Executive pastors hold a unique role in the church. They’re responsible for maintaining and improving church operations, as well as ensuring their church team remains healthy and aligned with their church’s vision. It takes a blend of business acumen and ministry know-how.
It’s a challenging position. As you know, Executive pastors have to advocate for the best strategic moves from an operations standpoint while keeping their church’s mission and vision at the center of their decisions. In such a broad role, every decision can have a lasting, far-reaching impact. Poor choices—or even indecision—can hinder a church’s ability to reach their goals, and negatively impact a church team’s health.
We work with more than 7,500 churches at Pushpay, and I’ve personally had a chance to connect and learn from some of the most influential thought leaders in ministry. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way that we hope will make an impact in your church.
1. Embrace and face difficult conversations
The longer a staff position or ministry that isn’t working out goes unaddressed, the more damage it can do to the health of your church. The executive pastor is often the one who holds individuals and teams accountable to the mission, vision, and best interests of the church.
But sometimes difficult conversations come from less-glaring problems. Maybe someone’s other commitments are inhibiting their ability to lead your church effectively, or they’re constantly talking over everyone in meetings.
When you put off difficult conversations, it allows the underlying problems—big or small—to fester. You definitely want to approach these conversations in compassionate, thoughtful ways, but you need to make them happen—so your church can stay healthy.
2. Learn to delegate
When the success or failure of a project ultimately reflects on you, it’s easy to start taking on everything yourself. But good leaders produce good leaders through delegation. And if you take on every job yourself, you have less energy to spend on the tasks that truly need your attention.
It’s important for executive pastors to recognize what each member of their staff is capable of, so they can delegate appropriately. Even if you’re the best at a particular task and you can work more efficiently, doing tasks your team is capable of doing is rarely the best use of the human resources God has given your church.
3. Hire staff with clear performance expectations
When you don’t know what success looks like, it’s a lot harder to achieve it. The opposite is true for failure: it gets harder to avoid. Each member of your staff should know what success and failure look like for their position before they start.
Defining your expectations helps your team work more efficiently, helps people hold themselves accountable, and makes difficult conversations easier to navigate—because you both knew what was expected. Similarly, people should have some understanding of consequences, so there are no surprises if someone doesn’t meet the expectations you agreed on.
And if your team has been together for years without clear expectations, it’s well past time to define them.
4. Don’t ignore tech that could improve church operations
To ensure your church sticks to your budget and avoids unnecessary spending, you may be tempted to rule out software purchases—because you can get by without them. But modern churches aren’t adopting new tech and investing in software because it’s trendy. They’re doing it because it saves them time and money, increases giving, or empowers them to do better ministry.
Take online giving, for example. Without it, you’re asking people to give with cash or checks, which beyond Sunday service, people rarely use. In fact, according to the recent 2019 Digital Giving Trends report, more than one-fifth of all millennials have never written a check. And 38 percent of Americans wouldn’t mind if cash disappeared completely. As your church leadership team evaluates opportunities and ways to increase generosity, consider the options you have in place for people to give. A digital giving solution can also increase recurring giving, which makes giving more consistent throughout the year and leads to more generosity overall.
Is it time to make a change?
Being an executive pastor is an incredible challenge, responsibility, and gift. God has called you to use your expertise and gifting to help spread his kingdom in your local community and the world. You play an integral role in helping your church be, become, and do everything he has planned for you. Which is why it’s so important to empower your team to do their best work possible.
Troy Pollock, Chief Ambassador at Pushpay