James H. Zachary was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the first editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

Most Adventist pastors around the world lead multichurch districts that vary in size from 5-30 congregations. What challenges these leaders have in providing adequate pastoral care! The district leadership must develop skills in delegation, training, and administration to maximize lay leadership, particularly that of local church elders.

The training of local elders can be accomplished in many ways. Most important is the modeling of the pastors themselves. With God’s help they must be what the elders should become, manifesting a burden for preaching, nurturing, evangelism, Christian education, and the care of church property


Local elders also need specialized instruction in every aspect of ministry, including:

• How to conduct a committee meeting
• Sermon preparation and preaching
• Personal and public evangelism
• How to make visiting more effective
• How to strengthen the departments of the church
• Care of church property
• A deeper understanding of the Adventist message
• Nurture of new converts


The 1991 General Conference Annual Council recommended that local conferences/missions conduct a minimum of one training seminar each year for pastors and local elders. Churches should cover the travel expenses of their lay leaders who attend this meeting.

Locally, the pastor should plan a monthly or bimonthly meeting with all local elders of the district. In addition to training, the pastor can make plans with the elders for the district as a whole as well as for each congregation. These plans include evangelism, visitation, sermon topics, and district and local congregational goals.


The quarterly district meeting is very successful in parts of Asia and Africa. Where convenient, the entire district membership meets in one of the churches. This provides opportunities for worship and fellowship, forming a spiritual bond between the pastor and the church members. At these quarterly meetings, the lay leaders of the district can also meet with the pastor to formulate plans for coordinated evangelism, including entering unreached villages in their territory.

These times together should not be dominated by the pastor. Lay elders in large districts are use to being involved in leadership, and the quarterly meetings should recognize their capabilities.


While the pastor who serves multiple congregations faces many challenges, there are some decided advantages in the need to depend on the ministry of local elders. For example, in some world divisions, there is a striking correlation between the growth of the church and the number of churches the average pastor serves.

Without a pastor living in town, elders and other members must take the initiative in local soul-winning. When pastors are able to visit, they often find candidates thoroughly prepared for baptism. Such is the fruit of active lay leadership.

Walton Whaley with J. H. Zachary This article was first printed in Ministry, September 1993.