Seven Secrets of a Great Elder Chair

Seven Secrets of a Great Elder Chair
Thomas Thompson
April 12, 2022
min read

High Functioning Elder Boards have 5 Marks (Read more here).  One of these marks is that they follow a High Functioning Elder Chair.

The Chair of the Elders can make or break a board.  This makes the Elder Chair worth a Pastor’s consistent, intentional investment.

And while it is foundational to invest in their spiritual and theological growth, that is also often pretty apparent.  What may fly under the radar are these 7 secrets of a great Elder Chair:

SECRET #1:  “I partner with the Pastor to develop a good agenda and distribute all material prior to the meeting.”

  • This means a meeting before the meeting.  Preferably with the Vice-Chair.  
  • The agenda needs clarity around what Board actions are to be taken.  Is this item about INFORMING or APPROVING? 
  • Is there reading/review required before the meeting?  How do you handle the Elder who consistently doesn't read the material?
  • What is the meeting planning like with you and the Pastor?

SECRET #2:  “I am diligent to turn our discussions into actionable items with dates and who is responsible.”

  • Conversations don’t just go on and on–they drive towards conclusion.
  • We don’t leave until we know what is to be done and who is to do it.
  • It falls on the Chair, not the Pastor, to make sure Elders do their jobs.
  • How are you moving discussions into actions?

SECRET #3:  “I follow up on Elders in between meetings.”

  • Set reminders for yourself to follow up on assigned actions.
  • Pursue Elders who are struggling to stay up on readings, assignments, attendance. 
  • Consider personal investment (coffee/lunch) with one Elder a month.
  • What is your investment in your Elders in between meetings?

SECRET #4:  “I lead voting moments wisely and well.”

  • Don’t cast your vote unless a tie-breaker is needed.
  • Consider adopting this rule:  Non-attending = abstaining.  There is power in being in a room together where the Holy Spirit is present.  Many times I have walked into a room ready to vote one way, but my respect and trust in fellow Elders--and the conversation that happened in the room--has swayed my vote. It seemed good to us AND the Holy Spirit...
  • Never use unanimous votes.  Certainly, dissenting votes should give pause and even delay voting.  But making every vote unanimous means one dissenter in effect runs the entire Board.
  • How strong are you on leading good votes?

SECRET #5:  “I drive and lead good meetings.”

  • Meetings must matter.  What is at stake that makes me not want to miss this meeting?
  • Meetings begin and end on time.
  • Meetings allow for prayer and personal connection. 
  • The gold standard for leading better meetings is Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.
  • What have you done to sharpen your meeting skills in the last year?

SECRET #6:  “It falls on me, not the Pastor, to help Elders evaluate themselves on an ongoing basis.”

  • Each Elder has a clear job description with expectations. 
  • A self-evaluation is scheduled an annual basis around these expectations.
  • The Chair meets with Elders who are underperforming to move them forward…or help them move off.
  • Who is holding the Board accountable to perform at their best?

SECRET #7:  “I am in it to win it with the Pastor.”

  • The Pastor leads the staff, the Chair leads the Board; together the Pastor and the Chair partner to serve the Church in these ways.
  • The Chair is actively involved with the Senior Pastor in carrying out the vision of church among Elders.
  • This relationship is key and requires time and intentionality.
  • How can you come alongside and support your Pastor in this next season?

As you can see, these “secrets” aren’t hard to find.  But they are often hard to implement. 

Which secret could you lean into to become a truly great Elder Chair? I'd love to talk with you more about that. Shoot me an email and let's start investing in your Elder Chair today.

Photo by Brusk Dede on Unsplash

I founded Thompson Leadership to come alongside leaders like you. Together, we will unpack your unique leadership, unearth your biggest challenge, and create an action plan to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
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