Resource, Article

Below we have the most recent Form of Subscription, along with some supplemental material found in the church order. For more discussion on the signing of this form read the Form of Subscription Revision Committee Report. While Synod did not approve that report because it seemed to weaken the...

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

One avenue to discover the responsibilities of eldership is to examine the Church Order. The church order has a number of articles that outline some of aspects of eldership. I have put the basic Articles of the church order in together for your information.

Article 5

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

The Presbyterian Church of Canada provides their elders with training. This site gives you a window into their training and provides a number of very useful resources.

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article
To be called as an elder is to take on a new role in your relationship to the congregation. It is important to reflect on your new role and face some of its demands and limitations.
  First observe that you already have a number of roles that affect your relationships in the congregation:...
January 9, 2010 0 0 comments

In our just in time culture, just in time learning has come to work of elders. Very few churches have a program of preparation in which people are enrolled prior to their call to be an elder. Which means most elders start the work of eldership feeling unprepared for the challenge of the work. Learning needs to happen on many fronts. Just by reading this, you are seeking information and encouragement for the challenges you face.

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Often I am perplexed by the mystery of the human person. The more I learn and see, the more I wonder: Do I really have what it takes to be a spiritual guide to the people I meet?

My experience is not unique. Many women came to Susan for a time of fellowship and conversation on spiritual...

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

I have often found very helpful articles and books on this site. They have provided leadership as church consultants.

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

Christianity Today has developed this site with many helpful resources.

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

This book was written to help church leaders guide others on their spiritual journey. The 19 brief chapters can be used for devotions at council meetings, where participants can examine their own spiritual growth and explore how to discuss topics with others.

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article
Clarifying Vision

Vision is a way of helping us stay focused on the central mission of the church’s life. Through clarifying vision, decision making has a constant reference point. Through clarifying vision, the church has common language to deepen its sense of community. Through clarifying...

January 7, 2010 0 1 comments



Neil, Your one of the first pastors I've heard actually preach on this hidden lesson in that story . I've thought that was the bigger message of that story It speaks  to our tendency to judge and to try and earn our salvation by doing it right.  Thanks


Hi all,

I responded by email but missed the post under comments.  I have contacted a few churches and now have a sample from another church with a few duties listed for chairs. You will find "Sample Church #2 Council Responsibilities"  under "Church Organization and Administration" and then "Administration."  Hope this helps.  I'll continue to look for other resources.


Thanks for posting this. I just downloaded it as well as the "Elder Deacon Mandates." Both look like useful resources!


I appreciate the wisdom in this piece.  Thanks, Neil.  

I like your comments they show wisdom and care. You are a doing a good job representing Christ. I'm not trying to butter you up, but Jesus has placed on my heart to encourage leaders who recieve a lot injuries on the spiritual battlefield. God bless You Thanks Neil

At my church, Our family & friends have a dinner for them and give gifts of thanks. This isn't a sanction event we just do it


 We had to stop the last years because of illness. I miss it.

I know what you mean Alex, the visits are pretty shallow and guarded.I have never been a Elder but from the visits I have endured there is not much communication or trust.

You put together good articles with with wisdom we to take to heart. I wish more people could find the time to be here on line.

Thanks for your efforts,


Sorry neil, this statement doesn't make sense. What I was trying to say that guilt and forgiveness are factors that feed these elephants. They exsist in all levels of the church structure. 



Best blessing of being sick you have time to think about God and your relationship.

Anytime Martin, It's time to reconize this. It's essentail for the body to function well. Pastors due take a beating but not in vain though. Just totally unneccessary

Your right about confidentialy, You could present the problem as scenario so people are protected. It;s sad that we don;t feel safe with each other, but not everything can be exposed. Thanks Noah

posted in: Confidentiality

Great article, Sometimes the elephant can be caused by guilt and lack of forgiveness between layman or leadership.

