The Makings of a Vital Partnership

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Suzanne Davis is curating a series highlighting the working relationship between ruling elders and ministers of the Word and Sacrament (or teaching elders). We’ll hear from both individuals and ruling elder/pastor partners reflect on the journey in ministry they’ve had together. How do these two roles – both essential to our polity – share in the work and wonder of the church? What is the “special sauce” that makes this special partnership flourish? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Katie Harrington & Kelley Hames

Pastors and volunteers rely on one another to make ministry happen at local churches, but how does a successful relationship work? At Sardis Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, Rev. Katie Harrington, associate pastor for families, and Kelly Hames, a ruling elder, have a vital partnership that enhances the children’s ministry at their church.

Kelly: I have an exceptional relationship with my pastor. What makes it so special you may ask?

Photo from Sardis Presbyterian Church Facebook page.

I have given it a lot of thought and what continues to impress as unique and powerful is that my pastor appreciates my vocation: a divine call to God’s service in the church as a volunteer. She has a care for my gifts and a desire to help me use them to the glory of God… always nurturing me, gently leading me, and sometimes challenging me in the development of those gifts. She treats me as a partner in ministry worthy of respect and gratitude. This, in my opinion, is the true secret of our relationship and ability to work well together: we’re equal members of the same cohort with different calls to service, both necessary in the church.

For my part, I believe that elders are called to embrace new thoughts and ideas. The culture in which the church exists is constantly changing. The church should adapt if we want to be relevant now and into the future. There are so many opportunities these days for ruling elders to increase in knowledge and wisdom — through continuing education and associations, to name just two. We should take advantage of these resources so that, in partnership with pastors and staff, we can grow with and lead the church through all the tides of change.

Katie: One of the joys of serving the Church is discovering leaders in the church who not only make the ministry happen, but make it thrive. Kelly is one of those ruling elders at Sardis Presbyterian. With a passion for children’s ministry, and lots of experience and training, she makes church work exciting and inspiring. Our relationship enhances my ministry to the whole congregation, and our collective ministry to the children and parents of our church. We truly are partners, and inspire one another to do exciting new things for our families.

One of the challenges of ministry is finding volunteers — there are always holes to fill for Sunday School teachers, youth advisers, coffee hour hosts, ushers, greeters. You name a role in the church, and we need a volunteer to do it. The joy of ministry is when we ask someone to fill a role for whom that role becomes a vocation, a calling. And then, we teaching elders need to step back, trust and support their leadership, and give them lots of encouragement along the way, building a vital partnership that benefits all of God’s kingdom.


Kelly Hames is from Mobile, Alabama, where she earned an undergraduate degree in Accounting from the University of South Alabama, and in 2012 graduated from Union Presbyterian Seminary with a Masters in Christian Education. In 2008 she was ordained as a Ruling Elder in the PCUSA. She now lives in North Carolina where she is a member of Sardis Presbyterian Church.

At various times she has served on Finance, Member Care, Missions, Worship, Children’s Christian Education, and Elementary Faith Formation Committees. She served as Interim Director of Children’s Christian Education at Matthews Presbyterian Church twice and in between that as the Director of Children’s Ministries at Indian Trail Presbyterian Church. She now thoroughly enjoys doing similar work as a volunteer at Sardis.

She lives with her disabled sister, their seven fur babies, likes to read, enjoys card-making and adores fantasy science fiction (especially dragons). She has a passion for children’s ministry and delights in her favorite role as Sunday School Teacher.

Katie Harrington is associate pastor for families at Sardis Presbyterian Church in Charlotte NC, where she enjoys serving families in every sense of the word family. Originally from Ohio, after 13 years, she has now settled into life in the South, assisted by marrying a native Charlottean and raising two southern kids!