Oscar E. Gonzalez is the Secretary of the Alto Magdalena Conference in Colombia, South America.

"Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor" 1 Tim. 5:17

Do not dispute with your pastor. The church recognizes the pastor as the spiritual leader. When the congregation perceives that there is rivalry between the elder and the pastor, church members will not get involved in the activities being promoted. Support one another.

Preach with authority. Remember Paul’s counsel that you should preach well the word of truth. Your mission is to feed the flock. Prepare your sermons well. Write them out but do not read them to the congregation. Determine the purpose and objectives of the sermon by asking, “What do I want the congregation to learn from this sermon?”

Do not have an independent program. No one likes a loose wheel. Coordinate with the pastor, including during emergencies. He or she may delegate authority to lead a committee meeting. Share your good ideas so that you may receive support from other leaders.

Cooperate in developing a preaching schedule. Recommend names that could be included. Visit other congregations.

Do pastoral visitation. Prepare a weekly list of priorities for visitation (discouraged, ill, baptismal candidates, grieving, etc). Coordinate this task with other elders. Be careful not to turn your visit into a social call. Explain the reason for your visit when you arrive; it will help you to follow through with your plan.

Delegate responsibility. Most church members are ready to cooperate in some way. Try to involve as many people as possible. Remember, however, that not everyone is good at everything. Many complain about lack of cooperation, but the problem is that one person wants to do it all. A good elder is someone who puts others to work for the church.

Coordinate with other elders. Prepare a schedule for the elders, including: visitation, announcements, platform assignments, offering count, ceremony participation, etc. Publish a copy of this schedule in the church bulletin.

Promote reverence in church. Keep tabs on the places of the least-reverent places (restrooms, parking lot, side doors, main doors, classrooms) and prepare a plan of action to involve disruptive members in church activities.

Treat others with respect. Avoid extreme intimacy. The church looks to you as an example of spirituality, and your careless behavior, especially with the members of the opposite sex, will diminish your authority. The church suffers when inappropriate situations arise.

Your family is your ministerial support. Make an effort to consecrate your family to the Lord. Nothing hurts your leadership before the church more than when your spouse and children are indifferent to spiritual matters. Remember, family worship is your responsibility.

Be organized when leading committee meetings. Prepare an agenda. Put the most important subjects at the beginning and the most controversial at the end. Take votes on any changes. Do not mention subjects that are going to be discussed before formally beginning the meeting. Meetings that are too long are generally unproductive.

Dedicate time for study. The congregation will notice when you have not dedicated time to Bible study and sermon preparation. Support your subject with writings from the Spirit of Prophecy. Keep yourself informed about the latest events, but do not allow this research to replace Bible study.

Don’t be afraid of technology. Even if you are not an expert, you may ask someone who handles technological resources to liven up your meetings. The church makes great investments, and you should use their material.

Be a missionary. Promote and participate in reaching people. An elder who never gives a Bible study will soon stop being an elder. Involve others in the job. The joy of leading someone to Jesus is incomparable.

Dedicate time to prayer. The congregation will rarely exceed the spirituality of its leader. The time you dedicate to personal prayer and communion with God will in many ways reveal your level of spirituality. Prayer is the breath of the elder’s soul.

Be attentive to recommendations. Be firm, not inflexible. You exert authority in the church, but you are not infallible. Do not lock yourself in your convictions; listen and honestly evaluate other people’s opinions. Criticism often helps us to improve.

Do not fear change. Allow those who wish to, to make a change in the regular program. A small change in the church liturgy does not mean we are in sin. Break the routine and the monotony without falling into secularism.

Be careful with your personal appearance. The garment does not make the monk, but it identifies him. The way you dress says a lot about you. Do not pretend to show humbleness by dressing in a careless way. Always come to church in appropriate attire. Avoid shirts in showy colors when sitting on the platform. Keep your shoes clean.

Be faithful in tithes and offerings. Your loyalty to the church will be seen through your monetary contributions. You are a congregational leader, and your financial support is fundamental. Faithfulness in this matter is taught by example.

Speak well of your leaders. Do not get involved in vain rumors and gossip. Do not feed people’sunconformities, expressing doubts about other leaders. Do not instigate factions and parties within the congregation.

Be prudent when counseling. Before dealing with a problem, ask yourself if it is your responsibility. Deal with controversial subjects in tandem with the pastor. This will make the church members trust you. Avoid making decisions for the person you are counseling; instead, prepare a list of pros and cons of the various options and let the person make the final decision.

Ennoble your office. The best moment to show spiritual maturity is when facing trouble. The Lord has called you, through the church, to a responsibility; give it the credit it deserves. Consecrate yourself to the Lord and allow Him to work through you to benefit the people getting ready for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Oscar E. Gonzalez is the Secretary of the Alto Magdalena Conference in Colombia, South America.


The Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists expresses our appreciation and gratitude for the ministry of Pastor James A. Cress, Ministerial Secretary at the world headquarters for the past 17 years. During his leadership he developed an extraordinary ministry of equipping, training, and inspiring pastors, their spouses, and families around the world.

He was a great leader, good friend, loving person, wise mentor, and faithful colleague. He was a pastor par excellence and a man of God!

We have lost our colleague in ministry—but only temporarily. We have the assurance and the great hope that very soon we will meet Jim again when Jesus Christ returns.

Until that wonderful resurrection day, we will continue to find great comfort and strength in Jesus and endeavor to build upon the legacy of James A. Cress.

Yours in the blessed hope, 

The Ministerial Association
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists


Jim’s dream was that every clergy spouse who desired to be involved in team ministry would be given the opportunity. His passion for this choice was demonstrated throughout his life by his continued devotion to the cause. Funds have not been available for this to be implemented in most parts of the world.

Therefore, contributions to his dream should be sent to:

c/o GC Ministerial Association/G.Massenburg
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, Maryland 20904