How can a pastor wisely transition his church from being deacon-led to elder-led?

  1. Teach polity patiently. If you want to change your church’s structure, you must patiently teach biblical polity. Layering this teaching through different venues: the pulpit, Bible study, small group, men’s meetings, one-on-one, and so on. Layering serves the church better than offering a crash course in polity. More important, however, than changing polity is teaching the church to think biblically. The better a pastor teaches his congregation to rightly interpret Scripture, the better they’ll be able to understand biblical church leadership and desire the change themselves, which will lead to a far smoother transition.
  2. Remember that speed kills. As the bumper sticker puts it, “Speed kills.” So does an impatient move to transition from deacons into elders. Trying to do this without adequate preparation will likely create chaos if not the sudden loss of a pastorate!Give the congregation time to work toward a biblical understanding of polity. Perhaps you, the pastor, had to work through polity issues over several years. The church will likely need the same amount of time, if not more. Few react well to new concepts crammed down their throats.

(This material has been adapted from Phil Newton’s article, “Moving from a Deacon-Led to an Elder-Led Church”)