A culture of Honour
Harmony and mutual honouring are vital ingredients for a successful working relationship between elders and trustees. Where there is tension, or competitiveness for authority or recognition, there is discord, which does not honour God.

I chaired the trust for the Church of Christ the King in Brighton for over 30 years and was an elder for about 25 of those years. Throughout that time I sought to lead the trustees with an attitude of support and honouring of the elders while not shying away from asking penetrating questions. I felt this was the best way to serve the eldership; we could be a sounding board on which vision and values could be developed. With our expertise we could enrich and strengthen their decision-making with knowledge and skills that would not otherwise have been available to them. But we were neither managers of the church nor merely ‘rubber stamps’ to the elders’ decisions.

Faith – not optimism
One of the areas in which I most enjoyed my time in these roles was in the exercise of faith for finances. As a trustee I saw my role as being one of ensuring that the elders fully understood the financial consequences of strategy they were setting and plans they were making. I did not allow ‘faith’ to hinder the presentation of facts – if the budget did not ‘add up’ I made that clear. However, once I was confident that the elders understood the financial challenges any course of action might present, and were genuinely in faith (not optimism) that God would provide, I loved joining them in prayer to exercise that faith and see the provision come about. We had a wonderful history we had of seeing God provide on many occasions!

For elders and trustees to flow well together there should be robust harmony. This calls for spiritual maturity by all concerned to prevent opinions being expressed inappropriately and without humility. It must be acknowledged that all are moving in the same direction towards the same goal and the only discussion is around the route and resources to get there.

I like the analogy in the excellent paper “Guide to churches on spiritual leadership and trustees” produced by Stewardship. There the writer takes the analogy of a vessel at sea. The elders define the destination and then together they and the trustees chart the course and obtain the resources etc.

Division or Discord?
A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matt 12:25). That is a principle which certainly applies to the church. The relationship between elders and trustees must be carefully nurtured and safeguarded. Working in harmony and with honour one to the other is a recipe for a strong church which honours the Lord. The alternative is discord and dislocation.

Elders are the spiritual, God-anointed and God-appointed leaders of the local church, the Kingdom-demonstrating change agent in the community. A charity is the world’s system to ensure that publicly donated funds are used for the charitable purposes specified. These two over-lapping entities, the church and the charity, can either be seen as being in competition, or they can work together in harmony for greater fruitfulness.

Represented by the elders and trustees respectively, the harmonious working of these two legal entities can only be realised if there is a mutual determination to achieve the best-of-the-best from both. But there is a choice. They can either be in conflict or they can support one another. It is for the elders and trustees to choose by their attitudes and actions which path to take. I earnestly urge you to choose the latter. That will bring glory to God.


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