Coordinating Elders offer New Options for Churches


For several small churches in the Oregon Trail District the concept of “Coordinating Elder” is giving them the chance to continue to provide ministry and presence in tight financial times.

First United Methodist in Nyssa, Oregon is the latest church to be led under the Coordinating Elder model. Rev. John Watts who serves full time at First United Methodist in Nampa, Idaho is also taking on the role of Coordinating Elder for the Nyssa congregation which sits on the eastern boarder of Oregon. While Watts provides a coordinating function for the congregation, weekly worship will be provided by a variety of Lay Speakers who will come on a regular schedule.

As Coordinating Elder, Watts will participate in quarterly Church Council meetings and be an available resource for the lay leadership. According to Steve Ross, Assistant to the Bishop for the Oregon Trail District, “This arrangement allows lay leadership in the congregation to focus on the spiritual and practical needs of the congregation, while the Coordinating Elder can provide for the administrative oversight and connectional concerns.”

A similar arrangement has been happening near the southern border of the state. Rev. Steve Mitchell serves as Coordinating Elder for Klamath Basin Cooperative Ministry, which includes Klamath Falls, Chiloquin, and Ft. Klamath UMCs, and is now incorporating ministry with the people in Gilchrist. Paisley UMC is also am member but since January it has not been yoked with the Lakeview church. Now it will be coordinated by Mitchell. He became Coordinating Elder in January, but the cooperative has functioned since the 1980’s in one form or another.

In Paisley, Mitchell leads worship once each month, and other clergy are scheduled for other weeks of the month. He describes the Paisley congregation as, “independent and dedicated persons, in service in many ways to the community of Paisley and surrounding areas.” And he thinks of himself as the 21st century circuit rider when he takes the 140 mile drive form Klamath Falls to Paisley.

For the Klamath Basin Cooperative as a whole, Mitchell sees the opportunity for new health and vitality in working together with a regional view. For a small church like Paisley, with 10-15 in worship each week, the new arrangement helps with financial challenges. Now they can focus on being a presence in their community and making disciples of Jesus Christ.