Lead Pastor Roles in Relation to the Elders

PBF Lead Pastor Roles in Relation to the Elders

Topic: Should the Lead Pastor at PBF serve on and lead the Elder Board? Should Associate Pastor(s) or other staff members serve on the Elder Board?

Position of the PBF Board of Elders: The Elder Board is composed of the lay elders and the Lead Pastor. Associate Pastors or other staff members will not serve as Elders, but may be invited to participate with the Elders in strategic planning. The Lead Pastor serves as the leader of the Elder Board, and is accountable to the lay Elders.

Lead Pastor Role. The role of Lead Pastor consists of the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Develop and Implement the vision of the church, with counsel and support from the Elder board.
  • Lead and shepherd the Elders.
  • Lead and shepherd the staff.
  • Lead in planning and execution of worship services and congregational gatherings.
  • Oversee Finance and Missions Committee chairmen.
  • Maintain an assimilation strategy.
  • Perform miscellaneous duties as needed: weddings, funerals, counseling, representing PBF, etc.

Discussion: Our belief is that the Lead Pastor has been called by God and the congregation to lead and provide direction for the Elders and together with them, for the church. The basis for this belief is that the Pastor has both the time and training necessary for the role. He is immersed in the problems and opportunities full-time and usually knows the people and organization very well. In addition, his education, experience, and network of fellow pastors provide him with a unique wealth of information from which to draw.

Every group or organization needs leadership that the group cannot provide for itself as a group. In other words, committees do not lead, leaders lead. And vision and leadership is what the Lead Pastor has been hired to provide. To establish any other Elder with this role is to needlessly confuse and set the two in competition with each other. It would also ask the lay Elder to duplicate the knowledge, experience, and investment the Lead Pastor already has made.

A related concern may be whether a strong leader can be controlled. Some people believe that strong leadership and domination are synonymous. Of course this could just as easily be a problem for a lay Elder leading the Elders or an Elder Board. Installing policies that provide checks and balances is a realistic response to this concern. The following are policies adhered to by the Elder Board to keep leaders healthy and ease concerns:

1. The Lead Pastor presents drafts not demands. Every idea from the Lead Pastor is not to be seen as the voice of God. Rather the Elders are fellow leaders seeking God’s will, His direction and wise decisions.

2. The Lead Pastor is open and honest with the Elders. Counseling matters are usually confidential but even these at times need to be shared, when permission is sought and granted from counselees to share with the Elders. The information the Board needs to make a decision is crucial and must not be hidden.

3. The Lead Pastor needs to follow the Elder Board’s advice. The Pastor does not always know what is best and needs to listen carefully to the Board’s opinions and counsel. The Elder Board respects the Pastor’s leadership and does everything to follow his lead while the Pastor values highly the Board’s advice and does everything to respond to their care for him and the church. The Lead Pastor looks to the Elders to confirm his convictions as to God’s leading and direction.

4. The Lead Pastor does not control decisions or demand his way. This would obviously be in direct opposition to Jesus’ example of servant leadership. Decision making normally seeks to achieve consensus. Our By-laws make clear that a majority vote can be used when consensus is not reached. In such cases the Elders decide how much agreement is needed and whether to go forward with a non-consensus decision.

5. The lay Elders provide care, oversight and accountability to the Lead Pastor. Therefore, Associate Pastor(s) will not serve as Elders, as this would create a dual role situation, with the potential for conflicts.

Summary: Strong leadership is not only needed in the Body of Christ, it is given by God to be exercised and not feared. Our job is to keep all leaders healthy to function well, to protect them from temptation, to pray for them, and to follow their lead. We believe the best approach to leadership at Peninsula Bible Fellowship is through an Elder Board comprised of duly elected lay Elders, and led by the Lead Pastor.