The role of “executive pastor” is a growing position in churches. While specifics change from context to context, typically the executive pastor leads the staff, oversees the daily operations, and provides strategic and administrative leadership to the church. Initially, the role was viewed as almost exclusive to very large churches where it was logically perceived that the senior pastor could not handle the teaching and the administrative load of such a large congregation. In recent years, more and more churches are seeing the executive pastor role as critical, regardless of their church’s size, so the senior pastor can spend more time focused on teaching. This position also ensures another strategic leader is at the table.
While the role is growing, the role is very diverse in that it varies greatly from context to context. If you put 30 student pastors or worship pastors in the same room, their responsibilities and weekly schedules are somewhat similar. If you put 30 executive pastors in the same room, you will find very different leaders with differing responsibilities. The role of executive pastor changes drastically from church to church, as it should, because the role at its best is uniquely designed around the gifting and needs of the senior pastor (or team of pastors in a team model).
When a senior pastor asks me to help him think through hiring an executive pastor, my response is always, “A lot depends on how God has wired you and how you are gifted to lead.” If a senior pastor is predominately or almost exclusively focused on teaching, then he may desire an executive pastor who is a strong leader to guide the staff, set direction, and oversee daily ministry. If a senior pastor is wired to lead the team and set vision, then he may desire an executive pastor who is an “execution expert” and strong manager. If a senior pastor loves the strategy, being involved in all ministry areas, and just wants the “operations” off his plate, he may need a “business manager” more than an executive pastor.
If a senior pastor and executive pastor are in sync, then the church really benefits. If they complement one another, then the team and the church benefit. Often the harmony is missing not because of character or commitment issues but because the gifting and passions of each pastor was not considered on the front end.
Several years ago I put together the attached framework to help senior pastors and leadership teams think through whom would be a good fit as a potential executive pastor. It is merely based on observation, not comprehensive research, so I offer it as a simple tool to think through the match between a senior and executive pastor. It is not meant to be a theological treatise on the role of pastor or the nature of spiritual gifting; it was developed as an initial conversation starter to help pastors assess their context.