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The Role of Elder at Journey of Faith

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The Role of Elder at Journey of Faith

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Jason Cusick

In a recent ENEWS, Pastor Jason talked about how we work as teams at Journey of Faith. We got great responses from that article along with a lot of really good questions about how leadership happens at Journey of Faith. So, we sat down with Chip Adams, our new Lead Elder and asked him to say more about leadership, decision-making, and how we fulfill our mission as a church…

Chip, how long have you been at Journey of Faith? And how long have you been an elder?

My family and I have been at Journey of Faith for almost 12 years. I met my wife at a small church that met at a Holiday Inn in Torrance. I had known the Pastor of that church for over ten years and served on his leadership team for a few years. We came to Journey and immediately got plugged into Children’s Ministry. Our children were so blessed by the Children’s Ministry we felt obligated to help. But God turned that from an obligation to a ministry. We were leading small groups and teaching an occasional lesson or two. We served in Children’s Ministry for over seven years. Highlights have been three trips up to Wagon Train at Hume Lake spending a week of fun with a bunch of energetic kids and forming long-lasting friendships with other counselors.

I am now in the third year of my five-year term on the Board of Elders. I am humbled to be serving as the Chair this year.

What does it mean to be an “elder?”

Though most of us do, you don’t have to have grey hair or be bald to be an elder. The term “elder” comes from  1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1 in the New Testament. Both list qualities of an elder. One of my first assignments in the vetting process was to describe how I live up to the qualities listed in 1 Timothy. That was an extremely long and humbling experience and made me reflect on my relationship with God and how that relationship is manifested in service, family, parenting and my career.

According to the Bible, what does an “elder” do?

Titus describes an elder as one who “manages God’s household.” Titus also says that an Elder “can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” This general description is used to further refine the duties of an Elder in each church. You’ll find that Elders at different churches have different specific roles depending on the size and needs of the church.

So, what’s the role of an “elder” at Journey of Faith?

First and foremost, we are servants of God. We all want God’s will for Journey of Faith and the congregation. In that, the Elders have a few different functions. Journey has a set of by-laws that require things like membership and the budget be approved by the Elder board. We also may be asked to assist in other needs such as prayer and involvement in committees.

Our primary responsibility is to oversee the spiritual health, mission, vision, and values of Journey in a way that supports our Core Beliefs. We work closely with you, the Lead Pastor, to do this, which is why the church’s by-laws make the Lead Pastor a member of the Elder board.

We try to stay out of the details. At Journey, we have a dedicated group of gifted and talented people – our staff. Our staff is made up of a team that God has called to serve at Journey of Faith. They have the education, experience, and expertise needed to execute God’s vision. They take care of the details. The Elders provide boundaries, structure, and guidelines within which staff can fulfill the mission for the church. We sometimes refer to this area within these boundaries as a “sandbox” in which staff operates.

Can you tell us more about the sandbox?

Our sandbox has four boundaries. We call them the 4 B’s…

On one side you’ll find our Beliefs. These are the Core Beliefs. Our Core Beliefs serve as the foundation of everything we do, including every message taught at Journey. We may have different views on secondary theological issues, but the core beliefs are what we all agree on. You can find WHAT WE BELIEVE on our website.

On another side, you’ll find our by-laws. These are the governing guidelines for us to legally operate as a church and organization. They define how we govern ourselves as a church non-profit. We are always making sure we are in compliance with our by-laws.

On the third side is our Budget. God has blessed us with a generous congregation. We want to be godly stewards of our resources. The staff works hard to develop a responsible budget that supports the mission of Journey of Faith. The elders are responsible for approving the budget each year, and monitoring the financial health of the church based on the approved budget.

The fourth side of the sandbox is what we call Big Picture – our mission, values, and any large church initiatives. For example, three years ago we started planning to move from being a single campus church to a multisite church. This big-picture decision came to us as elders first. We prayed, discussed, looked at what this would involve and empowered staff to move forward.

Maintaining these boundaries of the sandbox is an awesome responsibility that we do not hold lightly or take for granted. I am continually humbled having the opportunity to serve in this manner.

How involved are you in day-to-day decision making at the church?

The day-to-day decisions you’re probably referring to are made by staff. We stay out of the weeds and focus on the bigger picture – going back to the boundaries of the sandbox. You keep us informed of the successes and challenges staff is facing, and what God is doing in the church. You and staff come to us when you need guidance.

There are occasions where we do get into the sandbox with staff. I have greatly appreciated how you and staff request our feedback and guidance on difficult decisions you have to make, not because you have to, but because you want our involvement and want to keep us informed. Including more wisdom from different perspectives adds great value to the outcome.

Do you ever disagree with each other?

We are a diverse group. We all hold to the Core Beliefs but often bring to the team different perspectives and experiences. I love the way we are able to discuss our different opinions and feelings on an issue with total respect for each other. We bring all of this together, have a great discussion and come to an agreement on a direction to take. I have really enjoyed walking with you and the other elders through this process. I have learned so much from all of you.

What’s the difference between the Elder Board and the Executive Team?

The Executive Team is made of specific members of the church staff, including you (Jason). The Executive Team provides day-to-day leadership of the church staff. When Journey was smaller, that duty was held by the Senior Pastor and Executive Pastor. Journey of Faith now serves over 3,000 people at two campuses, and God is doing amazing things with and through our church. So much that a different leadership model was needed to spread responsibilities over a team of gifted women and men. At the moment, this team includes Jill Lewolt, Sharon Peirce, Krista Reyna, Blair Farley, Alex Grahmann, Greg Piken, and you.

How does someone become an elder?

Each Spring a Nominating Committee is formed. They are responsible for gathering names of potential elders from the congregation. The current elders and staff take the list of people gathered by the Committee and consider who might be a good fit for the role. We look for the qualities listed in 1 Timothy: seasoned ministry experience, a passion for the vision of the church, and the ability to lead through change with a calm and patient spirit. Journey has been around for over 100 years. Through that time, we have stayed true to our core beliefs. We have had to constantly implement new methods to reach new generations and effectively teach others about Jesus and God’s love for us. Therefore, we need elders who know how to lead through an environment that is constantly changing and adapting.

What is the most significant thing you have learned while serving as an elder?

Leadership is hard. There are difficult decisions that must be made, even in a church. We have to take time to delve into God’s Word so our decisions are in constant alignment with His Word. We have to continually seek what God wants for Journey of Faith and make decisions that execute His will, not our own. We have to trust ourselves and openly share our thoughts, then come to complete alignment on all of our decisions.

I have learned more about thinking big. By profession, I am an engineer. Engineers are trained to look at details. As an elder, I have to look beyond the details and look ahead without getting bogged down by the details.

How can we be praying for you and all the leaders at Journey of Faith?

Pray first and foremost that we are always doing God’s will and that we are executing His will in love. Pray that God gives us wisdom as we make decisions. Pray that God gives us peace when we are facing change in ways we’ve never experienced before. God will stretch us. Only through refining will we grow, learn and mature.

Chip, thanks for your leadership, prayer, and using your gifts to serve at Journey of Faith.

It’s my pleasure to serve. If anyone has any questions, we can be reached at