Thanks Neil

Here is a link to a site on "How to Take Meeting Minutes."  If you google church meeting minutes, you will find other helpful sites.  Maybe someone wants to put together a synopsis from these sites and post it here. 

Hi all,

I responded by email but missed the post under comments.  I have contacted a few churches and now have a sample from another church with a few duties listed for chairs. You will find "Sample Church #2 Council Responsibilities"  under "Church Organization and Administration" and then "Administration."  Hope this helps.  I'll continue to look for other resources.

I appreciate the input here. We will have to wait awhile to see which direction the council decides to go. Please keep us in your prayers.

Hi Ted,  here are some suggestions:

First, if there is dirty laundry to deal with, it is usually a good idea to engage in some process to deal with these matters.  Often times a good interim pastor can serve very well. A good interim will not only deal with past issues, they are often skilled in bringing some focus and positive sense of self-identity to the congregation.  

Second, it sound like some transitions are happening in congregational life.  One of the best things that especially senior members can do is to bless and encourage those who are seeking to lead the congregation.   That sometimes takes some teaching.  It does not help to complain about the change in culture or change in the experience of church life.  The evening service is changing. Complaining about it won't help.  Having 35 there means you have 35 people who can receive a blessing of church ministry.  Do what blesses them.  It is only when they speak with joy about their experience that others might say it is a good idea to join.  The culture does not support organ music.  We might be disappointed, frustrated by this change.  But so it is.  So I would think that our children will have another language of worship which is more of their native "musical" tongue.   Transitions happen.  There is a process that we can engage in that recognizes these changes and how the church can deepen the faith and life of the congregation along the way.  Sometimes we call it visioning.  

Third, you have ministries that are working. Celebrate them.  Build on them.

Fourth, smaller congregations can not be what a large congregation is.  But smaller congregations can do what is most needed: build community and love deeply.  Most people - when they get out of themselves and their needs - discover that community and love is more important than "services to meet my needs".  Because you are able to be "a people of God" in your community, there is every opportunity to thrive in the life of ministry and grace. A process like a vision process or "Holy Conversations"(Rundle & Mann) can be helpful in discerning your way with Christ.  

Fifth, people don't leave when they are engaged with some hopefulness.  The more quickly some process is adopted, the more people that can be involved, the more the council opens itself up to change, the more likely those considering leaving will become open to staying.  They are asking Why Stay?  Guilt is not an adequate reason.  A new future is.  

Sixth, finances trail the rest.  

Because of the number of issues before you, it will take time.  But regardless of the time it might take, adopting a process that will raise and engage the issues is critical.  Council should engage some person to lead them through it.  In interim pastor with such skills, or another person more like a consultant can go along way. 

these are some things that have come to mind over the past week.  I sure others have had some thoughts.  Lets share.  


the overture was referred back to the committee to deal with a number of questions.  It will be brought back to Classis at the March meeting. 


Steve, great thoughts for expressing appreiciation for ministry leaders.  I have been a proponent of this practise in our local church for many years.  My words have fallen on deaf ears.  A simple thank you from the pulpit at an appropriate time for SS teachers, gem & cadet leaders, etc... seems to be all we can muster.  Many workers committ many long hours in their area of ministry and the consensus among leadership is that there are more important matters to address.  John

I have witnessed a number of article 17's from the classis perspective, and the number seems to be increasing (I have no stats to back that up though).  It is not intended to be negative but it is more difficult for a pastor to find a new call to a church with an article 17 on their resume.  I am wondering if this is slowly or quickly becoming a more convenient way for a church and pastor not to work through their conflict and come out the other end together.  What I have seen is that by the time the situation comes to Classis for its input, the pastor and church have already in essence finished their separation agreements.   Would a Classis ever have the courage (if appropriate) to instruct a congregation and pastor to not separate but to work it out, with all the support that would be needed to do that hard work?  My feeling is that Classis delegates are there to give final approval with some instructions, to a process that is going to head in one direction no matter what.  I would welcome some new insight into article 17 processes and perhaps some way that a Council and/or pastor has to seek Classis help at the starting point of considering what to do next.  Who is not asking for the help soon enough in these situations?  Are we willing as sister churches in a Classis to truly submit to the collective wisdom of the larger body in this matter.  We may send in an interim pastor (when available, there are too few of them) after the split is done.  Perhaps we need to send someone into the setting before the split can begin?  Councils, pastors and congregations need help sooner in these situations.

