I didn’t grow up Presbyterian. What does it mean that GPC has elders and deacons?
Excellent question! All churches have volunteer leaders. Presbyterians call our leaders elders (who make up a group called the session) and deacons (who become the Board of Deacons.) Presbyterians are unique in ordaining lay people, in the same way we ordain pastors, to particular service to the church. We believe God calls people to this work, based on their skills, spiritual maturity and the way they live out their faith. Both kinds of leadership come from the very early days of the church.
Elders are the governing board of the church. They are responsible for the spiritual and physical oversight of the church, including worship, mission, money and education.
Deacons have a ministry of service, to the congregation and to the wider world. A deacon once told me that Presbyterians have “working deacons,” unlike denominations where the office of deacon is mostly honorary.
Elders and deacons are elected to three year terms. The Book of Order allows for them to serve two terms in a row. It’s the tradition in this congregation to let people step down after one term, so other people can rotate into leadership. No job in the church is supposed to be a lifetime appointment, so we benefit from a variety of gifts, and a variety of viewpoints.
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