The Session is the highest decision making body in the Church. To serve on the Session, therefore, is a unique opportunity to offer servant leadership to the congregation, and an experience of spiritual growth. The Presbyterian Church Book of Order defines the role of a ruling elder and the qualifications of those called to serve in this capacity.
The Book of Order states that ruling elders, together with teaching elders (pastors), exercise leadership, government, spiritual discernment, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a congregation as well as the whole church, including ecumenical relationships. When elected by the congregation, they shall serve faithfully as members of the session. (The PC(USA) Book of Order)
Individuals who undertake particular ministries including ruling elder, should be persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world. - The PC(USA) Book of Order.
The congregation through a nomination and election process identifies candidates for the office of ruling elder. During a three-year term, Elders usually have the opportunity to work in more than one area of the church's life so that they may learn and grow in understanding through their service.
Among the duties of the Session include:
- Evangelism: The members of session are charged with inviting people who attend the church into the new life in Christ and with receiving them into membership when they are ready to join. This first responsibility reflects the promise all elders make in their ordination vows when they agree to seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in their own lives, love their neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world (G-14.0207 f - Book of Order)
- Mission and Justice: The session also has the responsibility to lead the congregation in participation in the mission of the whole Church in the world. Session is reminded to lead the congregation in the ministries of personal and social healing and reconciliation in the communities in which the church lives and bears its witness.
- Worship: One of the primary duties of the session is to lead the members of the church in worshipping God. The session exercises overall control of the time and order of worship, the scheduling of the Sacraments, and the nature of the music program.The Session's approval is required before any major changes to the worship experience for members. This includes assisting with the preparation and serving of communion on a regular basis.
- Education: The session bears ultimate accountability to provide an educational program that is consistent with Reformed teaching about the Scriptures and presents the good news of Christ in the most innovative and engaging ways possible.
- Finance: According to G-10.0102 i., the session has the exclusive power to establish the annual budget of the congregation, determine how mission money will be allocated, and decide how and when offerings will be taken. (Book of Order)