By Glen Elliott
It’s the “secret sauce” in any successful team effort. It’s a key factor helping a church to thrive. A question for the leaders at my church: are we convinced that “we’re in this together”?
Or maybe you’ve seen a struggling team that fires its head coach, hires a new coach, and suddenly the same group of players starts winning. (I won’t call out any current teams where this is happening!)
There are lots of factors in these scenarios, but a common factor is that successful teams have a secret sauce. I call it the “we are in this together” factor. It is hard to fully describe, and even harder to give a step-by-step formula on how to create it. But when it exists, it is real, very powerful, and everyone feels it.
I think this is a critical ingredient for good elderships.
But I have a concern. In too many terrible church situations, the elders and key staff butt heads. Even with the best of governance models and the best leadership processes, the relationship between elders and the senior minister or lead pastor can go south. When the “we are in this together” attitude does not exist, church life is ugly and painful.
Great church leaders must take risks. They must introduce change. Any change is painful. Sometimes there is failure. If failure never occurs and feathers are never ruffled, it’s unlikely the church will advance. Sometimes people are simply opposed to whatever is “new.” But an effective senior leader must be given the authority to truly lead and take risks. And that person needs an eldership where the “we are in this together ” attitude reigns. Bold leadership thrives in this environment.
The Bible helps us. I love the clear teaching of 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13. I believe the instruction here applies not only to the congregation, but also to how the elders respond to the minister or pastor. Here’s the instruction: “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”
This is a great description of the “we are in this together” vibe. What if these verses guided us to create that culture in our elderships? What if the eldership agreed to be intentional and live by these instructions? What if the group given the responsibility to guide and protect the church had a “we are in this together” dynamic?
Elders, I encourage you to do these simple things with your lead servant. Regularly acknowledge the hard work of the lead pastor or minister. Ministry is harder than you imagine. And this acknowledgement should be more than an annual “pastor appreciation” event!
Show your ministry leaders in tangible ways that you hold them in highest regard. This high regard should be evident in all your conversations and actions. And living in peace is the intentional effort to be “in this together.”
Yes, there are times we should have vigorous debate. Yes, there are times when we’ll even disagree. But there is a peace that is deeper than our opinions, preferences, and approaches.
Oh yes, these same admonitions apply to how the lead servant treats the eldership. The “we are in this together” deal is mutual.
The church is too important for the salvation of too many to allow anything less than a “we are in this together” mentality to exist among the key leaders of the church that bears the name of Jesus.
Glen Elliott, lead pastor at Pantano Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona, serves as a CHRISTIAN STANDARD contributing editor.