7 Kinds of Executive Pastors

It’s hard enough to get a concise answer on a senior pastor’s job description. But when you ask people what an executive pastor does, things get even more confusing.

How do you define such a vital role?

The business world deals with a similar problem. Ask the average person about the differences between the jobs of a CEO or a COO, and they’ll struggle to give an answer. People are easily confused by the various C-level positions in a corporation. In a May 2006 article entitled “Second in Command: The Misunderstood Role of the Chief Operating Officer,” the Harvard Business Review looked at seven different roles that chief operating officers can play. These roles translate perfectly to the various kinds of jobs that executive pastors do.

Here are the 7 kinds of executive pastors:

1. Executive pastor as executor

Your church’s leadership team should be setting long-range goals. Once those goals are set, it’s wise to have one person whose position sees to the creation of a roadmap to realize those goals. Once the course is set, the executor ensures that the incremental steps are accomplished and the objectives are met.

2. Executive pastor as catalyst

Sometimes churches find themselves in a dire position and they need to make some major changes to turn everything around. This is similar to the executor position except they’re focused on dramatic short-term change. This could include fundraising responsibilities, staffing changes, membership drives, or even leading decisions about new building locations.

3. Executive pastor as mentor

Churches are occasionally planted by talented but inexperienced pastors. Sometimes even youth pastors find themselves thrust into the position of senior pastor. Veteran pastors with lots of experience can be brought in to help the lead pastor grow into their position. The executive pastor who is operating as a mentor may only be at the church for a short time, or they might transition into another position as the senior pastor gets his sea legs.

4. Executive pastor as the other half

It can be difficult when you’re a senior pastor with a very specific set of skills. Maybe you’re a scholar and teacher who struggles with the organizational elements of pastoring. It could be that you are really good with people but find it hard to be a visionary leader. Some churches opt for an executive pastor who is strong in the areas where the senior pastor is weak and together they operate as one amazing pastor.

5. Executive pastor as partner

Where the executive pastor as “other half” is brought in to mitigate a senior pastor’s weaknesses, the executive pastor as “partner” comes in as a true force multiplier. It’s not that the senior pastor has glaring deficiencies, it’s that they work so much better with an ally. In this scenario, the executive pastor comes in to work closely alongside the pastor. Together, they’re a dynamic duo.

6. Executive pastor as heir apparent

There are many occasions that might call for an executive pastor to be brought in to fill many of these other roles while building relationships with the congregation in order to eventually replace the senior pastor. If the senior pastor was planning to move or retirement, it’s a wise move to train the one who will succeed him.

7. Executive pastor as MVP

Imagine that there’s a shakeup in a popular church in town, and a valuable member of its leadership team is leaving. Some churches will immediately scoop that individual up because they believe in their skills (and because they’d hate to see those skills put to use in different local church). Bringing a well-known person on staff can not only help you avail yourself of their skills, but you also get the emotional boost from the congregation.

This list isn’t exhaustive

Obviously, many executive pastors wear multiple hats from this list, and many operate in completely different ways. If you’re not sure an executive pastor is the best position for you to hire for right now, check out our FREE ebook 8 Strategic Hires That Will Grow Your Church and discover some other key hiring opportunities for your church!

Jayson D. Bradley

Jayson D. Bradley is a writer and pastor in Bellingham, WA. He’s a regular contributor to Relevant Magazine, and his blog JaysonDBradley.com has been voted one of the 25 Christian blogs you should be reading.

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