encourage the exploration of scripture
Many years ago “Lead Pastor” began to grow in popularity as the title of the person at the top of a church’s org chart. Presumably, the term replaced “Senior Pastor” for some well-meaning reason. Unfortunately, it was a change in name only. Few Lead Pastors - as their title might imply - operated any differently than their differently-titled peers.
In last week’s article, sparked by Patrick Lencioni’s The Motive, I summarized a common problem for the church: The most important responsibility of a CEO is staff management and leadership, but the most important weekly responsibility of a Senior Pastor (Rector, Lead Pastor, etc.) is teaching. This creates tensions for a dedicated teacher who is also, in practice, expected to be the church’s CEO.
Typical Solution: As a church grows, it will hire an Executive Pastor (or Director) to relieve the Senior Pastor of the responsibilities of leading and managing the church staff. Like this...
Why is this model so natural to most churches? Because the Senior Pastor was hired, primarily, to teach. Therefore, hiring someone else to lead and manage the staff is seen as forward progress. After all, the Senior Pastor can now spend more time teaching (and on whatever other activities are identified as more important than staff management and leadership).
Here’s the problem. In everyone’s mind (and on the org chart), the Senior Pastor remains the CEO. And if St. Patrick is to be believed, the CEO’s main responsibility is to… see above… lead and manage the staff. If you’ve served at a church with a Senior Pastor and an Executive Pastor, you’ve probably experienced one version or another of this particular schizophrenia - for example when the Senior Pastor abdicates staff meeting facilitation to the Executive Pastor but not the authority needed for it to function effectively.
A Better Solution: OK, here’s the goods. Why not distribute the responsibilities honestly and effectively based on gifting and schedule? Voila...
See the difference? Sketch out the pros and cons in your mind. It’s no small change, particularly as our churches are accustomed to the fusion of leadership and teaching. Surely, one can be gifted at both leadership/management and teaching. But, again, even where this occurs, the weekly schedule of a Senior Pastor rarely allows time to do both well.
Smaller churches that cannot afford two executive level roles will certainly need different approaches, but teaching vs. leading tensions show up in ALL churches and can undermine church health when not addressed.
I don’t know if the concepts in my forthcoming book The Lead Pastor Revolution (Lectionary Press, 2021) will catch on. I suppose I’ll find out if I decide to write it. But I do know what will fuel any such revolution, and it won’t be the Executive Pastor’s desire for more power and authority. It will certainly be the Senior Pastor’s willingness to emulate Christ by taking on the nature of a servant.
Next week, in Part 3 of this thread, I'll examine scriptural support for this solution.
- Dan Dzikowicz