Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The top ten responsibilities of the Session

The top ten responsibilities of the Session:
"Whenever I ask our young people a rhetorical question at the time for the Children’s Sermon during the service of worship several of them inevitably give the answer “Jesus.” No matter what I ask, the response is the same. Presumably they have learned that the odds are good that he is the right answer to almost any query. Somewhat similarly, when I lead officer training workshops in our presbytery and around the country I always ask new elders, deacons, and trustees to give a singular answer to this question: What duties of the church belong to the session? “All of them” is usually the right answer since the session has to make decisions on most matters that concern the life and work of the local church unless they are specifically given to the pastor or to some other governing body.

What are the top ten responsibilities of the session?


Top Ten Session Responsibilities

1. Evangelism
2. Mission and Justice
3. Worship
4. Education
5. Stewardship
6. Finance
7. Transformation
8. Administration
9. Higher Governing Bodies
10. Ecumenical Relationships

Earl S. Johnson, pastor of First Church of Johnstown, NY, has finished a 6 part series on "What is a Presbyterian Elder?" In this installment he looks at the Book of Order and its treatment of the responsibilities of an elder.

Having served on Session for 3 terms over a span of 30-some years, I can say that a better job can be done as far as elder training is concerned. All too often new elders are given a Book of Order and a short class in how a Session operates. It sounds like elders at First Church, Johnstown, NY get a comprehensive orientation to their functions.

I have a book, courtesy of my mother, called Presbyterian Polity for Church Officers, which I read last year. It tells a lot about the polity of the church, from the local congregation on through the General Assembly. The title is linked to Amazon.Com, and its price of $17.95 is reasonable. It might be a good investment for congregations to ensure each new elder has a copy.

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Pastor Lance said...

The top of my list of Session responsibilities would be “to be the spiritual leaders of the congregation.” As a group they need to be studying the Bible, spending time in prayer for the congregation, seeking the Lord’s direction for the church in the near term and into the future and setting the vision for the ministries of the church.

If the session is not going to be the spiritual leaders of the congregation then who will be?

Denis Hancock said...

I quite agree.

Looking at Earl Johnson's listing it appears that the first 5 could be lumped together under "Spiritual Leadership", and the last 5 could be considered "Temporal Leadership"

I suspect, though, that many (most?) elders do not see themselves personally as spiritual leaders, but see that as a corporate role of the Session.

Personally, I see all members as being spiritual leaders in one way or another, but the elders are set apart for special service, and shoud be setting the standard.

Michael W. Kruse said...

I haven't had a chance (yet) to go read the series but my concern would be that it is not the responsibility of the session to DO many of the things on the list. It is the responsibility of the elders to EQUIP others to do those things.

Denis Hancock said...

Hi Mike: I was wondering if you'd sniff out this conversation. I know it is a topic you given a lot of thought to over the years.

I think good leaders are, by-and-large, those who DO help to equip others for service.

But those who can't (or won't) perform duties similar to Johnson's "top ten" list are unlikely to equip others for that kind of leadership.

Thanks both of you for lending your insights to this topic.