How does a church find willing members to serve as deacons and elders?


Every year in May or June we hold nominations and then elections for new elders and deacons. It seem harder and harder to find members who are willing to let their name stand for the ballot. Do other churches have a better system that is working well?

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A few years ago, we switched to a process whereby current elders and deacons meet with nominees to PERSONALLY delivery the nomination letter and discuss it.

That personal touch has made a pretty big difference compared to the old method of just sending the letters out.

We are trying to improve the personal touch, no letters or emails just phone calls or personally talking to people and it works better. Still didn't get the required number of names.

Trying to encourage the development of relationships of potential council members well in advance of the nomination process so that the people who are nominated are well aware of what is involved.

I have a rather large and involved procedure I have developed and have approved by our executive council if someone is interested in seeing it. It is in its second year of use presently.

Community Builder

Is your procedure something we could add to Church Finance and Admin Resources on the CRC website for all churches to review? I would make it generic but it is always helpful to have a couple resources in each area available for churches to review. Select "contact me" in the upper right corner and we'll connect on your resource. Yes, relationships and encouraging others are so key to developing ongoing leadership in the church.

We've gone to a process of selection by lot that feels pretty successful. Even though we're an average sized church, we've had a good response to calls for nominations, a good amount of people willing to serve after being nominated, a good number of ballots returned affirming nominees, etc. I'd be happy to share the policy/procedure documents if interested. We just selected new elders and deacons yesterday. It's so cool to see God's work in selecting people who we know are qualified, but who might not have been chosen in the past simply because they are less well known (or, dare I say it, "popular"?) in the church. These people have grown in their gifts, have been affirmed through their service, and have become more tightly knit into the life of the congregation. Win-win-win.... Go God!

Do you screen the nominated before you allow the members to vote?.  Do you guys draw from a group with the most votes?

Community Builder

Hi all,

At our church, the nominated are approved by the council prior to their names announced to the congregation. Usually the nominee with the lowest number of votes is pulled from the choices.

Thanks Sheri

Here's our process.  The Nominating Committee solicits nominees from the congregation and eventually brings a list of its recommended nominees to the Council.  The Council approves the list (which is confidential to the Council).  We send each nominee a letter notifying them of their nomination.  Unless they successfully object (meaning that the Council agrees to remove them from nomination), they are announced to the congregation as the candidates for Council, either as Elder or as Deacon.  Congregation members submit a ballot which allows them to approve or disapprove of each listed nominee. The Nominating Committee and a small group of tellers tally the votes.  All nominees that receive a majority affirmative vote from the congregation are moved on to the selection process. 

It is very important that each person who is eventually appointed as an Elder or Deacon know that they have received a majority affirmative vote of the congregation!

The results of the voting are confidential to the Nominating Committee and tellers.  Then, during a Sunday worship service, the names of each an "surviving" nominee are put in an Elder or Deacon "hat".  Each retiring Council member draws a name out of the hat, Elder for Elder, Deacon for Deacon.   Those not drawn are not identified.  It avoids the "popularity contest" phenomenon, and "saves face" for those not selected who might not have obtained the necessary majority vote of the congregation.  We get more people in Council than might otherwise have served, and no one avoids the process out of a desire to avoid "losing" a public election. 

One technical point.  We don't prohibit spouses from being nominated for different offices.  Our particular church only nominates males as Elders.  So, for example, if a husband were to be selected as an Elder, and his wife is a nominee for Deacon in the hat, then she would become instantly ineligible for selection...and vice versa.  If the other spouse's name got picked from the hat after that, then that selection would be considered invalid and another pull would occur. 

But by sreening the nominee's, isn't the current council making the choices for the cogregrations? If someone's nominated who isn't popular with council but would like to serve being denied?  Tyhanks

I suppose that is true to some extent. I know that in practice (and as a person who has participated in the nominating committee several times), there is an effort to be inclusive rather than exclusive.  Maybe it would be helpful to note that we aim to nominate at least 3 times the number needed (3x3=9) for each office and put at least 2 times the number needed on the ballot (2x3=6).  With people who have served at three year term ineligible for nomination for three years, and a congregation that isn't that large (less than a hundred families), I think you'd find that we're not eliminating too many people from nomination.  We pray for the Spirit to help us discern those with gifts for service.  Again, the effort feels inclusive.

Thanks Mark, That is the most common way I believe. I am not here to judge. You guys seem to be trying very hard to be objective. I do however know of people eho would serve who never get nominated.  Food for thought. God bless you

One thing I would suggest for anyone who wishes to serve but has not been nominated would be for them to (1) nominate themselves - especially if it can be done anonymously - and (2) talk with the nominating committee about the sincere interest in being nominated.  Perhaps that's been done.  If so, then the person may want to think about participating in a congregation that is able to recognize their gifts for service more readily.  If the person is mis-perceiving their giftedness (which can happen), then that's a more complicated situation and a more sensitive matter as well, of course.

Are there others who are wrestling with selection criteria for qualifying or disqualifying nominees for serving as Elders or Deacons?  Often the (unwritten) criteria is more subjective than objective - ie:  frequency of attendance; financial support.  1 Timothy 3:1-7 raises the bar so high that most, if not all, serving office-bearers feel inadequate.  Has any Council developed written selection criteria for the nomination process?