How Church Councils are Formed
August 26, 2014
Updated August 27, 2014
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A new church-season is upon us. Already leaders are busy planning activities of all sorts. Among them is the Council–composed of pastor(s), elders and deacons--whose daunting task it is to give imaginative leadership to church-life. (Note: the designation “consistory” is usually reserved for just the elders).
It would be interesting to see how our churches across the continent select the elders and deacons of their council. Whereas in a by-gone age the procedure was fairly uniform, there is now considerable variety. The present council may submit twice as many names as are needed, and a congregational vote then determines who are selected. Names should be announced on two consecutive Sundays. Where a church struggles with a shortage of suitable 'candidates', it may submit as many names for elders and deacons as are needed and submit them for a vote for congregational approval. There have also been churches who submit a list of names to the congregation for approval and lots are then cast to make a selection. Councils generally invite the congregation to submit names to facilitate the nomination process.
Our denomination's Church Order lays out a simple way to elect office-bearers that have served the churches well through its history. Art. 4a states, “… the council shall ordinarily present to the congregation a nomination of at least twice the number to be elected. When the council submits a nomination which totals less than twice the number to be elected, a reason shall be given for doing so....”
In more recent times councils have felt the need to present sets of “double nominations.” Double nominations work like this: if a church would need four new elders, rather than submitting a group of 8 names to the congregation they would submit 4 sets of two nominations. They would still be providing 8 candidates, but by designating them in pairs the council could guide the outcome a bit. For example, the council may want to elect a young elder, or a person from a certain district/perish, so they could submit one nomination of two names for that seat on the council. This enables councils to attract office bearer suitable for certain ministry needs. It also enables councils to have membership grouping reflected in council. Art. 4c states that elections shall take place in a duly constituted congregational meeting under the supervision of the council. Synod of 1983 (Acts p. 643) stipulated that the names of those elected shall ordinarily be announced to the congregation two Sundays prior to installation.
It has become widely practiced in our churches for elders and deacons to serve for three years. Art. 25a of the C.O. states that office-bearers may be renominated immediately upon the conclusion of a term, if “...circumstances and the profit of the church” make that advisable.
Synod of 1985 (Acts p. 714) spoke out against the practice of selecting office-bearers by lot. The reason... ? Synod stated that “the use of the lot limits the responsibility of the office of the believers.”
Now. Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat …
Synod--always eager to tell councils how to conduct their business--may not have have spoken the last word on how best to elects office bearers. So, let this be a forum for other ideas. Perhaps you feel strongly that your different way may be just as good, or even better. Share your thoughts below.
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Although the nomination process you mention is a good one, reality in the local church is that often there are not enough people willing to serve, or just enough people to fill vacancies. It would be great to have twice the amount of nominations needed to fill a slate, but that has become a challenge in many churches. ServiceLink, the Volunteer Services Program of the CRCNA, has been meeting with church leaders over the last year discussing various recruiting methods and strategies to engage volunteers. One of the more successful recruiting methods for elders and deacons that we've come across, has now been posted on our website for others to utilize. We've also posted a template for elder and deacon job descriptions which may be of help to churches.
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