First Presbyterian Church of Evanston is part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and we follow the Presbyterian form of government, which includes governance by elected and ordained elders.
Deacons, Trustees and Elders
Ruling elders are chosen by the congregation. The body of elders elected to govern a particular congregation is called a session. Together with pastors, known as teaching elders, they exercise leadership, government, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a particular church as well as the church at large.
Elders are elected by the congregation and in one sense are representatives of the other members of the congregation. On the other hand, their primary charge is to seek the will of Christ and to be led by the Scriptures as they govern. Presbyterian elders are both elected and ordained. Through ordination they are officially set apart for service. They retain their ordination beyond their term in office.
The session is the smallest, most local governing body. The other governing bodies are presbyteries, which are composed of multiple churches (ours is the Presbytery of Chicago); synods, which are composed of several presbyteries; and the General Assembly, which represents the entire denomination. Ruling and teaching elders from particular churches are elected to serve as commissioners to higher governing councils.
In addition to elders, there is a second ordained office in the church, the role of deacons. Deacon ministry focuses on connectional and compassionate service in the church and is not focused on the governance issues of the church. Like elders, deacons retain their ordination beyond their term in office.
Most U.S. churches form non-profit corporations to manage their reporting, financial and property transactions and determine who should be officers of the church corporation. Our church has chosen to elect members with three year terms to be a Board of Trustees to manage corporate actions and stewardship of our financial resources and buildings. These are not ordained offices.