Health and Growth

The Ultimate Guide to Church Staff: An Executive Pastor's Roles and Responsibilities Checklist

To create the ultimate church staff team, use this comprehensive checklist to architect the right roles and hire the right people.

The Ultimate Guide to Church Staff: An Executive Pastor's Roles and Responsibilities Checklist
by

Paul Maxwell

Your church staff reflects your church mission.

Who you hire, what roles exist, and with what responsibilities those hires are tasked, communicates to both your long-time members and first-time visitors: “This is what we care about. This is the kind of culture we’re creating. These are the causes that burn in our hearts. This is where our pressing goals exist.”

Because of how much your church staff says about your church’s mission and culture, you want to make sure that you have the right roles in place, and the right people for those roles.

As any executive team knows, architecting the right team and finding the right talent to fill that architecture is no easy task.

In this article, we’re going to examine exactly what elements predict the best fit for your specific church, and what roles must universally be filled in order for any church to fulfill its function as a church.

Pro Tip: To get a sense of what church staff should make, check out our article: Church Staff Salaries: A Short Guide (& The Real Stats)

The Right People: A Matter of Credentials, Experience, and “Fit”

Making the right hire always boils down to a balance of these three elements: Credentials, Experience, and “Fit.”

Credentials are official, formal achievements that can be tabulated on a piece of paper. They list formal accomplishments such as certifications, licensures, degrees, and internships. They serve as endorsements from credible institutions of an applicant. The more credible the institution, the more valuable the endorsement.

Experience should refer a hiring committee to particular completed projects that exemplify the applicant’s previous work. Those projects can range anywhere from “Employed at X for Y years,” which is itself an accomplishment, to “Created W for Z” or “Filled role P for the purpose of Q” to indicate a particular skill.

“Fit” represents all the intangibles of an applicant that predict whether they will flourish or flounder in the role. These intangibles often reside in body language, sensibility, personality scoring, conversational ability, and attitude. What constitutes a good fit will vary vastly from position to position—one applicant will be a perfect fit for a solo-pastor role in a small town church, and their diametrical opposite might fail in that position, but perform fantastically as a communications director at a church of 2500+.

Below are the various forms of qualifications that will help hiring committees to parse these three factors into measurable questions and criteria, either for writing a job description, or for hiring an applicant.

“The Perfect Applicant”

Before putting together a job description or entering a hiring process, it’s important for the hiring committee to disabuse itself of the notion that “the perfect candidate” exists somewhere out there.

The perfect candidate doesn’t exist.

Every applicant will have shortcomings that he or she will need to work on while employed at your church. There is no such thing as a perfect pastor, and there will be no such thing as a perfect applicant. Your church will usually have preferred whoever filled the position most recently. And, if not, they will likely prefer someone they already know to fill the position.

The hiring committee’s job is to fill that role with the best applicant they can find, not to delay the process indefinitely until they find the candidate who has all of the credentials, experience, and “fit.” Every candidate will likely be lacking in one, potentially two, of these critical areas. This is part of the hiring process, and one of the ways you account for that as a church, without accepting too much incompetence as a given, is to have a professional development for each new hire so that their value to the church increases exponentially as they grow as a member of your church staff.

Before you hire, you must determine in which of these three areas it is most acceptable to have a deficiency. The software development industry is a great modern example of a culture in which credentialism means very little—experience and “fit” mean almost everything, which is why many talented programmers forego formal college education entirely and opt for high-paying development jobs at website agencies and software firms.

Your church may need to bring someone on board who brings credibility to your church, in which case credentialism would be more heavily weighted.

Whatever your situation, and whatever the role, make sure that you know before you write the job description what you need, and tailor the description to give special weight to those domains of qualification.

Professional Qualifications

Professional qualifications are important for churches, since the church world lacks many of the formal means of credentialing that exist in the business world. Professional qualifications are an intersection of credentials and experience.

For example, an M.Div. and associate pastor experience would put a candidate on-track for an associate pastor role at a larger church, or perhaps even a senior pastor role. If your denomination requires a long process of ordination, and they haven’t begun that process, then you must determine whether your church is willing to patiently guide them through that process, or whether their lack of ordination filters them out of the candidate pool.

A candidate with a year of church administrative experience could be on track for an operations pastor role.

Set minimum and desired educational and professional qualifications for each role, and make sure to get information from every applicant that best informs you about their educational and professional history.

Moral Qualifications

Moral qualifications exist at the intersection of experience and “fit.”

The Apostle Paul gives specific qualifications for elders to Titus and Timothy (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 3:1-7). These qualifications include certain skills and certain moral behavioral standards.

As we noted earlier, there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. But just as there is an educational and experiential minimum for most jobs, there is a higher moral minimum standard for pastors, which includes that they are not a con-artist, an adulterer, violent-tempered, and several other important factors that will determine whether they will be able to biblically fill the office of pastor in a church.

Theological Qualifications

Theological qualifications exist at the intersection of credentials and “fit.”

