What are some things to watch out for as I transition my church from being deacon-led to elder-led?
- Make sure the congregation understands the Bible’s teaching about elders. In moving to recognize men as elders, you are asking your congregation to understand and implement a biblical practice. This requires you to patiently expound Scripture—engaging the congregation, small groups, and individuals in interpreting and applying God’s Word.
- Many congregations have a long history with a bloated, unwieldy congregationalism. Changing this requires patient teaching and dialogue about what biblical congregationalism is. Perhaps teach the church about its own doctrinal confession (if it’s a good one), explaining what it says about the offices of elders and deacons, as well as the biblical responsibilities of the congregation.
- Be aware that the deacons who are not selected to become elders may become jealous. Such jealousy can splay into massive division, often wrecking any chance for the church to transition their leadership structure. How can this be addressed? By taking a long-range view of elder and deacon leadership. Concentrate on biblical qualifications for current deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13), thus raising the bar. Also, labor to show the biblical distinction between the two offices’ responsibilities. Lay out expectations for deacons and elders so that the church anticipates their biblical practice.
- It may be that no current deacons are qualified to serve as elders. Merely transitioning one title to another with more intense duties will not help. Rather, men must be cultivated with a view toward serving as elders.
(This material has been adapted from Phil Newton’s article, “Moving from a Deacon-Led to an Elder-Led Church”)