The board of elders in a Presbyterian Church is called a Session. It consists of the pastor, any associate pastors, and the actively serving ruling elders, all of whom have been called, elected, and installed by the congregation. The senior pastor serves as the moderator of the Session, which collectively bears responsibility for overseeing the life and ministry of the church. Each Session oversees one congregation and is itself accountable to the local Presbytery.
Our denomination’s Book of Church Order stipulates that Sessions must meet at least quarterly, but our Session meets on the first Thursday of each month (because after all, who can have enough evening meetings?). We elect a clerk to take minutes and occasionally call special meetings if there are important matters to discuss and pray about.
But what does a typical Session meeting look like?
Each meeting begins with the reading of Scripture. Just as with our public worship services, we desire God to have the “first, middle, and last word” in all of our gatherings. We then pray briefly for our time together and for the leading of His Spirit.
After reviewing and approving the minutes from any subsequent meetings, we discuss the monthly financial report. The deacons review our monthly financial statements as well, but this is part of our redundant accountability structure that insures all such matters are overseen by a plurality of elected officers. The group then reviews and discusses the written reports of both pastors and our youth director. These reports summarize ministry that has taken place over the previous month, provide updates on projects in process, and in general offer monthly accountability for the Church’s full-time staff.
The ruling elders then provide updates on the members of their shepherding groups and report on contacts they have made. We discuss the various needs and rejoice in good news, the whole being followed by a season of unrushed prayer. This agenda item occupies a fair portion of our time together (perhaps 45 minutes of a 2-3 hour meeting) but is a priority given our commitment to our primary role as shepherds under Christ.
The Session then reviews and approves minutes from the various committees of the church, all of whom are requested to submit them within a week or two of their respective gatherings. This is an important communicational tool that allows us to stay abreast of what the Lord is doing in the church as well as to offer our support through prayer, guidance, and assistance with specific questions.
The meeting then covers a variety of old and new business pertaining to the life of the church. Examples include reviewing the church’s ministries and overall direction in light of our mission statement, planning for major future events and initiatives, discussing matters of particular pastoral need, identifying and approving volunteers to serve on committees, receiving and dismissing church members, examining men for potential election as officers, and discussing and debating new ideas for how we may grow together in worship and service as a congregation. Even though some of the matters we address are very serious and are handled as such, we frequently enjoy times of good-natured laughter with thanksgiving for the honor of serving together.
Our meeting then concludes with a brief prayer highlighting the main points we have discussed, and we adjourn in dependence on God for His care and keeping. We put the tables back where we found them, turn off the lights, lock the doors, and trust that even as we sleep, the Master Gardener is bringing forth fruit from the ministry of His Word (Mark 4:26-29).
Thank you for assisting us in our work through your prayers and many expressions of encouragement. Please especially remember us on the first Thursday of the month, asking the Great Shepherd to protect, guide, feed, and empower His flock in Harleysville for His glory!