E2: Effective Elders Blog
Editor’s Note: Each Friday we publish a new blog post from our partners in ministry, E2: Effective Elders. We publish it here simultaneous to E2’s posting on their site. The leaders of E2 write an article for our print and online magazine every month as well. Those articles are full of wisdom and practical help for elders. Please check them out!
By Rod Nielsen
Decision-making in a church can be a blessing or a curse. Often, the decision itself is not as problematic as the process of coming to a decision. Major decisions—such as entering into a building program, changing the church’s name or location, or hiring a new senior minister—require “buy-in” from the congregation. But before asking the congregation to support a decision, the leadership must be confident the decision is Holy Spirit-led. If the leaders have an effective method for making decisions, they can have a better expectation the congregation will follow.
Stories abound, however, of meetings of elders in which decisions were made with serious dissention within their number. This can only result in the congregation being unsure of the rightness of the decision. Poorly-made decisions, even when the decisions are the right thing to do, can result in division, and can even split the congregation. For this reason, the decision-making process is crucial. This is especially true in smaller churches where, oftentimes, every member believes he should have a voice in every decision.
When making a decision that will ultimately benefit the church, elders sometimes know there will be blowback and that some members likely will leave for another church. If it is the right thing to do, the elders need to do it, but the vote among elders must be unanimous. A process of decision-making that leads to unanimity among leaders is essential to earning the congregation’s confidence.
At Agape Christian Church, we have found that the best way to reach unanimity is not to vote on issues. Rather, we seek consensus. We ask each elder to express his thoughts. We choose to be open, honest, and candid. When there is disagreement, we listen to each elder. If one man has a strong objection to something, we continue the discussion. Often, because we trust and respect each other, a man with reservations will follow the rest of the elders. If we cannot reach a unanimous decision, we table the discussion. It’s better to wait until we are certain we are making the right decision.
When decisions are presented to the congregation, our elders are able to stand shoulder to shoulder to support it. That harmony among the elders gives confidence to the rest of the church body.
Rod Nielsen serves as senior minister with Agape Christian Church, La Porte, Indiana.
Click here for more blog posts from E2: Effective Elders. While there, please be sure to check out their excellent events and resources for elders.