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?