One of the most important roles in the church is that of the Executive Pastor. It’s a role that can help catapult a church to the next level or one that can keep it from reaching its potential. Our team is made up of a few rockstar XPs who shared a few insights into what qualities make an amazing executive pastor.
One gem that came about as we began talking. A new model is beginning to emerge that some churches should consider. As churches grow into the 3000-5000 attendee mark the switch from executive pastor to executive team is one that can really help a church scale its leadership structure. We’ll have an article coming out soon about how you can implement an executive team into your church. For now, here are a few of the qualities that make an amazing executive pastor.
Nothing else matters if #1 is not strong. It’s not enough to be competent, effective, and creative. You have to have integrity. A simple litmus test for integrity. Would you be comfortable seeing your actions printed on the front page of the New York Times? If not, then don’t do it. This is not a business you are running. It’s a church where God cares more about the souls of his people than their qualifications. God always equips the called, he doesn’t call the equipped.
Many people think of an executive pastor as being the bookkeeper. The hyper-organized type. In reality great executive pastors can more often be found having coffee with people than in front of their excel sheets. An executive pastor who can train others, develop their walk with Jesus, and hand off responsibilities is a gold mine for any church. That type of XP is a leadership multiplication machine. A great XP is usually a “people person.” They care deeply about the staff and creating a healthy, nurturing work environment. They are characterized primarily as wanting greatness for their people not from their people. Great XPs have the ability to make their teams feel incredibly valued and appreciated.
A job that is going to receive little glory but will keep the church on track. An amazing executive pastor is a protector of time for the lead pastor. Everyone in the church wants time and attention from the lead pastor. It is the executive pastor’s role to make sure the lead pastor has the time to seek God, teach, preach and continue to lead the vision for the church. This sometimes means a good executive pastor will have to be seen as the “bad guy” but it is always for the overall protection of the lead pastor and the health of the church. This is not to say that an XP shields the lead pastor from the church. That often happens to the detriment of the staff and the congregation. Culture is set from the top down. A lead pastor doesn’t get to check out from the church. He is after all a Pastor. Not a CEO. A lead pastor must have his life so intrinsically tied to the people he serves that the XP almost has to rip him away from people to free up time.
Just like a great chef is constantly tasting food in a restaurant to make sure it’s up to standards, an executive pastor needs to constantly be “trying” the church culture. Not ONLY the executive pastor does this. Culture is only a true culture if everyone buys in and is accountable. But just like in a kitchen where there is one “executive chef”, who ultimately is in responsible, an executive pastor leads the way on culture. Truth be told, this is probably the hardest job in the church. Setting culture in an organization can be like trying nail down jello. And once it’s set that’s when the really hard work begins! Keeping a church culture healthy for staff, volunteers, and attenders is a job that requires constant diligence and everyone playing a role. He has to find ways to measure even the slightest change in direction and pick up on subtle drifts away from the culture needed to accomplish the vision. No one intentionally lets culture drift. That’s why it’s called a drift! You need a leader in the role of executive pastor who has the emotional and spiritual sensitivity to see the drift. Great XPs have the self-awareness to know when they’re unable to “fix it”, and the maturity to hand off roles as needed.
Think of the number of problems that come across the desk of an executive pastor in any given day. Most of them don’t have a singular right answer. Yet the decision the XP makes are bound to deep impacts on the direction of the church. An amazing XP is generally really skilled at creative problem solving. The churches that people love to be a part of are not the ones who have managed to acquire the most resources, they’re the ones that have found the most creative ways to solve problems. You XP is the person who leads the way in this. They know the community needs. They know where your team is in its capacity and chemistry. They see the problems that need to be solved and the unique ways that only your team can solve them.