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June 9, 2021Leadership

The Rise and Role of Executive Pastors, Part 3

The rising prominence of this position paralleling the rise of the large church.
The Rise and Role of Executive Pastors, Part 3
Image: Unsplash/LinkedIn

In Executive Pastors article Part 1, I unpacked a lot of information, history, and stats about the evolution of the role of the executive pastor. In this article, I want to share an important conversation we had earlier this month.

I hosted a Facebook Live event with four people who are very familiar with the role of the executive pastor:

Brian Jobe, Executive Pastor at Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK
Nathan Elson, Executive Director of Marketing & Business Development at CDF Capital, formerly an executive pastor at The Rock Church in Point Loma, CA
Christopher J. Harris, Executive Pastor at Crossover Church in Tampa, FL
Lisa Penberthy, Executive Director of Operations at The Rock Church in Point Loma CA

You can watch the Facebook Live event, here.

The XP position has become more vital because of the complexities of our current culture and the culture of the church. The executive pastor fills a vital role of managing the “back of house” while the lead/senior/preaching pastor can focus on Sunday mornings. During our call, we covered a wide range of topics from the impact of covid on local churches, to stewarding finances to saying “no” to the lead pastor.


One of the primary responsibilities of the executive pastor is Stewardship. As the lead on the “business” end of the ministry, the XP is tasked with keeping an eye on how time, talent, and treasure are all spent. As Lisa stated, “every resource, every hire is to impact the Kingdom”. Making business decisions directly impacts the people in the seats on Sunday mornings, and the executive pastor must seek God’s wisdom and direction for these decisions. It also means having conversations with congregants as donors and givers, having conversations with staff, having conversations with the lead pastor, having conversations with the elders or volunteer leaders. Weighing all the input and seeking God’s direction is a vital piece of the executive pastor's role.

Culture building and Leading the staff

Empowering staff is one of the highest priorities for executive pastors. In some ways, this could fall into the stewardship category because you want each person on the team to be using the gifts and abilities God has given them to the highest potential. But it is also an aspect of building the culture within the staff and ministry leadership. Growing the culture means connecting with the staff on a weekly and monthly basis. Brian Jobe noted that they work at leadership development, discipling the staff, and identifying the next steps their staff can take to grow and learn, like conferences they can attend or graduate school.

Relationship with the lead pastor

Brian Jobe often asks himself as he drives to work each day, “Where are we and how do we achieve the vision cast by the lead pastor?” Leveraging staff, resources, and volunteers to achieve the vision God has set through the lead pastor.

Christopher Harris notes that he feels the unique role of the XP is to create a cadence and a synergy with the lead pastor, a critical role. He believes his assignment is to put the meat around the vision cast by his lead pastor, stewarding the creativity of the lead pastor in the best way possible. His role is keeping a pulse on the vision, as well as the overall temperature of the church, and keeping watch on what the lead pastor is saying, what is he not saying, and how that is impacting the life of the church.

Nathan Elson also noted the relationship of the XP and Lead pastors is an incredible opportunity to work in concert, playing on their own strengths, sharing the responsibility to accomplish the goal of inviting others to know Jesus.

Leading in complex times

When I look at the immense responsibility and passion with which these pastors lead, I believe the executive pastor role is one of the most underappreciated roles in the church. And right now, it is even more important given the complexity of the church in our current culture. Leadership and complexity go together, because as there are changes in society, changes in the laws, property insurance, changes in best practices for staff, there is an evolving relationship between the business aspect and the church as well as a growing need for leadership development in the church. The tension we must deal with is to not manage spiritual problems and not spiritualize business problems

Additionally, each staff member must raise their knowledge and standard – learn and then apply so that the culture is a learn and implement the model. The executive pastor must get ahead of the staff and volunteers to know what they will need to keep them healthy before they even know they need it.

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The Rise and Role of Executive Pastors, Part 3