Few relationships are as important in God's cause as teamwork. Before Pentecost the disciples were only a group; after Pentecost they were a team. It was the team spirit in the apostolic church that made that it invincible. The pastor and elders need to spend time and energy together to develop a team spirit to better lead the congregation. Having regular meetings with elders and the pastor is the key to creating team attitude.
Is there a need for a monthly meeting of the local board of church elders? Some pastors hold such a meeting regularly, some do not. Is the monthly meeting of the church board adequate to care for the business of a growing church? Is another meeting with the elders simply adding to the demands on one's time? Or is there a purpose for such a meeting to enrich the local church through more effective ministry of its local elders? Would not such lead to closer unity of the entire church, and contribute to a more rapidly maturing church, as well as to the finishing of God's work?
The varied practices that exist in different churches relative to elders' meetings may reflect the fact that the need for and purpose of the elders' meetings have not been included in the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual. The Church Manual does state that the office of elder ranks as "the highest and most important" in the organization of the local church (1995 edition). In light of this, it seems imperative that some organization and possibly some training be instituted to enable the church elders to accomplish their best while serving in the high office entrusted to them by God and the members of the church.
A regular monthly meeting of the board of elders can be a strengthening and unifying factor for the church. First of all, it affords the pastor an opportunity to counsel with a group of mature members whose experiences and dedication can be very valuable to the pastor in finding a way through both routine business and difficult problems. Foolish the elder who risks mistakes in leadership when there is a group of associates in the local church who can assist to find the wisest course of action. Unity, strength, and confidence result where the pastor and elders work together to find the most effective ways of furthering God's work.
If the elders' meeting is scheduled a day or two before the monthly church board meeting, this will give the elders the opportunity to suggest items they feel should be discussed by the board members. Thus the elders participate in the actual planning of the board agenda. If difficult items are to be presented to the board, the pastor can seek guidance and counsel from the elders for the best way to present these items to the church board. I have seen serious clashes avoided because of careful study with the elders beforehand. The danger that some might see here is an attempt by the pastor and elders to "railroad" an item through the board meeting. This is, of course, something that will be avoided in Christian church leadership.
The elders' meeting is the place for making assignments in connection with their work. Sabbath platform schedules can be discussed and agreed upon. Another important function that should be part of the regular meeting of the elders is one generally overlooked. If the elders are to work at peak efficiency, certain items of training should become a regular part of the agenda. This might take only ten or fifteen minutes per meeting and would not have to be included every month. But the local elders' service in areas such as: (1) How to handle the announcements properly, especially last moment items; (2) How to pray in public; (3) How to call for the offering; (4) What to include in the benediction; (5) How to visit a non-member or backsliding member; (6) A layman's course in homiletics. There are many areas pertinent to the elders' service that can be strengthened in these brief training sessions.
Where the church is very small and there are perhaps only two or three elders, it would be well for the pastor to meet with them on a regular basis to plan the work together.
Certainly, the regular monthly elders' meeting is crucial to a well-functioning church. The first step toward recognizing the need for conducting such meetings regularly is understanding that the elders and pastors must work together as an effective team for the furtherance of the work of God's church. When this is recognized, the need to continue this important counseling and training session will be evident, and will produce positive results.