In the congregation I serve, we are working on a review process that will help both Council and myself identify areas needing attention in me and my ministry and in Council's ministry work.  My advice to pastors and Councils is to be proactive and seek out this feedback in a helpful and structured way when things seem to be going well!  My hope is that by doing so, we start building a culture of openness and self-assesment along the lines that Neil mentioned.  As a pastor I have a peer group that I meet with on a regular basis and we have gotten to the point that we can challenge each other when we are wrestling with some aspect of our pastoral work and our lives in general.  That took a couple of years to build up.  I would never do ministry work today without some close and open support group who understands ministry pressures and is willing to be vulnerable and honest (no denial) with each other.  I wonder if perhaps Elders need something similar in their leadership work? 

Anyway ... I would like to hear how that overture goes ...




I pray that the Lord would encourage you as you seek the revitalization of your church and bless your efforts to discover what steps to take next.  I would love to hear how those with more experience than myself would counsel you, Ted, but I thought the least I could do was pass on to you the titles of two books that I have found especially helpful in this area as a pastor:

Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, by C. John Miller (Zondervan, 1986)

Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too, by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson (B&H, 2007)

Both these books agree that at the heart of church revitalization is a recapturing of the missionary spirit of the church, rooted in a vision of the gospel's power, and a desire to see the gospel spread through evangelism.  Leadership is key.  One practical piece of advice might be to take the time as a Council and a congregation to reflect on where your church is going as you seek the next pastor.  Reading books like the above together might help that process.



An Article 17 should not be seen as a negative thing! For minister or for church. It is a recognition that both have problems or issues that need to be addressed. It is a wake up call for everything that they need to get some help. When an article 17 is carried out and the classis steps in with the two committees, they should make sure the church completes it's "counselling" over time. And the minister needs to receive his/her counselling as well. An article 17 is not the fault of a pastor, nor is it the fault of the church. It is a together thing. Both need help. Both must seek help. Both must receive help for what is wrong.

For many years I looked at churches that went through the Article 17 process as problem places. And ministers who endured an Article 17 as problem pastors. Now that I'm on the other side, I see most Article 17 pastors and churches as honest people who have come face to face their issues. They have acknowledged their brokeness and their frailties. And if they have honestly looked at it, they are now addressing their short-comings and they are upfront with the help they need, and they are honest with who they are. There is little that is hidden now.

I would much rather take a call to a church that has just undergone a true Article 17 where Classis has been involved in following the Church Order guidelines to the full extent and where an interim pastor has come in to address concerns and to work through solutions with the council and the congregation. Why would I want to go there? Because this is a church that has been hurt, but they are now healing and eager to do the right thing. That is part of the sign of a healthy church... it's honest with itself and with the people they serve and the pastor who they want serving them.


I really don't want to say much because I feel kind of like I'm hanging out the dirty laundry as the phrase used to go. I will give these numbers though. If I just count couples (husband & wife) we have around 50 families. I the past year roughly 7 have died. In the past 4 months we have seen 23 members leave, not families but adults & children. We have 13 members in nursing homes or not well enough to make it to church or be involved. We also have roughly 12 members, some which make up the family count that you may see once a month in church.

We had so few attending the evening service (about 35) that it was decided not to have a Sunday evening service anymore.

We have a Cadet & GEMS program which seems to be doing well. They have a number of outside members attending the meetings. There has been a mid week evening Bible Study for the past few years as well as an afternoon Women's Bible Study.

Various members volunteer once a month to help with a local soup supper as well as provide meals for a place that offers showers & computer assistance to look for work.

