Friday, September 7, 2018

Hey Fletch … We are in the process of transitioning to an Elder governance system and are currently accepting nominations. This is a major change for this Baptist church but the vote to do so was overwhelmingly favorable to move forward. My pastor has suggested that the staff may have a difficult time adjusting to this new governance system, whereas I believe the committees will have the more difficult challenge as they will no longer be the final say on matters they are accustomed to controlling. We have a relatively young staff, and they are eager for this change to occur. Do you have any advice on this change we are making?

DRF—In the last two decades, many Baptist churches have adopted an elder-led governing system. Some retain the deacons in either care roles or to assist with operations. The transition can have some bumps, as you are indicating.

I tend to think that the committees may have a harder time making the change to the elder-led system. It will depend on how empowering the elder board will be for committees and staff.

The issue is one of who is making what decisions, when and how. If staff feel like they “report” to the elders, then you have two lines of control—through the SP-XP and the elders. That is untenable for staff. Everyone should have just one boss!

A good system has the SP report to the Elder Board. Some churches also have the XP report to the Elder Board. All other staff report to the XP and SP. Elders should not feel like they have staff report to them or that they can give directives to staff. The role of the Elders is to focus on vision and hold staff accountable for implementing that vision.