Christians involved in an organization like the co-op are working together for a common purpose that lies outside of the disciple-making mission that Christ has given his church. While there is overlap between education and disciple-making, the church has obviously not been given the task of teaching children subjects like reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. Because education lies outside the church’s jurisdiction, a school or co-op does not need to be under elder oversight. To use a different example, if a group of Christians were to join together to form a business, that business would not need to be managed by a group of elders. The running of a business is not within the purview of the church’s mission. Of course, Christians will sometimes find it helpful to ask their pastors and elders for advice about matters that arise in the different areas of their lives, but this does not mean that pastors and elders have authority over the various organizations, etc. in which the members of their churches are involved.
Elder oversight is a matter of holding Christians accountable to what the Scriptures teach. But different denominations and churches have differing views on how to interpret Scripture, and on how to order their worship, polity, and discipline in a manner that is in accord with Scripture. Furthermore, a man who is elected to serve as an elder in one church might not be considered qualified for the office by a different church. In light of these factors, the elders of a particular church only have spiritual authority over those who are members of the congregation that recognized their call by electing them to serve as elders. If the co-op was placed under the spiritual oversight of the elders of one particular church, some co-op families would be under the oversight of elders whom they did not elect and who may have differing views than those held by their own church. If the co-op elected or appointed its own elders, it would be redefining the office of elder, because elders exercise oversight in the church, and the co-op is not a church.
It is good for co-op families to encourage and support one another, but this is not a substitute for membership in a local church. The fact that some families spend more time at the co-op and with other co-op families than they do at their church and with members of their church does not make the co-op their de facto church. While fellowship is an important element of church life, it does not in itself constitute a particular group as a church. The essential mark of a true church is that it maintains through a sufficient discipline the Word and sacraments in their fundamental integrity. It is true that there will be instances where the co-op board needs to handle conflicts and address disciplinary issues, but this is not spiritual oversight or church discipline. Those things need to be reserved for the churches where these families are members. Of course, some co-op families may neglect the duty of church membership, and some may not even profess to be Christians. But this does not mean that the co-op should function as their church. That would be a usurpation of the authority that has been uniquely given to the church.”