4 Things You Do That Tick off Your Elder Board
Many youth workers see the church elder board as a group of old people meeting in secret, looking to crush innovation and preserve the church’s legendary past. But at my church (and hopefully yours) nothing could be further from the truth. The elders of your church want to see you succeed, so here are four things to avoid to help make the youth worker—elder board relationship thrive.
1. Treat the elders’ children different from others in the youth group.
This comes in many forms, and none of them are good. Just like the pastor’s kids, elders’ children hate getting singled out just because their parents are involved in leadership at the church. Church functions can be awkward for them anyway because everyone knows them. Many feel the pressure to be perfect. The best thing you can do is treat students related to church leaders just like every other student. Don’t make them your favorites, but don’t neglect them ether.
You may be tempted to think that, because they are in an elder’s family, they don’t need you. But they do. Get to know them, care for them, go to their events, and take them out for coffee just like you would with any other student in your youth ministry. Trust me, their parents will love you for it.
2. Consistently go over—or under—budget.
I know what you’re thinking: Duh, spending too much is always bad. That’s a no-brainer. But how could it be bad to end the year under budget? Elder boards have little patience for consistent over-spending, and of course they love it when you spend within your means. But, it’s frustrating when one department of the church consistently gets allocated funds that it never uses.
Remember, elders have a 30,000-foot view of the church, and they want to care for each area adequately. When you underspend, it seems like you are only thinking of yourself and your department. The money you aren’t spending could have been designated for other needy church ministries. Most elder boards would rather you be honest and use up what you need so funds can be allocated appropriately and all the parts of the church can stay healthy. So be a team player—stay right on budget.
3. Never initiate communication with the elders.
Youth pastors draw suspicion when elders always have to be track them down to find out how their ministry is going, what their needs are, and how they are doing personally. Be strategic with your invites—and don’t be a pest—but if you reach out to an elder over coffee or a meal two or three times a year, you are not only gaining valuable mentoring and coaching, but you’re also letting the elders know you want help, oversight, and connection with the rest of the church’s leadership. Don’t be a lone wolf. Look for collaboration with people who can genuinely help you.
4. Consistently over-promise and under-deliver.
Don’t promise you’re going to recruit 20 adult volunteers and only bring in 10. Don’t promise that you’ll go to an extracurricular event for every student and then only attend the ones you’re interested in. Don’t say you’ll produce cool animated videos to kick off each sermon series and then fall back on a single, lackluster logo image. Don’t sign a contract to bring 30 kids to summer camp and show up with only 15.
These may seem like small things that elder boards don’t care about, but elders do get feedback from student and from parents. Because they have that 30,000-foot view of the church, they see patterns develop over time. If you regularly over-promise and under-deliver, expect to raise more than a few eyebrows on your elder board. Follow-through is a mark of a great leader. But more importantly, consistently promising more than you can deliver is dishonest. Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, “It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” Be honest, and always try to deliver more than what is expected.
About the Author
John Vandervelde serves as the Executive Pastor of Glen Ellyn Bible Church in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. He and his wife, Kari, have been married for 15 years and have five children. When he’s not at the church or chasing his kids around, John enjoys running, biking, and competing in triathlons.