What is the difference between church elders and church staff?
Many modern churches have tended to confuse elders with the church staff.
- An elder is a man who meets the qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus and leads the congregation by teaching the Word (1 Tim. 3:2), praying for the sheep (Jas. 5:14), and overseeing the affairs of the church (1 Pet. 5:2).
- The staff are people paid by the church for either part or all of their week to facilitate the church’s work and ministry. This means they will be most familiar with what is going on day to day in the church. They may or may not have seminary training. They must have a certain degree of godliness and maturity since they occupy something of a public and representative role for the church.
- Staff may or may not be elders. If they are not, they are more like deacons—men and women given particular formal areas of responsibilities for carrying out the vision of the elders.
- There are good reasons to have paid staff who are not elders, and to have elders who are not in the pay of the church. Specifically,
- Having non-elder staff allows the church an expedient way of getting administrative work done by competent, godly individuals without requiring them to be elders.
- Having non-elder staff provides a way for the church to set aside godly women who can devote themselves to working with women and children.
- Having non-elder staff can provide a useful training ground for young men who are preparing for ministry, but who are not yet ready to be elders.
- Non-elder staff work under the oversight of the elders. They’re hired hands.
- On the other hand, it can also be very useful to have non-staff elders. Non-staff elders help root the congregation’s leadership in the congregation itself, rather than in one man who may be called from the outside and won’t be around forever.
- Non-staff elders give people in the congregation a model of maturity to aspire toward even as they work in non-vocational-ministry jobs.
- Non-staff elders teach the congregation that Christian ministry is something Christians should do regardless of whether they get paid.