Friday, November 07, 2008

Executive or Pastor?

It recently occurred to me that the executive pastor title may actually be a cause of stress. (Even if you don’t have the title, others like me may function as an executive pastor without the title, so keep reading.) How can a title cause stress? The tension arises as we try to decide whether to lean toward the executive or the pastor side of our job.

On the executive side, we’re running the operations, managing people, and making things happen. When there’s a financial shortfall, we’re figuring out where to cut. When a staff member under-performs, we’re giving clear feedback or sometimes letting someone go. When a new ministry is being launched, we’re thinking through the details that will enable it to succeed. And if we’re not careful, it will feel like we’re running a business rather than a Kingdom-minded enterprise.

On the pastor side, we’re caring for people or teaching God’s Word or “equipping the saints” to serve in areas that fit their gifts and passions. In a church that is large enough to have an executive pastor, there are endless opportunities to jump in and “do” ministry. And if we’re not careful, we may fill our schedules with these ministries, only to miss the more strategic opportunities that will help the entire organization function more effectively.

Those who come to an executive pastor role from the business realm need to quickly learn that their valuable skills must be adapted to be effective. The church cannot be run just like a business. Those who come into the role as trained clergy must acknowledge that business has valuable lessons to offer and that their leadership repertoire probably needs to be broadened.

Regardless of your background or how you came into the role, it’s important to understand the tension. In many ways, anyone in congregational leadership needs to wrestle with the question of executive or pastor? Those who are most successful will not choose one over the other, but will blend the two into a both/and solution. I’ll explore some specific applications in future blogs. For now, where do you most feel this tension?


Anonymous said...

Mike, Thank you so much for this post. I feel this tension in a constant basis. My largest tension comes in the form of very little training in executive business practices. I have a strong theological background but very little training in business models. I read as much as I can but still feel behind on the curve in that area.

Eric said...

As a single pastor in a 100 member church, I can relate to this post. Seminary does a great job of teaching us pastors about theology, but does a poor job of preparing us for the executive matters of running a church. And while a church is not a business, it does have enough business-like qualities that requires the pastor to be both the spiritual leader and the CEO (for lack of a better term).

Until seminaries can catch up to the new culture that churches are ministering in, I think the best approach would be for current pastors and churches to mentor their own who are going into ministry in order to prepare them for the business and relational matters of the church. Seminaries can continue to concentrate on academics. (Not that that's a bad thing. :) It just leaves out church administration.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I, too, feel this tension on a regular basis. Although, My experience in the pastor role and education in the executive role make for a great fit for me. This tension is something that I understand and expect. The biggest challenge of balance I face is that of my "doing" hat and my "equipping" hat.

Now for the tension... let me tell you how it is minimized for me:
1. I work with a Lead pastor who lets me lead. He trusts me to do the work for which I have been hired. Plus we are great friends and we both own the vision of our church. And I get it that my job is to support his work as lead pastor.
2. I lead a great staff who submit to my authority. Plus I trust them to do their jobs. Did I mention we are great friends? We take our responsilibity very seriously, but we don't take ourselves very seriously. We have learned how to have illegitimate amounts of fun serving God and serving/leading people.
3. We serve in a church community that embraces the Biblical philosophy of an equipping culture. We really believe is Eph 4:11-13. We know we are not doing our work alone.
4. Finally, I get it that my calling is to the "second chair". I do not aspire to a "higher" chair of leadership. God has gifted and called me to this role and I embrace it with my whole heart.