I just finished reading (too long delayed, I know, I know) John Sittema’s wonderful book on the shepherd’s heart. One of the most interesting points he makes (and which convicted me no end) was his description of what elders’ meetings ought to model. He gave a description of a normal business-related model of session meetings (prayer, reading of minutes, old business, new business, reading of concept minutes, adjournment). He says that this should not be characteristic of most session meetings. Most session meetings should be about doing the ministry. His model involves training/study, pastoral consultation, and prayer (see pp. 233-234). Prayer, by the way, is not some adjunct to the ministry. Some people actually call prayer the work of ministry. Word and prayer constituted the work of the apostles (Acts 6). That’s why deacons became a reality. The elders did NOT want to do “business” of the church, if that meant administrative stuff. They wanted to devote themselves to word and prayer. Sittema argues that the session meetings should be a tool that helps equip the elders for the work of ministry. Most of the time, the meetings are seen AS the work of the ministry. Not so, according to Sittema! If some aspects of business are required to be examined, there should be a separate meeting for it. I was really excited, frankly, when I read this part. I am excited to start implementing this kind of idea.
What we need in churches today are elders that will be pastors, not business directors of the church that only define and govern the general direction of the church. There needs to be training in this area, and the session meetings are surely the place to do this.