Most Adventist pastors around the world lead multi-church districts that vary in size from 5 to 30 congregations. What challenges these leaders have in providing adequate pastoral care! The district leader must develop skills in delegation, training, and administration to maximize lay leadership, particularly that of local church elders.
The training of local elders can be accomplished through a number of means. Most important is the modeling of the pastors themselves. With God's help they must be what the elders should become, manifesting a burden for preaching, nurturing, evangelism, Christian education, and the care of church property.
Specialized instruction needed
Local elders also need specialized instruction in every aspect of ministry skills, including:
1. How to conduct a committee meeting,
2. Sermon preparation and preaching,
3. Personal and public evangelism,
4. How to make visiting more effective,
5. How to strengthen the departments of the church,
6. Care of church property,
7. Deeper understanding of the Adventist message,
8. Nurture of new converts.
The 1991 General Conference Annual Council recommended that local conferences/missions conduct a minimum of one training seminar each year for pastors and local lay elders. Churches should cover the travel expense of their lay leaders attending this meeting.
Locally, the pastor should plan a monthly or bimonthly meeting with all the local elders of the district. Along with providing training, the pastor can lay plans with the elders for the district as a whole as well as for each congregation. These plans include evangelism, visitation, sermon topics, and district and local congregation goals.
Quarterly district meetings
The quarterly district meeting is very successful in parts of Asia and Africa. Where convenient, the entire district membership meets in one of the churches. This provides opportunities for worship and fellowship, forming a spiritual bond between pastor and members.
At these quarterly meetings the lay leaders of the district can also meet with the pastor to formulate plans for coordinated evangelism, including entering unreached villages in their territory. These times together should not be dominated by the pastor. Lay elders in large districts are used to being involved in leadership, and the quarterly meetings should recognize their capabilities.
The advantages of lay leadership
While there are serious disadvantages to the pastor who must serve a large number of congregations, there are also some decided advantages in the need to depend on the ministry of local lay elders. Evidence for this is the fact that in some world divisions there is a striking correlation between the growth of the church and number of churches the average pastor serves.
Without a pastor living in town, elders and other lay members must take the initiative in local soul winning. When pastors are able to visit, they often find candidates thoroughly prepared for baptism. Such is the fruit of active lay leadership.
Would you accept this candidate as your pastor?
"Gentlemen: Understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for
the position. I have many qualifications. I've been a preacher with much
success and also have some success as a writer. Some say I'm a good organizer.
I've been a leader most places I've been.
"I'm over 50 years of age. I have never preached in one place for more than
three years. In some places, I left town after my work because it caused riots
and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not
because of any real wrong doing.
"My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. The churches
I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities.
"I've not gotten along well with religious leaders in towns where I have
preached. In fact, some have threatened me and even attacked me physically.
I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I
"However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you."
Signed, "The Apostle Paul."