Every situation is different, a little, but there are some advantages to a
strong team joining the lead pastor to form the “office of the executive
pastor” instead of having one person do that.
Senior or lead pastor: the leader of staff, the pastor-in-chief, the CEO of the church and staff.
Executive pastor: often the co-leader of staff, the vice-president, the COO of the church and staff.
The board: hopefully they are overseers who care for the boundaries of the church (see“The Soccer Field” papers) and allow the staff to “play on the infield.” They call and review the senior pastor, who leads and reviews (or has a system for this)_ the others on the staff.
They could be listed first here, because the senior pastor reports to them.
Administrative pastor or director of administration: often the leader of the financial and facilities side of the ministries and church.
Associate or senior associate pastors: others who lead ministries and have a segment of the ministries as their responsibility. In a large church each will have assistant pastors and directors of areas of ministry reporting to them.
Three main options for the role and duties of the executive
1. Executive or senior associate pastor.
+ It is clear who manages the ministries at the direction of the senior.
+ If this person is loyal to the senior and understands the enabling role, this can work well.
– Sometimes the senior loses touch with staff, by “moving upstairs,” and there is a different mood and direction, sometimes even without the senior’s realization.
– There can be bottleneck at this one person’s desk, and lack of synergy and the creativity and chemistry that can come with a stronger and larger team approach to leadership thinking.
– Sometimes the person who is good at the “executive” role is not built with a “pastor’s heart,” and is just a good manager or executive, therefore hurting themood and ministry.
2. Three or four associate pastors or senior associates who join with the senior pastor to be the leadership team
+ More staff leaders own the leadership visions and dreams. Closer to “a multitude of counselors.”
+ With four or five on the dream-and-envision-and-assign team, there is more creativity and perspective. This is enhanced when one or more on this leadership team (I simply called ours “ETeam”) are women.
+ The same people who join the senior pastor to dream and envision with him will be the ones to carry it out in their areas of ministry. They will not be one step separated from the development of the goals. All of the reports on staff, even a very large one, come under the responsibilities of the members of this team.
+ One of the members can be the worship pastor, who usually has strong influence on the mood and direction of the church — if that person is more than an artist.
+ One of the members of this team can be a director over finances and facilities, which are always involved in dreams and plans for the church — but only if that administrative leader is not a “bean-counter” who cannot pray and dream well.
+ One of these senior associates or associates can still be the #2 person, and known as such, “first among equals” among the associates. This can help in carrying out plans. (Sometimes this person is called the senior associate pastor and the others the associate pastors. Some of us think the title “executive pastor” can be perceived as more executive
–colder in one way — than pastoral — warmer.)
– There are more than two people to make the meeting and to spend the time.
– There can be negative feelings of others on staff because they are not asked to be on this leadership team.
– There can be more arguments or pushback to the senior because there are more people to do that (though I think this is an advantage, to consider all angles).
– Sometimes there are not three or four other strong leaders-dreamers on the staff (though perhaps this calls for the development of them).
3. Everyone reports to the senior pastor or, in some churches,
to the board.
+ This is the way it should be (reporting to the pastor) when there are one or four or five others on the staff.
+ The leadership plan is clear and simple.
– If there are more than four reporting to the senior pastor, he has too
– If any staff other than the pastor reports to the board, count on
confusion and frustration. All staff must report to the leader who is there
with them every day and giving his life and heart to this church in a loving
and careful way.