Your church likely has a doctrinal statement which filters out potential candidates. One of the ways denominations have historically filtered these candidates is that all applicants must first be ordained in their denomination before they apply to a position, in order to assure the hiring committee that every candidate is a theological fit.

However, in many churches that ordain pastoral hires after the hire is made, that theological conversation should take place in the hiring process. The point here isn’t to make candidates jump through stodgy theological hoops just to get a job, but rather to ensure that the candidate understands what your church is about, what its values are, and what its congregants and elders expect from its employees.

Not every church staff member needs to meet the theological standards of the pastoral staff. Since Paul explicitly gives his instructions to elders, it makes sense that only those in teaching roles need to undergo this kind of conversation in the hiring process.

Cultural Qualifications

Cultural qualifications fall squarely within the domain of “experience.”

It’s important that applicants understand the culture of your church. If an applicant has excellent leadership experience, but comes from a very different kind of church, you want to make sure that your job description and interview process express the culture of your church.

For example, if an applicant comes from a very small, doctrinally focused church, and your hiring committee serves a larger, seeker-oriented church, you will want to set aside time to ensure that this cultural disparity won’t cause preventable dissatisfaction on both sides of the hire down the road.

Personality Qualifications

Personality qualifications fall strictly within the domain of “fit.”

With personality, you are dealing mostly with intangibles. The only way to quantify personality factors is to require applicants to fill out a personality test which predicts how well they will fit with your current team. It is advisable that your hiring team, executive team, and current staff all fill out such a test before a major hire so that, going forward, you can make the right decision for your church with all of the relevant information.

Many church hiring problems stem from this particular domain, so it’s important to do everything you can as a church to ensure that there is a personality fit up front. The rest of the details on an application take less than 5 minutes to evaluate. A personality fit can require hours of conversation to ensure that the applicant, upon hire, can bring sufficient “buy in” to your church’s existing way of serving its congregants and community.

The Right Roles: Optimizing Your Job Titles and Roles for Congregational Success

Below, we will delineate the elemental roles that all churches must fill.

At a smaller church, some of these roles will collapse into a single role. For example, at a church below 250 members, the Associate Pastor might collapse into the Youth Pastor role. In churches below 100, all of these roles may collapse into a single role—from Custodian to Senior Pastor.

On the other hand, at a church of over 1000, the Church Administrator position might require multiplication into several different positions, such as Operations Pastor, Administrative Director, Secretary, and Executive Assistant.

These roles are a middle road for a church of 1000 people. Depending on budget, location, and resources, these roles could be parsed into more focused roles or combined into larger roles.

Every church reaches a point at which they must hire for more than they need in order to scale upward. One of the indicators that your growth may require more hires is that your volunteers are overtasked. The most common need for growing churches is administrative support. If you can make a hire to mobilize and organize the moving parts of a church, at whatever pain point is critical for your particular congregation, you drastically increase your ceiling for growth.

Senior Pastor

The senior pastor is often responsible for preaching, teaching, and vision-casting. He sits in a CEO role for the church. Among his duties include overseeing the major moving parts of a church are set in place and that the right people exist to perform the right jobs.

If something goes wrong, the senior pastor is tasked with ensuring that either he or a responsible staff member are there to resolve that issue.

The senior pastor is responsible for managing and directing the culture of a church. This can sometimes be a long-term project. But that is very much why he is there—to take on long-term goals and to see them through with consistent execution and implementation.

A church needs someone to devote their time and energy to vision-casting in its pulpit and in its culture, and a growing church will designate time in the senior pastor’s schedule to do that by delegating manual tasks to others.

Associate Pastor

The associate pastor can tend to be a flexible position church-to-church, depending on the needs of the congregation and community it is serving.

At one church, the associate pastor may be responsible for taking on ⅔ of preaching Sundays if the pastor is busy speaking, writing, and performing other executive tasks. At another church, the associate pastor may be responsible for counseling and take on more executive-specific roles.

A church hiring for an associate pastor role should have a very specific articulation of what shape this role will take, as it is often treated as a “junk drawer” position without clear boundaries or performance metrics. It’s easy to unintentionally abuse this role, and the person in it, due to lack of clarity.

Youth Pastor

The youth pastor is responsible for pre-teens through college-aged adult children, with flexible boundaries on a church-by-church basis. The church should have a clear sense of at what age pastoral responsibility is handed off from the children’s pastor to the youth pastor, and from the youth pastor to an adult-specific pastor.

The youth pastor’s hours are not as clearly set as the pastor’s, since most of the hours youth are free are outside of school—that is, on nights and weekend. Since his job will likely take him on service trips, all-nighters, early-morning meetings, and night-time Bible studies, the youth pastor will have to set clear boundaries on what constitutes “work,” “overtime,” and what are the expectations for vacation, being on-call, and the like.

When these boundaries are made clear, the youth pastor should also be given certain performance metrics related to both working with parents to pastor their children and to outreach for the purpose of growing the youth group.

While it’s easy to allow this position to fall into a “maintenance” position that simply handles the congregation’s children, this position is a powerful potential source of growth for the church, as youth events draw families from the community that would otherwise not attract their adult parents—thus, making a connection with the family that would be harder to forge with working professional parents.

