The Ministry of the Elder: Introduction

Elders are an important people in an RCA congregation. I've known this for a long time. My father was elected to this office when I was a boy. I always sensed that being an elder meant even more to him than selling real estate--which he never did on Sunday!

Looking back, I realize how many of the people who shaped by Christian faith and life were elders of the church. Of course, I had fine minsiters to look up to, but elders proved to me that the Chrsitian faith can be lived in the "real world" as well as in church.

I'm a minister now, and elders have often been my pastors! Their care, insight, and constructive criticism have made me a better person and pastor. Ministers tend to come and go. The elders provide a continuity of commitment and leadership in the church.

Elders represent a unique insight of our Reformed tradition. Ministers do not serve alone. The church is not the church without dedicated elders who serve Jesus Christ while earning their living and living their faith in the world.

I assume you are reading this because you are an elder. Maybe you have been elected for the first time. Whether you are a novice or a veteran, I hope this brief introduction to the elders' ministry will help equip you for effective service. You join the ranks of an ancient and honorable company. You also face unprecedented change and challenge as a church leader in the twenty-first century.

New crises and opportunities demand fresh insights and creative church leadership. New awareness of the church's "missionary situation" and renewed emphasis on lay ministries and training in the RCA make this an exciting time to be an elder. This booklet is one minister's modest attempt to help you prepare for your important ministry.

Robert A. White