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How do you select/appoint elders?

When we visited Maranatha on Sunday, one of the inserts in their bulletin was a full page giving the testimonies of each of their elder candidates. That got me to wondering what sort of selection and vetting process different churches use for choosing elders.

In my experience at Noelridge, here’s what happened: the existing elder board suggested men to serve as elder apprentices. Those apprentices had to be approved by the congregation. Once approved, they met with the elders at all the regular meetings, etc for some period of time – a year, maybe two. At the point the elders were comfortable with their qualifications and thought them ready to become full elders, the elders would recommend the apprentices names to the congregation for approval.

Things that, to me, were notably absent: any sort of in-depth theological examination. Granted, there were some one-on-one theological discussions in various meetings over the apprenticeship period, but there was nothing formal. It was assumed that you agreed to the statement of faith, and that was good enough. While we agreed that Alex Strauch’s idea of interviewing elder candidates’ wives to get their input was a good idea, in practice I never saw it happen.

So here’s my question for you, be you a church leader or just a church member: what sort of selection and vetting processes are in place for elder candidates? Popular nomination and election? Any sort of congregational examination? I remember hearing about Rae’s study sessions before his PCA elder exam, so I know some of the answer I’ll get from him, but I’m interested in hearing from the rest of you all.

3 Comments

  1. Andrew Andrew

    Chris,

    this is a very interesting question. I haven’t thought about this a ton, but here are a couple of my first inclinations.

    1. Right of the top of my head, I thought of two times in the Bible where people were picked for possition. one was the replacement for Judas, and the other is Stephen. As far as i can remember, they were both already qualified before being picked. it seems a little funny to me that elders would be picked and ‘then trainned’. although i think there would be a learning curve for any new elder, it seems that there are qualifications for elders that take years to meet and reputations that take years to establish.

    2. I completely agree with you that there should be a lot more interviewing and background on the candidates, including interviewing the wives and a strong commitment to the doctrinal statement and core beliefs of the church..

    well, i’m late for class… later!

  2. Hey bub, thanks for the comment. Yeah, the two examples you mention are good ones. There are also some examples (though brief) later on where we are told that Paul “appointed” elders in the various churches he planted.

    The more I think back on my own experiences, the apprenticeships are good learning times, but there is much to being an elder that you don’t just learn via an “apprenticeship” – traits that must be developed over years of loving God and His people.

    And yeah, the churches I’ve been in have been generally weak on examining doctrinal views and also in stressing their importance after the fact. Something to learn from, I guess.

  3. jim jim

    admittedly this is not something we do very well in the PC(USA). In my current church I have stressed to my session that being an elder is a spiritual role, a calling. often times it gets sold as “you only have to go to a session meeting once a month.” Or people simply get selected to serve as chair of a particular committee. not good….

    We are supposed to have a training and examination process as well, at least according to our book of order….but again current ruling elders don’t ask any tough questions (more like “why do you want to be an elder?” or “we know you already…welcome aboard.”) Maybe that’s a function of a small church where everyone really does know everyone…I suspect though its more of a function that people just haven’t been very educated about their faith.

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