Thom Rainer, back in 2013, referred to the executive pastor position as becoming a “hot” position. I think he is right.
So just what is an executive pastor? It is a pastor that works for or with the senior or lead pastor to execute the ministry and mission of the church.
How do they specifically execute the ministry and mission of the church? According to Thom, there are two historical broad paths that executive pastors have taken. Some execute their role through staff oversight, making sure the staff is fulfilling the vision of the church as it relates to their specific area of ministry. Other executive pastors execute their role as the business administrator—something similar to that of a CFO in the corporate world. In some cases, executive pastors fulfill both roles.
I’d also add that another position with growing presence is the campus pastor position. As multisite has become popular, so has this position. The campus pastor role functions similar to that of an executive pastor, given that the campus pastor position tends to be a non-preaching role. Therefore, the role is filled with people who have a pastoral heart and the gift of administration.
Some may want to know why these positions are increasing popularity? The following are four reasons why I believe these Executive Pastor (XP) and Campus Pastor (CP) roles are becoming more common.
XPs/CPs free up the senior pastor for other responsibilities.
While I certainly love teaching, I also love administration. However, it’s a strength I don’t exercise frequently when I’m a lead pastor. In that role I focus on the following areas: pray, teach, write, and relate.
There are others things that I do like coach, speak, and mentor. In order for me to excel in my focus areas, I need an executive pastor to work with me, executing the ministry and mission of the church, and overseeing the staff and ministry volunteers. He does what I can’t or do not have time to do.
Basically, executive pastors do what the pastor doesn’t do, what the pastor doesn’t have time to do, doesn’t want to do, or doesn’t know to do. The XP is the person without whom the organization would limp along and few people would know why.
I understand many churches are not able or have not reached the size to hire an executive pastor. Some churches that are in this position are finding talented and godly business leader who comes alongside the pastor to function as an executive.
Either way, it’s a good thing to share some of those adminstrative responsibilities.
XPs/CPs can protect the Senior/Lead Pastor.
Those in leadership, at some point, are called on to make tough, unpopular decisions and confront hard and difficult people. The executive pastor can serve and protect the pastor by taking the brunt and fallout of the unpopular decision, and by confronting the hard and difficult people.
It’s not that the pastor escapes these difficult leadership situations; it’s just that they have someone to help shield them and shoulder the burden. And, needless to say, being the XP can be a hard job because you have to implement some of those hard deicsions.
In many situations, the XP can implement that hard decision, and the pastor can follow up with love, grace, and encouragement. The pastor can continue to do the primary teaching without being as involved in difficult decisions—and that can be better for the church.
XPs/CPs focus on organization, structure, and strategy.
As I stated above, I love administration. However, I cannot effectively, and with excellence, pray, study, teach, preach, relate, coach, mentor, administrate, and execute. When I serve as a lead pastor, I need someone to help me in administrating the church’s organization, managing its structure, and executing the strategy.
Having organization, structure, and strategy helps lay a foundation for continued church growth. As such, a church will need to have someone who can effectively—and with excellence—concentrate on the organization, structure, and strategy. In other words, they need someone to help support the growth of the church. I heard one executive pastor allude to his role as being like a trellis that supports the vines of the church—the ministries, program, and mission—as they grow and expand.
Even if the church has a leadership group, like an elder board, with an organizational chart outlining how the machine operates, there is still a need to have an engineer—an executive/campus pastor—who not only understands the operation, but also understands how it works effectively and efficiently to accomplish its intended purpose.
EPs/CPs enlarge a church’s capacity to add ministries and campuses.
By turning large chunks of leadership of the congregation, staff, and/or campus over to an executive/campus pastor, the pastor increases the potential for the church to grow. This is easier said than done given that many pastors are insecure leaders, micromanagers, and control freaks. But mature and secure pastors understand that if the church is to grow—adding ministries and even campuses—they must relinquish control and release other people, like executive/campus pastors to lead, oversee, coach, and invest in staff and other ministry leaders.