No one in Seventh-day Adventist churches, besides the pastor, has more influence than an elder. Who better, then, to provide insight into the best ways to support our pastors? With that in mind, OUTLOOK editor Martin Weber asked each president of Mid-America’s six local conferences to select two elders—one from a larger church and another from a smaller church—who represent the excellence and spirituality of their calling. Eleven responded to our request for an interview. In this nine-part series, these elders share their wisdom on how to make pastoral appreciation a practical, year-round experience in our churches.

OUTLOOK: What’s your greatest challenge?

Nigel Abrahams (Lifesource Adventist Fellowship, Denver, CO): Time. Life in general places so many demands on one’s time that it’s difficult to be everywhere you want to be.

JoAnn Arnold (Bismarck, ND): At times keeping everyone going in the same direction! We all have great ideas and our church is blessed with many gifted people. However, having said this it is imperative that we all strive for the same goals and work to the best of our ability to “help” one another achieve these goals. Everyone has unique abilities and gifts and we must “encourage” and “support” one another in ministry. Whatever is done must be done according to Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy to ensure that we are using “Christ’s methods” and not our own. We as a people have so much to share with the world that does not know Him. We must share with them the good news of the “Three Angels Messages”.

Steve Bascom (Gutherie Center, IA): I have problems with getting people enthusiastic about involvement. I wish I were better at recognizing their talents and then delegating responsibilities.

Joe Bates (Aitkin, MN): Finding a place for each member in ministry.

Alan Brass (Colorado Springs Central, CO): We have a multitude of excellent volunteers here who have continued leading in our children’s divisions without the break that they deserve. Our greatest challenge is to get people to realize how much we need them as volunteers and also how much they need to be involved.

Bobby Franklin (Claremont, Pueblo, CO): Being prepared at all times, especially when the pastor is suddenly called away.

Jenni Glass (New Haven, Kansas City, KS): I think my greatest challenge as an elder is time or lack of time. There is so much I want to do at church and not enough time to make visitations, organize activities and participate in various areas of ministry. I am interested in helping to create opportunities for others to be involved at church—but that takes time.

Michael Kelsey (St. Louis Central,  MO): Expectations. The qualifications and duties are more than any one could do alone. Trying to cover all the bases, both personal and corporate, is an ongoing challenge and can be discouraging.

Gina Olberg (Andover, MN): Oh my. Lots of challenges. Probably the greatest is time (not enough of it), to fulfill this role. And also a major challenge is a sense of inadequacy.

Merlin Wehling (Kearney, NE): Communicating vision and direction to volunteers. Motivating people to push themselves, take responsibility and be a leader is challenging. It may come in the form of being a Sabbath school teacher, a deacon, or someone to lead a Bible study but motivating someone to step out in faith and work for God is hard.

Kathy Widicker (Bowdon Country Church, ND): Because we are situated in a small rural area, it is difficult for church growth in the community.

For more questions and comments from local church elders click here.