Elder Team

How Elders Function at Redemption Gateway

Introduction

The Elder Team is an indispensable part of Redemption Gateway. While the Scriptures describe the character and basic functions of elders, many of the details about how an Elder Team should function are not described. In God’s wisdom, this allows a local church to adapt its leadership structure on the basis of its needs, size, location, context, staff, etc. Details and specifics are necessarily different at every local church.

This page is designed to explain how these details are played out at Redemption Gateway:

  • the presuppositions that guide the overall structure and function of the elder team
  • the qualities and responsibilities of the elders
  • how those responsibilities play out at Gateway
  • some guiding principles for functioning as a team
  • the process by which elders are established
Presuppositions

  • Jesus is the Senior Leader of the church. He builds and sustains it. It’s his church.
  • Having godly, courageous, skilled, and unified leadership is essential to the health of the church.
  • Elders are the male leaders of the church who are synonymously called pastors, bishops, and overseers throughout the New Testament. While the various words are used interchangeably, they each refer to a differing aspect of the same role in the same office. Therefore, the elder team will consist of both paid and unpaid elders.
  • Elder is an office, not an identity. The elders are those officially serving on the team.
  • A person does not need to be an elder in order to have influence or leadership in the church. There will be some excellent leaders who do not hold the office of elder.
  • Eldership should be a great joy and a life-giving experience. It need not be destructive to a man’s spiritual vitality, family, ministry, or quality of life.
  • As the church grows in size and complexity (additional staff, ministries, campuses, etc), the structure and function of the elder team will need to experience change and reorganization. For example, the addition of additional paid elders will likely make it increasingly difficult to keep unpaid elders “in the loop,” and may require a change of roles and expectations.
  • The leadership structure of the church must be flexible enough to get the right people to the table for any given decision.
Qualities of Elders

  • Elders must consistently demonstrate the qualities described in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
    • For a more detailed explanation of these qualities, see Gene Getz, Elders and Leaders. Note regarding some of the more controversial qualities: (1) We take “able to teach” to mean an effective Bible communicator in a group setting. This does not mean “able to wow an auditorium full of people,” but it does mean “able to communicate in a practical, accurate, clear, and engaging way with at least a small group of people.” (2) We take “husband of one wife” to mean a one-woman man. Men who have experienced divorce must be considered on a case-by-case basis. (3) We take “submissive children” and “children who believe (faithful)” to mean that the man has been successful in raising obedient, honorable children. The specific outworking of this in any man’s life will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • In addition to godly character, elders must demonstrate competency (the skills involved in leading ministry) and commitment, as well as share a high level of chemistry with the existing elders. This does not mean that the elders will all have the same personalities, temperaments, or gifts, but it does mean that they will have the ability to joyfully work together as committed ministry partners.
  • Elders need to have attended Redemption Gateway for at least one year with a consistent track record of servanthood, ministry fruitfulness, and faithful giving to the church.

 

Responsibilities of Elder Team

1. Be on Watch for Trouble (Acts 20:29-31; Hebrews 13:17)

  • Individually be grounded in the Scripture and connected to the Spirit so that we know what trouble looks like
  • Exercise church discipline on unrepentant Christians
  • Evaluate our mistakes and, if necessary, take steps to correct them

2. Oversee the Church (1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 5:17)

  • Guard the church’s Doctrine, Mission, Vision, and Values
  • Maintain responsibility for financial integrity of church through review and approval of top-level budget expenditures
  • Engage in the long range planning for facilities
  • Approve and send church planters

3. Tend to the Needs of the Flock (Acts 20:28)

  • Regularly attend worship gatherings and be involved in the mainstream flow of church life
  • Lead, teach, and minister in your sphere of influence
  • Develop additional leaders in the church
  • Pray regularly for the church
  • Pray for the sick (sometimes anointing with oil) as requested

4. Live the Normal Christian Life (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:3)

  • We do not ask others to go where we have not been
  • Model through our:
    • Devotional disciplines to God
    • Family life
    • Vocational life
    • Church life
    • Financial stewardship

How These Responsibilities Take Shape

  • Pray regularly for the congregation and staff. Like priests who go before God on behalf of the people, one of their primary ways to serve the church is through intercession.
  • Keep a finger on the pulse of the congregation. Like shepherds who smell like sheep, they should know people, love people, and have a sense of what is happening in the lives of people.
  • Provide wise counsel to Lead Pastor and senior staff. Like godly sages, they are able to offer perspective that is easy to miss in the day-to-day of ministry.
  • Be a crisis team in waiting. Provide the church the security of knowing that if a genuine crisis hits, we’re ready. Like firefighters playing cards in the firehouse, they are prepared, connected, and ready if the bell should ring — and some days, bored enough almost to wish it would ring.
  • Approve the big-picture budget. Like a husband who is responsible for the household but trusts his wife to steward resources wisely, the elders set the parameters and give freedom to the staff to use resources in ways that are good and responsible.
  • Carry out church discipline, in harmony with pastoral staff. Like parents, they step in and discipline wayward members as needed.
  • Entrust ministry design and day-to-day leadership to Lead Pastor and staff. Like the owner of a sports franchise, they set the tone and empower the GM and coaches to succeed.
  • Hold the keys of accountability. Should something go amiss with the Lead Pastor or staff, the elders can step in. Like brakes, they can immediately stop something that shouldn’t be happening (though brakes shouldn’t be ridden constantly).
Guiding Principles for Functioning as a Team

