If you don’t know what a Presbyterian is, here’s the short version. Presbyter is the Greek word for elder. Elder is a position of authority to which members of a church are elected. A board of elders (called the session) is responsible for the day to day running of the local church. Our session has seven elders. The pastor is a member of the session, and runs the meetings, but gets one vote just like everyone else. Leaders can come from anywhere, without regard to sex, age, or race in the Presbyterian Church.
All of the Presbyterian congregations in a certain geographical area make up a presbytery. (There’s that presbyter word again!) It consists of half ministers and half lay people. The bigger decisions in the life of a congregation are really decisions of the presbytery. We meet four times per year to worship, learn new things, and vote on things. The bulk of the work of the presbytery is done by committees. Committees of the presbytery help struggling churches, guide people preparing for ministry, etc. We are a part of the Presbytery of the Miami Valley.
Every other year, representatives from every presbytery in the country gather together for the General Assembly. The General Assembly thinks, prays, and votes on how to deal with big issues affecting the church. Its decisions have to be approved in turn by a majority of the presbyteries. We call it mutual accountability. Because of our roots in the Protestant Reformation** we don’t follow a top-down hierarchy. Which means we are free to follow Jesus as he leads us, as a local community, without interference from any of the levels of church government above us.