(Updated May 13, 2019)
This is a question I’ve gotten off and on at various times over the last 6 months or so, and have been intending to whip up a full explanation to provide some additional clarity. First, some context…
Where we’re headed: “Particularization”
As a Presbyterian church, we believe that the most biblical form of church government is elder-led (“Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word for “elder”). In our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), a church plant becomes an established church when its first group of elders are nominated, trained, and ordained. (For more info on this process or what it means to be a church in the PCA, come to our next Membership Class this Fall!)
That process is lengthy and requires both a critical mass and a level of stability in order to do well. Inducting our first class of members last May was a massive step in that direction, but we are aiming for Particularization sometime in the Fall of 2021 (which would still be 1-2 years ahead of schedule for a church plant like ours).
Where we’ve been: Rapid Initial Growth
In August 2016, our launch team of 40ish people doubled in size within the first 3 months after launch, and by Easter 2017 over 120 people called The Table their church home. To say that growth has been “unexpected” is an understatement! We had no idea The Table’s vision would gain so much traction so early, and were thus initially caught flat-footed in more ways than one! More people meant needing more pastoral leaders to both help care for those families God brought to The Table, and help us continue to reach our Neighbors at the same time.
While we do have denominational and financial oversight through the Session (what the PCA calls each church’s board of elders) at Rocky Mountain Presbyterian Church in Westminster, those elders are not involved in our day-to-day ministry (nor could they be!). They don’t know our specific context, our specific people, or our specific vision. They just are not in the place to provide that kind of leadership.
Thus, in the spring of 2016 I invited a couple mature leaders who demonstrate elder-like qualities to step up into what we dubbed the “Pastoral Team,” as a temporary, 3-4 year stop-gap until we’re able to go through an elder training process. Current active members include Adam Argo, Rocky Dunlap, Jeremy Gillespie, and Ken Harris (invited Spring 2019 on an initial trial basis to make sure it’s a good fit for both him and us), plus myself. As an ordained Pastor whom we are developing and teaching over the next 2 years how to plant a church using similar creative solutions, our Church Planting Resident (Justin Chappell) has a "view" and a "voice" on the team, but not a "vote" (since his time with us has always had a planned end-date).
This decision has turned out to have had a massive impact: as of this update, we have over 120 people in Cohorts, our average Sunday attendance this Spring has been over 170 (adults + children), and this team has been shepherding every step of the way!
If you haven’t heard about this until now, it’s because we've been busy enough simply functioning as a Pastoral Team that communicating it has taken a back burner (albeit, for too long).
Where we are now: Pastoral Team Roles & Responsibilities
Much like an engaged couple should start “practicing” being married long before they formally tie the knot, it is good for us to function, as much as we are able, as a Presbyterian (elder-led) church as early as possible. Both individually and as a team, the Pastoral Team functions as unofficial/unordained elders with the following responsibilities:
Provide additional perspective on vision, strategy, and some key leadership decisions to make sure we aren’t operating in an echo chamber…
Help carry the responsibility of shepherding those who are hurting and need more acute or long-term care from church leadership…
Steward The Table’s vision and help instill it into every area of ministry, both by personal example and direct leadership…
Maintain accountability for finances, budgeting, and ministry alignment with strategic goals…
None of those on the Pastoral Team are guaranteed or fast-tracked for being an elder at The Table. They will all have to go through the exact same process as everyone else. In fact, doctrinal differences (e.g. infant baptism) may preclude one or more of them from being ordained as an elder when that time comes, but they are happy to serve in this role anyway!
And I don’t want to rush past that last part… It is that kind of sacrificial posture and not-for-my-glory humility that qualifies each of them for this role. The leaders listed above were specifically invited to share this responsibility because they have already been demonstrating a character, competency, and capacity for it through their commitment to The Table. They don’t only “get it,” they also “do it” already and bring people along with them - not because they were asked to do so, but because they live and breathe what Christ has called our church to be: the flourishing presence of Jesus in every sphere of life.
All that said, if you have any questions not covered here, please know you can always reach out to me (Brad) or any other member of the Pastoral Team! Until we train and ordain our first elders, consider the Pastoral Team to be who you can take any care or shepherding need to, especially if you aren't sure where else to turn. That is (literally) what we're here for!