  • Mutual submission. The Lead Pastor functions as the “first among equals,” and the entire elder team submits to one another on the basis of strengths, passions and giftedness.
  • Unity is a High Priority. Unity must include theological agreement about what doctrines we will and will not fight over, relational warmth and sincere friendships (they like being together), philosophical agreement regarding what ministry methods will and will not be used, and a missional partnership that agrees to stay on task to fulfill God’s mission for Redemption Gateway.
  • Big-Picture Leadership. The elder team’s authority over the whole congregation rests in the team as a whole. Individual board members do not have authority over the whole church (though they will often have authority over their specific areas of ministry). The elder team should focus on the big-picture mission, doctrine, ministry principles, and vision of the church rather than the details of implementation. The elder team is responsible for creating the future, not minding the shop. Additionally, team members are responsible first and foremost for the health and well-being of the church as a whole and are not representatives or advocates of specific ministries or groups. Outside of elder team decisions, individual elders must honor, submit to, and work through the appropriate chain of command and leadership in any given ministry area.
  • Choose to Trust. The elder team will choose to trust each other, rather than suspect each other. We will develop a culture of trust, built on these six commitments:
    • I will believe the best about my fellow elders (including other congregations)
    • When other people assume the worst about you, I will come to your defense.
    • If what I experience begins to erode my trust, I will come directly to you to talk about it.
    • When I am convinced I will not be able to deliver on a promise, I will come to you ahead of time.
    • When you confront me about the gaps I’ve created, I will tell you the truth.
    • I will openly share warnings or disagreements when a decision is being considered, but I will champion and defend the decision after it is made.
  • Candid Communication. The elder team expects open, candid communication between team members and during team meetings. The elder team requires gospel-rooted security and thick skin that enables us to share our thoughts candidly and, when necessary, fight like family. This will allow team members to share openly and offer warnings or disagreements while a decision is being considered, but then champion and defend the decision after it is made.
  • Relationships Nurture Trust. It is always easier to believe the best and trust men with whom you have relational warmth and sincere friendship. Elders should invest in one another relationally and cultivate the kinds of authentic friendships that we would call our people to embrace. This does not mean that elders need to be best friends, spend lots of free time together, or have each other over for dinner all the time. But it does mean that each elder is responsible to cultivate healthy relationships with the other elders.
  • For an Elder’s Wife, Ignorance is Bliss. Elders should share information with their wives on a need-to-know basis. It is unwise and unfair to burden an elder’s wife with the weight of leadership and information about certain people or decisions. An elder’s wife should be able to go to any church event and genuinely think the best of anyone she meets.
Elder Process

The Elder Process consists of six steps.

1. Establish an Observable Track Record — Establish a known track record serving, leading and giving at Redemption Gateway with demonstrated leadership skills and observable fruit in ministry, marriage and family life.

2. Nomination Phase — The Elder Team may nominate and approach certain men whom the team thinks should prayerfully consider being an elder. When a Redemption Gateway member senses an internal call from the Holy Spirit to serve as an elder/pastor, he should make his desire known to the current Elder Team. Those men will confirm the calling and give further direction.

3. Applicant Phase — The Elder Team will assign each applicant a supervising elder, who will answer questions and be the primary point of contact for the applicant as he submits information, answers questions, and meets for a formal interview (with his wife).

4. Candidate Phase — Once a man has had his qualifications confirmed by the elders, he may enter a phase of preparation and evaluation for the specific work of eldership. This phase involves intentional mentorship by the current elders, study related to the roles, responsibilities and functions of elders, and participation in Elder Team meetings. In addition to preparing the candidate, the primary goal is to gauge the candidate’s fit and chemistry with the team. The time required to complete this phase will vary by individual.

5. Approval Phase — The candidate is brought before the congregation and the members of Redemption Gateway will be invited to give feedback about his life, conduct, and character. If a member is aware of any disqualifying sin or character flaw in an elder candidate, he or she will be urged to make the matter known to the existing elders, who will investigate the claim. Members will have a 4-week window in which to bring any concerns.

6. Installation — Following the satisfactory completion of all requirements, new elders will be installed publicly at a Redemption Gateway worship gathering.