When Staff and Lay Elders Collide

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When it comes to church leadership, the New Testament pattern is clear: a plurality of elders shepherding a flock entrusted to their care. Some of them, such as the senior pastor, often serve as paid, full-time staff at the church. But many others may not. They have “regular” full-time jobs outside the church.

Senior ministers Ryan Kelly and Rick Phillips talked with lay leader Bob Doll about the conflicts that sometimes arise between staff and lay elders. “Some tension is inevitable,” admits Kelly, pastor of Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque. “It requires patience on the part of the staff elders to bring the others up to speed and understanding on the part of lay elders that much has gone on.”

Doll, chief equity strategist and senior portfolio manager at Nuveen Asset Management, points to inadequate vision-casting, poor communication, murky lines of responsibility, and conflict avoidance as factors that typically yield problems. Additionally, according to Phillips, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina, “It’s important to ensure non-staff elders aren’t viewed or treated as mere rubber stampers, an applause audience for the staff.”

Watch the full eight-minute video to see these leaders discuss lay elders with demanding jobs, the cesspool of sinners, losing votes, and more. Next month Phillips will be speaking at TGC’s southwest regional conference, Clarus, hosted at Kelly’s church in Albuquerque.