Presbyterian Organization and Leadership




Presbyterian churches are characterized by a representational form of church government, in which authority is given to elected laypersons known as elders. The word presbyterian comes from the Greek word for "elder."

Elders are both elected and ordained (set apart for ministry). An elder remains ordained after his or her term is complete. The Book of Order describes the job of an elder this way:

Together with ministers of the Word and Sacrament, they exercise leadership, government, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a particular church as well as the church at large, including ecumenical relationships.

The governing body of a single Presbyterian congregation, which includes a group of elders and the congregation's minister, is called a session. Sessions are charged with representing the members of the congregation as well as "discovering and representing the will of Christ as they govern."

Beyond the local congregation, several sessions constitute a presbytery, several presbyteries form a synod, and the General Assembly encompasses the entire denomination.