Children’s Pastor

The children’s pastor isn’t just someone who is good with kids. They should have professional experience in childcare, and likewise know how to fit on the pastoral team to liaison with new and expecting parents, as well as family, to provide care for their children while their parents are at a church event.

The children’s pastor is also responsible to partner with the senior pastor and the church security team to provide proper care and chain-of-custody tools to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children with whom the church is entrusted.

Church Administrator

The church administrator is the lynchpin of a church’s success. The person who fills this position oversees all operational details of the church. They should be trusted by the senior leadership and be included on all but the most pastorally confidential details of the church.

This administrative role is responsible for executing and implementing all logistical tasks that translate from the executive team’s vision to boots-on-the-ground ministry, and back up the chain again, so that everyone on the church staff is working as an informed and cohesive team.

This role would fill the tasks of an executive assistant, secretary, and operations manager. Ideally, they would be a notary and have experience managing finances, are competent with Microsoft Office, and can process large amounts of data on a daily basis.

The person who fills this role should be highly organized and proficient in productivity, time management, and communications tools relevant to organizational and administrative success.

Church Accountant/Treasurer

An accountant is one individual who does not necessarily need to be “on staff” at a church.

Many local accounting firms offer services that fill this need, and a church would wisely take advantage of the opportunity to outsource many of its accounting needs to a firm.

However, the point-person for accounting issues in a church should be proficient in financial management and accounting so that the firm is given all of the relevant data.

The larger a church becomes, the more complex its financial needs become, and the more it would make sense to hire a full-time accountant—perhaps even a Senior Accountant—to ensure that all of the church’s income, assets, and expenses are accounted for properly, follow an appropriate chain of custody, and are reported and delivered properly to protect the financial integrity of the church and to perform due diligence with regard to the tithes of its members.

One fantastic means of digitally tracking all incoming tithes is to use a digital giving service such as Tithe.ly Giving, which not only allows members to set up recurring giving from their phones, but also generates sophisticated and clear financial reports for pastors and accountants to clearly see the financial health of the church.

Communications Director

The communications director at a church is responsible for overseeing all church communications, which include: church graphics, website management, video and audio production during events and services, church-wide email and text communications, and any other public relations or marketing needs a church may have.

The individual in this role should be gifted in three particular areas: team management (the most crucial), writing (second-most crucial), and creative production. Creative production needs can be outsourced and trained by local or in-church talent. But a creative director will be gifted at overseeing, training, and finding the right partner to outsource any and all of its creative needs.

They should have a creative eye. And, while it’s tempting to hire a pure creative as a church communications director, it’s better to have a team manager with a creative eye than a creative who lacks team management skills. You will get a more artistically impressive, smooth communications deliverable from a communications director who knows how to find and partner with the right kind of talent than from hiring a talented creative who lacks the necessary skills to produce consistent brand smoothness that communicates both artistic giftedness and professionalism, both of which your church should aim to communicate.

Volunteer Coordinator

Your volunteer coordinator will oversee: volunteer training and recruitment, reporting on overall volunteer health, overseeing pain points or issues with volunteers, as well as organizing small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, childcare volunteers, work-project volunteers, youth group chaperones, and any other participation opportunities your church may provide to its members.

The best tool a volunteer coordinator can utilize to succeed is event management and registration software, such as Tithe.ly Events, and ideally, this would be an extension of a full church management solution such as Tithe.ly ChMS, which integrates the church’s membership management software with event registration.

This will save the volunteer coordinator hundreds of hours per year, solely in the manual labor it erases by digitally automating all sign-ups, event details, marketing, and updates.

The volunteer coordinator should be administratively gifted, good with people, gifted in public speaking, and visionary.

Facilities Manager

The church’s facilities manager plays a critical role in crafting the experience of your church members and visitors.

The benefit of a competent facilities manager is invisible—the less you notice the need for a facilities manager, the more successful they are.

When all the lights get turned on at the right time, the power is routed to the right outlets, the carpets are cleaned, the chairs are stacked in the right place, the garbage is taken out, and the maintenance needs are met in a timely fashion, the facilities manager has done their job.

The facilities manager should have experience managing electrical, construction, and waste management needs. For larger churches, this position should also have team leadership experience—even if that team leadership experience is written into the professional development plan upon hire.

As a church grows, its facilities are used more, and require more maintenance. Due to this, the facilities team will grow as the church grows—and the church should always keep its finger on the pulse of its facility management team health.

Conclusion

Creating the right church staff roles and filling them with the right people is no small thing.

The best church hiring teams will be filled with those who have an eye toward professionalism, an ear for the right culture fit, and a prayerful heart seeking to fulfill Jesus’s great commission to make disciples of all nations.

Your church is in God’s hands. Remember this as you diligently work to reach your congregation and community for the sake of his kingdom, hiring the right ambassadors to help you spread his message.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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The Ultimate Guide to Church Staff: An Executive Pastor's Roles and Responsibilities Checklist