Elder Updates (July 2018)

by Abraham Cremeens

I wanted to share a few updates and clarifications in this week’s post. There are a lot of great things happening at Kossuth, and the elders want to keep you in the loop as much as possible.

Prayer is never wasted time. We closed out the month of June with a week of focused prayer together as a church family, beginning during the Connection Hour on June 24 and concluding with the Family Gathering this past Sunday. I look forward to seeing how God will answer our prayers and continue to shepherd us through this transition season.

The Elder Team met on June 26 and has designed a very strong rough draft of our staffing plan, including a new staff position. Thank you for your patience with this process; I know it has taken a while. However, it has been important for the elders to also spend time interacting with individual members and with our church as a whole. That takes time and cannot be rushed. We also needed time to consider all of our options, not just what to hire into, but how to continue to build a team that most effectively helps our church to gather, grow, and scatter. I’m excited to say we are very close to concluding this stage of the process and look forward to sharing more with you soon. Please continue to pray for the elders as we meet again on July 10.

In light of this recent focus on staffing and church leadership roles, I think it may be helpful to spell out a bit of Kossuth’s leadership structure. I’ve recently heard several questions or statements expressing confusion about this area of our church. For example:

“How is it that Mikel Berger has been an elder for the previous few years, but Will Peycke, a staff team member, is only now becoming an elder?”

“What is a ‘Lead Elder’? I didn’t even know we had a Lead Elder.”

These are great questions. In the rest of this post, I’ll try to bring some clarity to the distinctions in our leadership structure regarding staff and elders. I hope to answer four questions:

  1. What is an elder?
  2. What is a Ministry Staff Team member?
  3. What is the relationship between elders and ministry staff?
  4. What is a “Lead Elder”?

What is an elder?

You can find more information in our church constitution, but here are a couple of excerpts for the sake of explanation:

Although elder and overseer are the most common terms for this office in the New Testament, pastor (meaning "shepherd") represents well the office’s function and all of these terms may be used interchangeably. Elders may be vocational or non-vocational. A vocational elder is one serving in that capacity as an employee of the church. A non-vocational elder is one who is not employed by the church to serve in that capacity. (Page 7: Article IV, section III. A.)

In obedience to and under the authority of Christ, the elders are responsible for the spiritual oversight of the church entrusted to their care. The elders are to pray, teach the Word of God, provide spiritual and organizational leadership, oversee the ministries of the church, and participate in the counseling and disciplining of members as needed. (Page 7: Article IV, section III. D.)

Elders are pastors (shepherds) who lead in a variety of responsibilities, regardless of whether or not they are paid by the church. In that respect, Bill Davis and Mikel Berger serve as “non-vocational” elders: their careers are separate from a church job description. Will Peycke and I serve as “vocational” elders: our careers are explicitly connected to a church job description. Paul Briggs is sort of in between the two in that he serves as one of Kossuth’s missionaries.

What is a Ministry Staff Team member?

The Ministry Staff Team currently consists of Will Peycke (focused on family ministry), Stephen Weinkauf (a pastoral intern focused on college ministry), and myself. We all receive a salary to enable us to focus more of our time on ministering to our church. We have the privilege of doing the work of ministry as our career, something we do not take for granted.

What is the relationship between elders and ministry staff?

In our structure, you can be a paid member of the Ministry Staff Team without being an elder, and you can be an elder without being one of the paid staff. For example, Mikel Berger and Bill Davis both serve as elders but are not paid by the church. Will Peycke joined the Ministry Staff Team three years ago as the Director of Family Ministry but did not become an elder until last month. Now that Will has been affirmed by the church as an elder, Will and I both serve as what our constitution calls “vocational elders” since we are also Ministry Staff Team members.

How does this work out practically? Ultimately, the elders are responsible for the overall ministry and leadership of the church. The Ministry Staff Team reports to the elders and fulfills the specific ministry roles assigned to them by the elders.

What is a “Lead Elder”?

Here is another excerpt from our church constitution:

All elders are equal in authority, but the elders will choose one from among them who will serve as leader for the elders. Decisions made by the elders shall be understood to be by the elders as a collective body, acting either unanimously or in majority. (Page 7: Article IV, section III. C.)

I have had the privilege of serving in this leadership role for the last three years. It is a role that must be affirmed annually. “Lead Elder” is different than what you might think of when it comes to a “Senior Pastor” as we are fully committed to a plurality of elders in leading the church, all of whom are equal in authority. The Lead Elder role is meant to serve the team by being just enough in front to pave the way in elder meetings, vision, and ministry direction while maintaining the same level of authority as the rest of the elders.

Although brief, I hope these updates and clarifications are helpful to you. Thank you, again, for joining together in last week’s prayer emphasis. Please continue to pray for the elders, ministry staff, and one another as we look forward to how God will continue to do his work in and through us.