Several members also volunteer for Kid's Hope U.S.A.

We have one full time organist & one part time. There are other programs going on each week or month as well. 

Hi Ted, thanks for  your question.  I think it would help to give a little more detail about your story.   I am sure others are experiencing or have experienced something similar and would love to give you encouragement.  Let us know more.  Neil

Hi, Sheri, wondering if you've thought about those council functionary job descriptions, or if any other churches have made them up.

Thanks, Randy

(from Riverside, not far from Redlands!)

I hope so. The doctrines can reveal the wisdom of the Holy Spirit  by explaining the sriptures. I can't say they hit me like scripture but they are important. I believe every office holder should be required to study both. I appreciate your incite.

Excellent call to be a peacemaker! Some thing that I struggle with. ThankYou

Great thoughts and biblical reference, I might add that we should also  adress the sexual issues in the older population also. I know through my ms the wide variety of issues arise amoung mature relationships. Biblical guidence on these subgects is difficult and as laymen, we need you guys to flush these issues from a Biblical perspetive. Song of Solmon describes a lot about a healthy seuallity while in love ordained relationship. Also God is love which should encourage people to Biblicly understand that sexual expression is the end but one of many forms expressing our love esch other.

I thought that i would through out some  idea's not ideals. Would be interested if others would comment if there is validity in these idea's. Or am I lost in space again. Thanks Brothers

Well done,over on the Deacon board, they asking where to find those in need and how to measure the "restortation" of the persons they care for. We obviously need to talk about these issue's. Everybody means well, But some of us need  to listen to the people who need help before we think we have the plan. Thanks God bless you and the people struggling with these problems.

Great article, I live estranged from my church due illness and depression. I wish more people could understand.

I question the right of  councils to make a these type of decisions. Evalualting anothers faith is a very difficult.

One of the issues is people are not commited to defining their beliefs. It can be a scary  to find out your assumptions may have holes.

Since our church is small, I have been managing membership records instead of one of the elders. I have also seen the change. When older members change membership in the appropriate way, I try to welcome them even though they may hve been quite active already. This happens so that the younger set gets the idea that membership is appreciated. When a baby is born and wish to be baptized, membership papers are requested. However, since this younger set can be very committed we have not put any artificial barriers between members and non members. Our directory which comes out every two years is a good way to find out who is or is not committed by inviting people to add their names to the directory or e-mail list we have.  I have consoled myself to this view by thinking about Jesus' church as one church and not be too concerned if we have a lot of 'ex members' on our list as long as we know from family members that they are active members of another church or have moved away to another town.  It is always a challenge for elders to know who to include in their list and who have in effect transferred membership without letting us know officially.  There is always sufficient to deal with the members and others who do attend let alone all those who are no longer attending.  

Very thoughtful and though-provoking article, Neil. Thanks.  

I'm wondering: (understanding that there are no real black-and-white distinctions) which of these tasks/roles overlap with the teaching elder/pastor (e.g. the person who is often expected to be THE creator and guardian of vision and mission) and which are more-or-less distinctly those of the supervisory elders?


~ Doug

I appreciate your post, Neil.  To expand 3.c., the need for information,  I find that often an organization is unaware of what it has already done on a particular issue.  Often there is a significant historical trail of action on an issue, and often it's really good stuff!  One of the challenges for churches (and this applies at local, classical and synodical level) is institutional memory, not for nostalgia's sake or to resist change, but to actually know what the church has done on this issue and why.  

One strategy going forward might be for churches to keep their minutes online (behind passwords of course) in searchable formats.  We have all of our recent seminary minutes (the past few years) online that way.  The benefit of that will grow as time goes on.  It's great when I can't remember which committee made a decision on something.  Insert a key word in the search engine.  Boom.  There it is.  Any church has free access to such features.  With google every council member could have access to all the minutes of the church anywhere in the world.  Time to go to work . . . 

Thanks again, Neil!

