fits the leaders God has given them. Do you have 3 strong teachers among your elders? Then there’s no reason why you can’t have 3 teaching pastors. Do you feel more called to focus on children’s and youth ministry? Then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t serve as a children’s/youth pastor (or maybe ‘pastor to students’), and have another elder serve as preaching pastor. If the elders lead and pastor the church as a team, this removes the pressure for one elder to fit into some cookie-cutter senior pastor role. Thanks for your comment!

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