When Staff and Lay Elders Collide

Tension Is Inevitable


Being a pastor requires more than weekly teaching. In many ways, it requires institutional leadership, especially in a church that ascribes to a plurality of elders. In those elder boards composed of paid staff and lay elders, how should pastors deal faithfully with any tensions that may arise? Pastors Richard Phillips and Ryan Kelly join Bob Doll to offer some of their own experiences with this challenge and give some practical insight for approaching conflict in a healthy manner.

Richard Phillips is the Senior Minister of the Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville, South Carolina. Ryan Kelly is the Pastor of Preaching at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bob Doll (CFA) is Senior Portfolio Manager and Chief Equity Strategist at Nuveen Asset Management where he manages the Large Cap Equity Series, which includes traditional large cap equities, specialty categories and alternative strategies.


Have you experienced conflict between staff and lay elders? If so, how was it resolved? What part did you play in the process? What would you do differently if conflict were to arise again in the future?
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What challenges have you observed among paid staff and lay elders? Would you add any scenarios to those mentioned in the video? If so, what are they?
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How do you work to enable your lay leaders to be a part of decision-making for the direction of the church? In light of this discussion, can you identify any ways you could improve? If so, how?
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How do you use your leadership to ensure that you are not making unfair demands of lay elders who have additional career responsibilities outside of the church? Would you say that the expectations for the position are clearly communicated? If not, what would need to change for clear communication to be achieved?
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Richard mentioned the importance of possessing the humility to submit to other elders in situations that will not result in clear biblical unfaithfulness. Can you recall a situation like this in your own experience? How did it turn out? In what ways were you able to model self-sacrificial love, laying down your preferences for another? What could you do to make this kind of service more visible to your church body?
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Tensions in leadership are inevitable, especially when it comes to elder boards made up of both paid staff and lay congregants. Times of conflict will require patience and the willingness to ask for forgiveness for the ways in which we have contributed to it. As a leader in the church, ensure that your life is one in constant submission to Christ. Ask Him to give you humility to share the oversight of your church and trust Him to supply you with grace to navigate tension among leadership.


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