High-level Elder Qualifications
All of our elders have had extensive experience in house church planting, and have proven records of raising up other leaders through their personal discipleship ministries. Our elders have a highly active role and significant time commitment as part of their responsibilities.
What Our Elders Do
Dwell elders (i.e., Board of Trustees) set the doctrinal and spiritual standards and the strategic vision for the church. They also assist in tactical implementation of key policies and programs for Dwell. All Dwell elders are responsible to attend two board meetings each month to set church direction and strategic vision. In addition, the elders invest three weeks each year in retreats, sometimes traveling to other churches and ministries in the U.S., to seek out best (and sometimes questionable) church practices while setting concrete vision for Dwell's future. For more details on expectations and qualifications for elders, read about the Roles of a Dwell Elder.
How Are Elders Selected?
The process for electing an elder to the Board of Trustees begins with an announcement of the new candidate to the members of our Servant Team (i.e.,deacons). For a period of at least three months' nomination; the candidate, existing elders and deacons provide feedback on the candidate's fit for office. At a scheduled meeting of the Dwell Servant Team, all deacons in attendance vote on the inclusion of the new candidate as an elder for an established term.
Considerations for Candidacy as Dwell Church Elders
Not all factors relating to readiness for each elder candidate are public information. The following criteria should address most questions regarding the suitability of key leaders in the church for eldership.
First, no current or emerging sphere leader fails to be nominated because of questionable character issues or lack of maturity. They are all fully qualified from that standpoint, since they already meet the biblical character prerequisites for serving in that role. (See Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7.) These character requirements also apply to our division coordinators – but they are precluded from serving as elders due to conflicts-of-interest, regarding budget allocation and prioritization of resources performed by elders that would directly affect their divisions.
Second, to be nominated as an elder, several factors need to converge at the same time. In addition to the essential biblical character requirements:
The eldership of Dwell consists of individuals on staff, and also not on church staff. We will continue to seek the best candidates for the role of elder. When staff are considered for eldership, they will come from the pool of sphere leadership already serving in critical church roles.
- The candidate must have been leading a Central Teaching “sphere” for at least one year and their current sphere must be flourishing.
- The candidate must be comfortable in their leadership role and have the intention of continuing as a sphere leader for the foreseeable future.
- The candidate must yield to open dialogue between sphere leaders and the elders who will make the call about these “readiness” issues. Candidates often need to wait because they are either:
- too new in the role;
- not leading fully developed spheres;
- not yet comfortable in the role;
- lead a sphere that might not be flourishing;
- actively considering a possible calling to different work.
Third, in all cases, we carefully deliberate about candidates so the church can rest assured that everyone has been considered carefully. Any current leaders could make good elders except for one or more of these factors. Of course, it would be improper to disclose the details of these deliberations publicly. We appreciate the trust the church extends to the current elders in making these complicated judgment calls.
Fourth, in addition to these objective factors, some sphere leaders may (in the future) have schedule, geographical, health, or family issues that might lead them (and the elders) to feel that this is not the time for adding another duty to their lives. Since eldership is not a paid position and requires additional hours of volunteer work, this may not be right or best for everyone's situation. We do not pay elders for elder-related work because they serve as trustees of our corporation. Under Ohio law, an elder would be personally liable for any lawsuit against Dwell if they were paid. (We do pay some elders for other duties they perform for the church, but not for their work as elders.)
The motivation for having such extensive criteria is the well-being of the leaders involved as well as the church. It is upsetting to be elected as an elder by the church and then have to step down. Even when the reasons for stepping down are perfectly legitimate, people don't like this experience and wonder what people are thinking. It also takes time to become familiar with all of the issues elders manage and eldership is not the kind of role that is performed well on a short-term basis. We try to avoid asking anyone to become an elder unless we are fairly certain they will be able to serve for some time.
This leads us to be conservative and as sure as possible before nominating someone to eldership. We would rather wait if we are in any doubt about the timing of the nomination. We will almost certainly nominate other elders in the near future – and for each nomination we engage in careful deliberation and prayer trying to sense God's will for the leadership of our church.