Four Vital Signs of a Healthy Elder Team

By Gary L. Johnson

Effective teams are healthy teams. But how do elder teams function well together?

What does a healthy elder team look like? The best answers to those questions can be found in the leadership lessons between Jesus and his team of disciples.

As Jesus neared the end of his ministry, as described in Mark 8 and 9, he had significant moments with his disciples, revealing four vital signs of a healthy team.


Vital Sign 1
A healthy elder team knows and pursues the mission.
In Mark 8:31-38, Jesus explained to his disciples that he would suffer at the hands of the Jews, even to the point of being killed, and then rise again. Peter rebuked Jesus for saying this, as the disciples believed the Messiah would come and conquer the Roman occupation, restoring Israel as a sovereign nation. Yet, Jesus said he had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). A healthy elder team knows and pursues the mission of seeking the lost.

Millions of Americans have corrected vision. From prescription lenses to contacts to laser eye surgery, people find it necessary to have their vision corrected. The same is true for elder teams. All too often, we suffer from spiritual myopia in that we are nearsighted and see only what matters to us. It is easy for us to lose sight of people who are lost, whether they live across the street or around the world.

Jesus noticed lost, broken people. He even counted them, such as when he asked the one healed leper, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17). Do we notice lost, broken people? We will, if we know and pursue our mission.


Vital Sign 2 
A healthy elder team keeps learning.
In Mark 9:30-32, Jesus took his team to a remote place where he spent time teaching them. From the moment he formed his team until the final months of his life, Jesus never stopped training and equipping his disciples.

Yet, most churches are struggling when it comes to leadership. The leadership pipeline is empty. Few new elders are recruited, equipped, and released to lead, particularly from among the next generation. We have ignored this vital dimension of team health.

Intentional leadership development can no longer be ignored. Someone on the elder team needs to accept the responsibility to develop and deploy a strategy to continually develop the leadership skills of the team.

A school system is only as effective as the faculty and administration leading the school. The same can be said of a business corporation and its board of directors, or of the military and its senior officers. Likewise, a church will rise to a level of effectiveness equal to that of her leadership, and that being the elder team.

Could the church we lead be struggling because we are not leading? Perhaps we are not leading well because we don’t know how. Stronger leaders produce a stronger church, and a stronger church is a greater threat to the evil one. Healthy elders keep learning.


Vital Sign 3 
A healthy elder team is teachable.
In Mark 9, Jesus healed a boy with an evil spirit. His disciples had tried to do so, but they failed. Later, in private, his disciples asked him why they had failed (vv. 28, 29). They were teachable, and we must be, as well. We will never keep learning until we are teachable in spirit.

Just how teachable are we? The disciples wanted to know why they failed. Do we? Do we want to know how to be more effective as leaders? At the heart of being teachable is the desire to be held accountable. We want every elder on the team to lead in the best way possible, and for that to happen, we have to point out deficiencies of one another. When that happens, are we teachable? If so, we become a healthier team.


Vital Sign 4 
A healthy elder team is humble.
In Mark 9:33-35, the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest. His team struggled with pride. They were full of themselves, and Jesus called them on it, challenging them to be humble servants. A healthy elder team is teachable, but we will never be teachable unless we are humble. Enough said.

A healthy elder team knows and pursues the mission.

A healthy elder team keeps learning.

A healthy elder team is teachable.

A healthy elder team is humble.

Vital signs can reveal how healthy our elder team is—or isn’t. Keep in mind that our Great Physician can lead us to improved team health, providing we follow the doctor’s orders.


Gary L. Johnson serves as senior minister with Indian Creek Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is one of three church consultants providing a ministry committed to helping elders serve effectively. Visit to find elder-training material Gary has created with this team.

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