You may or may not have a “plurality of elders” structure in your church, however my prayer is that what I share will be an encouragement and provide some thoughts for you whether your church has established this structure or not. Whatever your structure, I am sure you have a group of like-minded leadership around you that cares for and loves their lead and associate staff pastor(s).
For context, I serve as a lay elder in my church. I have the privilege of serving together with a group of men who the Lord has knit our hearts together in unity as we lead our church family AND serve our Sr. Pastor/Elder and Associate Pastor. Keep in mind we don’t all always agree on everything, however we allow those diverse views to keep us humble before the Lord and give us time to seek the Lord’s will before we move forward on decisions. Although our structure places the leadership and spiritual well-being of our church family amongst all of us elders, the lay elders make a point to lift up our staff pastors to the Lord knowing that their day brings a level of responsibility and stress the rest of us lay elders do not experience. We recognize that we all share the burden of church leadership, however our Sr Pastor/Elder and Associate Pastor need our love, encouragement and support from the rest of us to continue to persevere.
Here is my point, you most likely have a group of leaders (Elders, Deacons, etc) that can be a great resource of encouragement, support and love that you need to persevere in ministry, develop a healthy church and lead in community transformation. Tap into them. Here are some thoughts to the value that they can bring to you:*
- Biblical accountability. Godly support leadership is a great means for holding the pastor accountable to live, teach, and lead faithfully.
- Wisdom. There is more wisdom to be found in a multitude of counselors (Prov. 11:14; 24:6).
- Balance. No one person has all the gifts that are necessary to build up the church. Having a diversity of leadership serves the church by bringing diverse people with different gifts into the church’s leadership who can complement the pastor’s strengths.
- Burden sharing. Caring for the whole church is a burden God does not intend one person to bear alone. Even the most faithful, gifted pastor needs help from other godly leaders in order to pay careful attention to themselves and to all the flock (Acts 20:28).
* (Adapted from Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions About Elders and Deacons [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008], pp. 183-186)
I realize that there can be conflict amongst church leadership. Believe me, we certainly hear of many stories and experiences from pastors who reach out to this ministry for help. However, I also know from personal experience and additional stories we hear that a lot of this conflict can be alleviated by understanding and appreciating the value these other leaders can bring to you. Especially as it relates to encouragement and additional perspective. We lay elders love and appreciate our Sr. Pastor/Elder and Associate pastor. Most likely, yours do too. Reach out to them. Share your heart. Let them know how to pray for you. Pray for them. Know they have a “Jonathan” heart towards you (I Samuel 18) and want to see you rejuvenated, encouraged and persevering. For the sake of the Gospel!