Yesterday, Nathan was ordained and installed in our church as a ruling elder. Our church is part of the PCA and to be an elder is a pretty big deal. Not because you’re suddenly catipulted to celebrity status, or get any special perks, but because the ruling elders or session, are the leaders of the church. Yes, we have a pastor, and he works with the session to take care of and lead the church, but he doesn’t do it alone–the session gets to also deal with the tough stuff. They get to call or fire a pastor or other members of the pastoral staff. They are the ones that get called when someone is in dire need, often times having their dinner with family or night of sleep interrupted. Or they are the ones that walk with individuals or couples and families as they work through deep hurts, trials and tribulations, or any other host of challenging things. They also get to experience the great joy in seeing the redemption from these kinds of situations, and get to celebrate in a way that maybe many others don’t do.
It is a mighty and honorable calling and it is for life. And we now carry that charge and calling, at the tender age of 33. Kinda weird.
When Nathan told me that he had been nominated to be an elder, I kind if freaked. He has gone to each of the monthly session meetings since we moved here three years ago, but has not been an official part of the session. It totally made sense for him to formally joined and I freaked out not because of that but because of the new set of expectations it would bring for him and for me, too. In our church and in our church in Seattle, the wives were also involved (but not as much) in caring for the church, at times where it was more appropriate for a woman to be involved or for both the husband and wife to be involved. Also, at Redeemer, the wives try to stay connected to each other and are highly reguarded in their place as support to the session. It does sound a little old fashioned, I know, but it works and it works well and according to what we believe.
So after my inquiry of what is expected of Nathan AND I, here’s the answer I received:
“Besides Nathan’s involvement on the staff team, serving as an elder requires:
Monthly Session meetings (Nathan now attends)
Occasional Pastoral Care meetings (membership interviews, meeting with someone who is in crisis, etc.)
Leading/Facilitating the Parish Council meetings (something you are already involved in)
Serving as a member of a Presbytery committee (not required of all ruling elders, but will be of staff members who are elders. Bearing the weight and burden and joys and sadness of a spiritual family…This is the element that is hard to quantify; probably similar to Nathan’s pastoral oversight he already provides. When someone sins, your heart breaks. When someone leaves the faith, you are torn. It includes being attacked or secretly disliked; it includes confronting people, tough love, and church discipline.
Elder’s wife role:
To be supportive – a “cheerleader” of her husband
To help her husband process the ministry; to set boundaries; to challenge and confront her husband as an intimate ally.
To provide helpful and valuable information on decisions that need to be made by the session (as appropriate)
To be hospitable
To have a caring oversight of one’s Parish
To use her specific gifts and calling to the glory of Christ and good of church and city
((and here’s the kicker…))
Also, I forgot to mention – you should be able: to play the piano whenever needed, to wear matching jewelry, to always have make-up on and your house clean; your kids should be well behaved at all time and models for everyone to follow. Your marriage should have a perfect blend of financial, sexual, and spiritual intimacy. On top of that you should be good at starting and growing and maintaining a host of new ministries. Beyond this, you should do your best at being a good neighbor, evangelist; and do your part to recycle and work for the environmental health of your neighborhood. Always serve good dark coffee, and, if possible, have a piece of apple pie ready for me when I visit. I think this should be enough. Grace, Jason”
Needless to say, the last paragraph is all in fun. BUT I am thankful that I am not in a church where any of that matters. We are in a community of grace that strives to preach and to live the gospel in all parts of life. It is a sweet community to be in and I am thankful for it.
And I am thankful for Nathan’s and my call to be part of the leadership here. We are already part of the pastoral team, which has been great, too. But to be officially part of this group of leaders is an honor and a treasure.
And I do now feel the need, more than ever, to pray for our leaders and their families, to pray for Nathan and for us, as I feel even more vulnerable to whatever darkness out there wants to come and try to tear us away from the light.