As church chairmen change, unity remains goal
What does First Free Rockford’s church chairman do, and how do they support our church family? Pastor Luke, Paul Geddes and Dave Norberg discuss it in this week's blog post.
Jim Killam
February 22, 2023

This Sunday evening’s mid-year Meeting of the Members includes a handing of the baton from one church chairman to the next. We asked outgoing Chairman Paul Geddes, incoming Chairman Dave Norberg and Lead Pastor Luke Uran to help explain how and why things are set up this way for our church.

Outgoing Chairman, Paul Geddes
Incoming Chairman, Dave Norberg
Lead Pastor Luke Uran portrait
Lead Pastor, Luke Uran

What does the church chairman do?

“It’s not a quarterback position,” Dave says. “It is a lead facilitator position.”  

“Chief cook and bottle washer,” Paul adds with a smile. “I felt my role was to be a servant, not a dictator.”

The chairman:

  • Chairs the Executive Elder Board meetings once a month.
  • Chairs the Meetings of the Members (twice a year or otherwise as necessary).
  • Works with the lead pastor create objectives and goals for coming year, then also conducts the pastor’s annual evaluation.
  • Writes an annual report letter and other letters to the congregation as warranted.
  • Signs legal documents (contracts, etc.) on behalf of the church, or officially designates a staff member to do that.

“And then the softer things I do include encouraging the pastors,” Paul says. “Luke and I try to meet once a month for lunch. We talk about how things are going in the church. I also try to walk up after each of their sermons and give both Luke and Josh a word of encouragement.”

Luke has now served with three church chairmen since he has been lead pastor: Dave, Paul and Bob Opperman before them.

“One of the greatest blessings of being on staff at First Free is being able to serve alongside such godly leaders that have the best interest of the church and the staff at heart,” Luke says.

Protecting pastors

Our church is “staff-led and elder-protected.” Paul points to the sabbatical policy, developed on his watch, as one way of protecting to our pastors. Our church had never had such a policy before.

“Given Luke’s reaction to it and how much benefit I believe it is already had for the church,” he says, “I think it may be one of the most significant things that I did as church chairman, to create that sabbatical policy so that he gets the rest that he needs.”

Luke adds: “I know that I’ve said this before, but it was an absolute breath of fresh air and time of rejuvenation for both my family and me this past summer. The Lord met and spoke to me in some very tangible ways, and I continue to marvel at what He can do in through sabbatical rest.”

What are the terms and how is the chairman chosen?

It’s a two-year term, with a maximum of two terms. Paul served four years, and now cannot serve on either Executive Elders or Shepherding Elders for at least a year.

The chairman usually comes from the Executive Elder Board, though that is not required. Typically, as is the case this year, the vice chairman steps up and becomes the next chairman.

“That’s a really good progression,” Paul says, “because you learn a lot of what you need to know by being the vice chairman and seeing the chairman in action.”

Dave did not volunteer for the role; he was nominated to be vice chairman and now chairman. Nominations come from the Executive Elder Board.

“I thought and prayed about it,” he says. I felt, if my brothers in Christ believe I can do it, I’m going to keep praying about it. If I had to do the job based on my own ability, it would be daunting and I would say no. But it’s possible in God’s strength and leading, and working alongside a great team. There’s a lot of unity and we are very blessed with our staff.

“And, as Paul alluded, you have the power of the Holy Spirit and you know you’re doing this with your brothers in Christ and with the best interest of the unity of the church in mind. But I will tell you, biblically when you read the requirements for an elder, it’s a heavy task not to be taken lightly. It’s humbling and it’s a little scary.”

Leaders’ priorities

Unity in church leadership is the highest priority for both the Executive Elders and Shepherding Elders — “unity in purpose in why we’re there, to reach this dying world with what we know to be true,” Dave says.

In Acts 15:28, the early church apostles and elders start a letter by saying: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements.”  

“Then they go on and give the content,” Paul says. “And so that was my goal for our elder board, that we could say that when we made our decisions — It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us. I don’t know that we always achieved that level of confidence, but that was my goal.”

“I believe that when we do all agree, that really is a sign that the Holy Spirit has led all of us to the same conclusion. When there’s dissension — it isn’t a lot of cases, but there are times when we have tabled stuff or decided to think and pray about it more. We weren’t ready for a decision yet because clearly the unity wasn’t there yet.”

“And we may not always 100-percent agree on every decision,” Dave adds. “But when we leave from that meeting, we have to agree that whatever was decided, we’re not going to cause strife with that.”

Jim Killam
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

1 Comment

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    Thank you, Paul, for your dedication and leadership these last four years. It was no small task and we appreciate you. Dave, thank you for stepping up to fill this position. Know you will be prayed for.


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