I once had a job interview that kind of described what being a rookie PCA elder has been like.
It was at AIG, before they had the vaguely scummy reputation they now enjoy (though they were well on their way to earning it). I had just lost my job and my former employer had brought in some companies from around the area to host a mini job fair for the few hundred of us that had been served a pink slip.
The AIG guys were at one of a handful of tables in our featureless gray conference room. I sat with them and slid my résumé across the table—they were two executives, hotshots. They looked over my job history and asked the usual questions. And the one who claimed to be a CIO of some sort smirked at my mid-twenties self and told me how it was:
“Here’s how we hire people at our company. First we throw people into the deep end of the pool.”
“That’s to see if they can swim,” his associate rejoined.
“And then, we throw bricks at them.”
Being a new elder is kind of like that. Only, now you’re expected to pull bodies out of that pool because you’re the lifeguard.
There’s a learning curve—to leadership, to the PCA, to your pastor, to the job—and the time you get from the moment you’re ordained to the expectation that you have answers to tough problems is brief.
I told a another church leader over coffee recently that the three year term has a pace to it: learning, yearning and earning. (If your process isn’t alliterative or rhyming, then it’s not ministry, right?) The first year, you’re figuring it out. The second year, you’re setting goals before your term is up, and the last year, you’re working your way to those goals.
I’m through the first year and survived the bricks—but that’s not the job. As I head into my second year as an elder, I’m much more interested in helping establish our church’s trajectory for the next 5, 10 or even 20 years.