Earlier this year I made the transition from lead pastor to executive pastor. This transition gave me more flexibility to work as a ministry consultant with The Unstuck Group, who help churches get unstuck through strategic planning and coaching.
After being the lead guy for nearly seventeen years, being the #2 guy was a breath of fresh air. While I enjoy teaching and preaching on the weekends, my true passion is coaching pastors and leaders to help churches grow.
As an XP, I have several responsibilities that pertain to the daily operations of the church. However, my most important tasks surround the lead pastor and staff. When health and vitality surround the visionary and his or her team, vision execution happens well. Here’s three attributes that should be visible in an executive pastor:
Encourage: No one knows the pain that comes with being the lead guy (unless you’ve been one). While a stage and microphone may look appealing to some, it also comes with a price. Leading people can be both a burden and a blessing. Low attendance, disgruntled families leaving the church or financial strain are just a few things that can bring frustration and anxiety to a pastor. I remember countless Sundays, driving home feeling discouraged and ready to quit. Actually, all pastors feel this way at different times, they just don’t share it. A heartening email, text message or a phone call goes a long way, as does a listening ear.
Equip: A lead pastor is only as effective as their team. Equipping the team is a vital role for an executive pastor. Creating a place for team development expands the opportunities to dream and achieve bigger vision. There are many ways to provide growth opportunities for your team. For example, have your team read different leadership books throughout the year. Afterwards, (as a group) ask three questions:
- What are your three takeaways from the reading?
- How can you apply the takeaways to yourself?
- How can you apply the takeaways to the church and/or your position?
While this may seem elementary, consistent equipping of your team is vital to the success of your mission.
Empower: Lastly, as an executive pastor, I want to bring empowerment to my pastor and team through a healthy environment of accountability and rhythm. This means I must be willing to ask the right questions (and sometimes the hard questions). It also means I must be intentional about helping the team find (and keep) a rhythm for work, play and rest. Working hard, playing hard and finding rest is critical to team health and performance.
Chad served as a lead pastor for over sixteen years. Chad is now a ministry consultant with the Unstuck Group and serves as the executive pastor at Eagle Heights Church in Somerset, KY. He leads strategic planning sessions and coaching networks for rural pastors at the Center of Rural Church Advancement at the Nebraska Christian College in Omaha.