Elders serve as under shepherds (i.e. they serve under the authority of the Chief Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus). Called by God, equipped by his Spirit and elected by the congregation, they provide oversight of the congregation by teaching, overseeing, leading, protecting and exercising discipline in the local church.
Particular responsibilities of elders as laid out in Scripture include:
- Teaching both publicly (1Tim 3:2) and privately (Acts 20:20)
- Governing, or ‘ruling’, over the affairs of the church (Numbers 11:16-30)
- Caring for the needs of the individual members of the church (Acts 20:28, 1Tim 5:1-16). This includes both pastoral care and church discipline.
- Guarding the church against false doctrine, false teachers, conflict, immorality and error. (Acts 20:29-31, 1Tim 1:3-7, 2Tim 3:3-4, Titus 1:10-14)
- Participating in the life and ministry of the Presbytery and General Assembly (Acts 15)
Qualifications for elders are found in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1. At First Presbyterian, elders are nominated by the congregation in August. Nominees then go through a 4 month training and discernment process before being approved for election by the congregation in December. Elders serve 3 year terms.
The office of deacon is one of compassion, concern for needs, and of serving others. As our denomination’s book of church order states, “The first duty of the deacon is sympathy and service.” Acts 6 is appropriately seen as the “birth” of the diaconate. As the early church grows and pressing daily needs threaten to overwhelm the elders, deacons are chosen that they might address the daily needs of the believers. This is a vital task as we read in verse 7 – “And the word of God continued to increase, and the numbers of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem….”
Particular responsibilities of the deacon include:
- Caring for the needs of members in joy and in sorrow – providing meals, visitation, etc…
- Overseeing church finances and organizing the church budget
- Maintaining and repairing the church building and grounds that the worship of God might continue without interruption.
Qualifications for deacons are found in 1Timothy 3. At First Presbyterian, deacons are nominated by the congregation in August. Nominees then go through a 4 month training and discernment process before being approved for election by the congregation in December. Deacons serve 3 year terms.