Duane Kelderman 

 We have been robbed twice.  Once just the car was broken into and some electronics were stolen.  The other time a person entered our home when we were deep asleep walked past our bedroom, took some electronics and the keys to our car.  The car was stolen and found a few days later.  We were not harmed.  It is an odd feeling.  

I noticed few aspects of our journey through that moment. First, I believe that what it revealed was our persistent vulnerability. Our response was not to make ourselves less vulnerable (get more security features in our home), but to recognize that we had two fundamental values:  a) that to live in community with neighbours means we must be vulnerable. We can not say I trust you and than create secure walls.   I want my neighbourhood to be a safe place because we have mutual care for each other.  How this works can be different in different neighbourhoods, but being a neighbour does mean being vulnerable.  b) that my security ultimately depends on the providential care of God.  No wall could protect Jerusalem unless the Lord was its defender.  No wall needed to protect Jerusalem when God was its protector.  so part of the process was a recognition that our lives were and are in the hands of God.  Second, we need to deal with our sense of attachment to our homes and things.   Trust me I enjoy my home and am grateful for many things.  But to hold things "lightly" rather than "tightly"  is an important part of our spirituality in this world.  The robbery in our life was a reminder. Third, we did ask ourselves: suppose this were to happen again ...  what would be a better place to keep the things that need more security.  I don't leave my keys on the kitchen table anymore.  A little bit more control.  

It seems to me that most often when electronics are stolen people are looking for cash - usually for drugs, sometimes because of desperate circumstances.   That may mean that one response is to notice that there is a need in the neighbourhood that need addressing.  It is not just security.  It may be a place for youth to go and be mentored.  It may be helping to develop jobs for people in the neighbourhood.  I don't know.  I do know that it can't be helpful for the neighbourhood if we go behind our secure walls.  Taking back the public space and developing neighbourhoods requires engagement not retreat.  Maybe part of the healing process is to recognize the need and engage in ministry.  

I would love to hear from others.  


Thanks for this article. As a newly installed Elder I've been apprehensive about visiting because I really didn't know what to say or how to approach issues such as family devotions. This information has given me a new tool for the work I'm intrusted with.

re: Captcha - Good question, Randy, and one that has me wondering if we should revisit that. I've posted an explanation here that asks for input. Thanks for the feedback!

Thanks Sheri,
You might notice I tried to correct my oversight there in that last post. These comments arise from recent experience of looking for resources to train new officebearers, many of whom have never chaired a meeting or taken minutes. We tend to get minutes that are too vague to be useful or else overly detailed. Also, I think the seminary ought to have some kind of training in policy and process for pastors (what I received years ago was not all that adequate or practical; it was all about big theories of how systems works and not the basics about how to get things done and how to communicate effectively), Do you know who teaches church admin over there?


Hi Randy,

The samples include a description for treasurer and assistant treasurer.  I'm working on the President, Clerk, etc.--good idea! I'll get back to you with info on preparing minutes also.  Thanks for the great comments!


...I should add that there is a sample job description there for treasurer and assitant treasurer. We have used those resources and they are very helpful.

Thanks Tim. Unfortunately there are no sample job descriptions for functionaries of council. Also, we need a basic guide for taking minutes, especially for communities in which few people are familiar with business/board meetings. If we end up finding or creating some, we will share them on the network.

Another question: If I am logged in, why do I still have to type that captcha thing all the time?




Thanks for joining The Network.

Sheri (the Church Admin Guide) has assembled a wide variety of resources like this, including 14 sample job descriptions. You can read her post about the listing and then follow the link she provides.

Hope this helps. If so, please help spread the word about The Network!


I would love to see sample job descriptions for: President of Council, Clerk, Adjunct, Treasurer etc.

Also, a good guide for taking minutes that are useful and contain enough information to be effective but not overly detailed.

Ttihing is the only way to go;   not necessarily with all to local congregation, but the Real Church worldwide!

