For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. -Matthew 18:20
In Presbyterian (PC USA) churches, elders are charged, along with the pastor(s), with the responsibility of ‘governing’ or running the church. The governing body of elders is called the Session. At First Presbyterian, the session is composed of fifteen elders.
Elders are chosen by the congregation. They are “ordained” to their ministry and “installed” to serve a term on the Session. The difference is that their ordination as a leader in the church is permanent, but service on the session is for a specific time period. Here at First Presbyterian, elders serve a three year term. If they serve another term on Session at a later date, they are “installed” to serve in that capacity. Ordination and installation of deacons and elders takes place during worship (normally once a year).
The term “elder” implies age, but a person of any age can be chosen to serve as an elder—even youth. The Book of Order of the PC(USA) tells us that “Elders should be persons of faith, dedication, and good judgment. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel, both within the church and in the world.”(G-6.0106)
What are the responsibilities of Elders?
Elders, individually and as a group, work to support and foster the faith and life of the congregation in which they serve. They work with the pastor to encourage the congregation in worshipping and serving God. They do their utmost to “equip” the congregation for greater missions in the church, community and beyond. In short, their calling as Christians becomes their official responsibility.
In practical terms, the fifteen elders serving on session chair and serve on the committees that run the life of the church, where they are joined with other members of the church. At First Presbyterian Church these committees are Christian Education, Mission and Stewardship, Operations, Fellowship and Evangelism, Property, Technology, and Worship.