Elders and Ministers: Working and Praying Together

Earlier this year the Barna Group published a major report on the status of ministers. [1] The report is full of great information, challenging insights, and valuable data that would help congregational leadership teams support and empower their ministers. One small section of the report focused on elder-minister relationships, and I want to highlight some of Barna’s discoveries.

Most ministers report that they have positive perceptions of the relationship between themselves and elder teams. However, there are some other indicators that suggest some critical weaknesses. Namely, only 44% of ministers surveyed noted that the relationship between elders and ministers is a “powerful” one and only 34% said that they engage in “frequent prayer together.”

If only 1 in 3 ministers can say that they pray regularly with elders, and only 4 in 10 ministers have solid relationships with their elders, then it is no small wonder that many churches are in decline or are struggling with mission and the future. The Barna report cites a research project in Scotland that highlights this point. Researchers discovered that churches that pray missionally and make prayer an integral part of their mission are more likely to be growing churches. Indeed, the leading difference in this particular survey between growing churches and churches that are flat or declining is praying specifically “for the challenges of living faithfully in a post-Christian culture.” [2]

Additionally, larger churches (250 members or larger) are twice as likely as smaller churches to have a strong partnership between elders and ministers. Likewise, ministers are much less likely to burn out in contexts where ministers and elders are working well together, where ministers are truly appreciated by elders, and there is clear decision-making authority.

All of these factors suggest how critical it is for ministers and elders to work together collaboratively and to spend a great deal of time in prayer. What steps might you take in your congregation to foster strong and prayerful relationships among your elders and ministers?

[1] The State of Pastors: How Today’s Faith Leaders are Navigating Life and Leadership in an Age of Complexity. Barna, 2017.
[2] Ibid, 70.


Dr. Carson Reed is Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the Director for the Doctor of Ministry Program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work with congregations and church leaders across the country. His teaching and research centers on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married for over 30 years and have four grown children.
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Author:  Publish Date: August 24, 2017

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