Not every church has a covenant, and many that do will define a covenant differently. Other churches might have a concept of membership but not have a covenant. The purpose of this article is not to stir up a theological debate but rather provide an example of a covenant between pastor and church.
Generally, a church covenant is a clearly stated way an individual member commits to the body and how the body, in turn, commits to the individual. As you commit to God, you commit to each other in the church. I believe some of the best church covenants focus on expectations. For example, the covenant at my church includes seven membership expectations: Worship, grow, serve, give, pray, seek unity, and share.
I’ve found several examples of church covenants, but there are far fewer examples of a covenant between leadership and the church. When we revised our bylaws a few years ago, we included an additional covenant for pastors.
I believe this covenant helps clarify the responsibilities of a pastor in addition to the responsibilities of membership. The church also needs to understand how to hold pastors accountable. Unmet expectations are often a source of tension between pastors and the church. When a clearly written covenant exists, there is less of a chance unmet expectations cause conflict.
Here is our pastor’s covenant. I prefer the “I will” statements because they make explicit the actions and behavior expected of pastors.
I commit as a pastor within the body of Christ to join West Bradenton Baptist Church and to fulfill the expectations of church membership. Additionally, I commit to the following expectations as a pastor:
- I will seek God’s guidance for West Bradenton Baptist Church in order to steward resources entrusted to the church in a way that gives God glory.
- I will shepherd, care for the church, and lead with grace, truth, and love.
- I will teach all of God’s Word at all costs.
- I will equip members of the church for the work of ministry.
- I will protect the doctrine of West Bradenton Baptist, and I will guard the church against false teachers and false teaching.
- I will act in a way that is above reproach, making my family the priority of my ministry. I understand the way I live will affect the church I lead, and I will live in a way that elevates the reputation of West Bradenton Baptist Church.
- I will lead the church in exercising discipline in a way that is gracious and loving, protecting the health of the church as a whole while guiding members towards reconciliation.
An additional covenant will certainly not solve all the problems that can occur in the relationship between pastor and church. But it’s a good starting point. Your expectations may be different than the seven listed for our church. Whatever you expect of pastors, and whether or not you desire a covenant, it’s a good practice to put them in writing.