 Last Sunday an announcement was made at my church: We have fallen behind during the summer; please help us make it up this fall.  Something like that.  Sounds mundane.  Bland.   Don't forget to bring your lunch money tomorrow.

One of the church's neighbor kids is walking around in high heels because that's the only shoes she has.  School has started and she's not there.   

I flipped through my check book before church to remind myself of my giving over the past month ....  The second offering today is for benevolence.  I forgot to bring cash; forgot check book too.  

Neil, I totally believe everything you wrote, but...   if I REALLY believed it, I'd behave differently, right?  What do you think of the idea of small accountability groups where people reveal their incomes and the amounts of their giving to charity.  Sometimes I feel like I need that in order to be really disciplined.

Great article. It is so important to set those priorities and as difficult as it may be with our busy lives, we need to stick to them.

I'm just trying to understand why "discipline" would be required?  Can you please give more clarification on that?  For while marrying an unbeliever may not be the wisest thing, without knowing more detail, I'm not sure that discipline should be the 1st step as that would perhaps result in a further resistance to the faith by the unbelieving spouse.  But again, not enough information is known to really give a sound response.

 The lack of response says much.  The models we celebrate are really quite few.  I commend you for the teaching you have done.  

Just recently I was reading about how in our culture many seem to think that theology is usually about the distinctives of a tradition.  Entering more deeply into theology is a sure way of highlighting what is divisive.  So many shy away from theology, and holding onto those things we have in common with all- which usually means simple statements of faith and a limited vision of salvation.  I can understand why.  WE have had some very divisive battles over the years.  We have friends who belong to other traditions who are wonderful Christians.  WE are afraid that entering into theology is to create brokenness.

so it seems to me we need a culture change that imagines theology as deepening our love for God, as a way of discernment, as a way of seeing more clearly the wonder of God's life and way in our life.  We need to imagine theology as a way of living more creatively and wonderfully as servants to the Lord.  

Culture change is difficult.  But I have noticed some articles, books and practices that suggest that maybe interest in theology will increase.  

Keep at it. Neil


 Hi Al,  

seems like there are few good suggestions to help you.  I suppose in part this is because so many details are missing.  Generalized solutions to particular problems will often fail to deal with nuance.  I usually divide the issues,  First there is the question: what is happening in the life of this person?  This is where the sketchy information makes it difficult to make judgments.  It is clear that the strength of love is a powerful movement in the persons life.  But I wonder What is happening to a person's faith?  I try to listen carefully to the language.  So many times there are subtle suggestions that Christianity is just another form of spirituality.or perhaps there is a suggestion that the Scriptural words about being "unequally yoked" is not applicable in this situation.  I also wonder how the person's future spouse deals with faith... supportive of the faith commitment? Antagonistic?  There is so much left unsaid that addressing the concerns is difficult.  

The second question involves the integrity of the church's voice.  If a person disobeys the voice of God but continues in ministry does this not mean that the church's voice is compromised?  Simple answer: yes.  But how do we deal with this?  Two points to make: First, there are times when a person needs to be withdrawn from a certain ministry.  For instance if a person is a mentor to youth the integrity of the church's ministry maybe undermined.  This is when the involvement of a person is restricted in a certain area.  However, there are other activities for which this is not the case.  Council needs to make a judgment.  Second, how we approach this is another part of integrity.  If we fail to show the compassion and love of Christ, we also fail the integrity test.  

When I hear this kind of a conversation I always wonder to myself:  to whom are my eyes directed?  so many times out of fear or out of dysfunction in the system our eyes are directed to "those who might say ..."  or "to those who might conclude..." .  I would rather that our eyes get directed toward Christ and how we might represent the saving power of Christ in the life of our community.  

just a few thoughts 


This summer my church started having potlucks after every morning service. They're very informal. Sometimes it's a small group and other times we're overflowing. Sometimes there's too much food and other times we're running short. But, always, I'm glad I went. And we've decided to keep 'em going indefinitely.

We started them as a way to help new people get connected. Inviting them to stay for the potluck is so nice and easy.