Dear Abigail

Is it appropriate to become the leading elder at the church where my husband serves as pastor?


Dear Abigail,

Our local church has asked me to be the leading elder in the congregation where my husband is the pastor. I have lived a number of years in the community, and they recognize my gifts and wish for me to serve in that position. However, the conference president has made clear that he feels my taking that role would be inappropriate. What do you think?

It seems somewhat of a conflict of interest for the pastor’s spouse (or parent, or adult child, or any relative, for that matter) to be the head elder, and therefore not a good idea. The head elder usually works closely with the pastor, and it seems it would be hard to stay unbiased on certain issues. In the secular workplace, it’s called nepotism. And what if the spouse, as head elder, doesn’t agree with the pastor? Marriage is hard enough work without adding church issues. If the pastor and spouse have a work conflict, it would be very hard (if not impossible) not to carry it over to the home life.

Also, picture Sabbath mornings with the pastor and head elder spouse both on the platform: if you have young children, who sits with them? If you have older children, who is supervising them?

If there are no children involved, there is still the reality that a pastor’s role is to train and mentor the lay members to take ownership of leading the church. If the pastor’s spouse fills the role of head elder, the church will not have a lay member prepared to do the head elder’s duties when you move to a new district.

Though it may sound romantic to work so closely together, it has the potential to create more problems than it would solve. I think it would be helpful to hear the conference president’s reasons as well.

Please don’t take this response as a diminishment of your obvious gifts and passion for ministry. It is an honor that your church recognizes your talents and appreciates your service, even if it there might be a different role that would be a better solution.