How Churches Benefit from Co-Pastors

One couple’s story of leaning into their unique gifts and callings as they lead together
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Many churches choose men for their lead pastor. More and more are choosing women. And some churches are opting for the best of both.

A growing trend termed co-pastoring, has churches hiring husband-wife pairs to lead together equally as pastors. To better understand the benefits and challenges that come with this emerging movement, I spoke with Robin and Marty Anderson, the first co-pastor team of Alexandria, Virginia’s Commonwealth Baptist Church.

“Most job descriptions for a pastor are a full page long,” said Robin. “They want to find someone who’s extroverted enough to spend time with people, and introverted enough to write really deep sermons.” Not surprisingly, finding one person who can do everything in the typical job description for a pastor is tough.

More than three years ago, Robin and Marty each applied for Commonwealth Baptist’s lead pastor position. They were open to being considered individually, but also asked the church to consider calling them as a team. “I don’t think we are at a place where churches start out with this concept as they begin a pastoral search,” said Robin. “You have to give them the idea.”

“During the interview process, the church leaders asked questions to help them understand what a co-pastorate would look like. We kept waiting for them to tell us which one of us they wanted to pursue, but they never chose,” said Robin.

Clear Benefits

While not every couple complements each other in work as well as they do in marriage, Robin and Marty have always had a passion for supporting each other’s ministry, and each has a clear view of their personal mission and calling. Their dynamic has played well in their church. Marty explained, “We understand it doesn’t work for everybody, but it works for us because we balance each other out.” Balance seems to be the key to co-pastoring success. The two are clear about their strengths and weaknesses, and when to lead and when to supportively follow the other’s direction.

The benefits to their church are evident. Robin spends more time with senior citizens. Marty works more with young adults. Marty says, “I don’t mind the spotlight, preaching and stuff, but I look at pastoring as loving on people, so being on stage is not really something I need to love on people.” That works out well because Robin also likes to preach. The two trade off preaching duties every other week.

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