Quick—who is the most important person on a church staff?
The answer depends on who you ask. (But the correct answer is obviously Preschool Director—how do they do it?) There’s no question that every person on a church team is valuable and needed.
Then why is it that not everyone who works at a church always feels valued or appreciated? There are a host of reasons for that—from unclear communication to unhealthy team culture. But there’s one solution that can make any church team stronger and more efficient.
Of course, I’m talking about a good Executive Pastor.
This crucial leadership role has the opportunity to get the most out of a team and drive a church’s growth from within. But what is an Executive Pastor and how can your church get one?
Consider this your guide to Executive Pastors.
What is an Executive Pastor (XP)?
An Executive Pastor generally oversees a church’s administration, finance, staff, and operations. Think of them as a specialized CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and COO (Chief Operations Officer)—plus a few other things rolled into one.
Although it depends on a church’s organization, the Executive Pastor is usually one of the highest-ranking leaders within a church, just behind the Senior or Lead Pastor. Their main responsibility is overseeing the administration of the church.
Why should your church have an Executive Pastor?
Churches are often understaffed, with team members who are overworked. So there’s always a need for another person in leadership. However, an Executive Pastor is not always the first hire made within the church. Because not all church teams require one—at least at first.
So why would your church need an Executive Pastor? How are you sure when you’re ready to hire one? What are some reasons why you should even bother creating this position on your team?
- They help your church grow sustainably. Every church wants to grow (or at least most churches do). A good Executive Pastor makes sure that happens in a healthy way.
- They keep things running smoothly. At its core, a church operates like a business (at least it should). And an Executive Pastor is responsible for implementing comprehensive business systems to make sure operations run effectively.
- They find and retain the right people. One major role of the Executive Pastor is managing people. This means hiring the right team members and making them feel valued so you can get them to stick around.
- They manage your limited resources. Most churches don’t have enough people or a large enough church budget to do everything they need. But an Executive Pastor helps a church get the most out of the limited resources you have.
These are just a few advantages to adding an Executive Pastor to your church team. Because this is such an important role, it’s crucial you find the right person.
So what are the characteristics and executive pastor skills to look for in a potential Executive Pastor?
What are an Executive Pastor’s job responsibilities?
The role of the Executive Pastor depends on the church and who else is on staff. An Executive Pastor might oversee an entire team, or be a team of one. There are generally a set of responsibilities that fall under the purview of most Executive Pastors.
- Scheduling and leading church staff meetings
- Managing the staff organizational chart
- Handling new staff hiring and on-boarding
- Overseeing church human resource efforts, including staff salaries and benefits
- Developing the annual church and ministry budgets
- Maintaining staff policies, procedures, and best practices
- Solving interpersonal conflict or other team challenges
Before you start a search for an Executive Pastor, it’s smart to write out a job description with everything you’d like for them to do. This will serve as a guide during the hiring process and a good onboarding tool to get your new church leader moving in the right direction.
How to hire an Executive Pastor
There’s quite a bit to keep in mind when searching for an Executive Pastor at your church. As with everything else, this depends on your church’s needs and existing staff. However, there are still some common things to keep in mind when hiring for this leadership position.
- Experience. What jobs has this person held in the past? Have they worked at a church before? Have they been in a leadership position? Their past work experience will help answer these questions and more.
- Education. A solid educational background is also a good reference for a potential Executive Pastor candidate. College or graduate degrees in business, finance, communication, or administration are good places to start. A theology degree is also a plus.
- Skills. An effective Executive Pastor will need to have a lot of skills—both hard and soft. Because these are so extensive, we’ll get into that range of skills in the next section. Keep in mind this ties very closely into their work experience.
- Character. Beyond just their background, what is this person like? What is their personal spiritual background? Since this person will be on the leadership team for your church, you’ll want to ensure they will uphold your values and represent the church well.
- Culture. It’s easier to train someone with new skills than change their personality to fit into a culture. You shape a church culture by who you hire, especially for a person in leadership. So ask yourself what culture you want to create, and how this person fits into that mold.
Most importantly, take your time when looking for an Executive Pastor. Wait to find the right person. There may be a lot of gaps that aren’t being handled while you wait. But it’s easier to be patient for the right fit than it is to fire the wrong person and start the search process all over again.
What skills are needed to be an Executive Pastor?
Because of the high level of leadership and wide range of responsibilities, a good Executive Pastor needs quite a few skills in their toolkit. Some of the best characteristics an Executive Pastor should have include:
- The ability to manage people and relationships
- Clear and effective with communication to large groups
- Detail-oriented and good with implementing systems
- Background or experience with budgets and finances
- Works well with the senior pastor and the rest of the leadership team
- Empathetic to the needs and concerns of the entire staff
- Experience using databases or HR software
All of these skills are important, and you’d like to find someone with experience in several of these areas. But remember, it’s more crucial to find someone who is a good cultural and personality fit that has the capacity to learn some of these skills on the job.
How to get hired as an Executive Pastor
Maybe you’re not a church looking for an Executive Pastor; perhaps you’re an up-and-coming church leader who would like to land a gig with this title. Which is great, because plenty of churches need more great leaders like you.
But how do you get started? Where can you look for open Executive Pastor positions? And how do you prepare yourself to become a church’s Executive Pastor? Here are a few tips.
- Get some experience. What work experience do you already have? Have you worked in a church before? If not, talk to someone who has and find out what experience overlaps with what you’ll need to know.
- Expand your skills. How many of the skills listed in the section above fit you? If it’s not very many, you might need to wait to work on your skillset. Take some online courses. Read some books on related topics. Or focus on those areas in the job you have now.
- Do your research. Look up some existing Executive Pastors and find out more about them. See if you can get into contact to ask them about their experience. Learn about what it takes to do the job well, so you can begin doing the same things yourself.
- Start the job hunt. Think you’re ready to become an Executive Pastor? Hit the church job boards and find some openings. Set up alerts on those boards so you’ll get alerted about new openings. Update your resume and your LinkedIn profile.
Over to you
Whether you’re hiring an executive pastor or striving to become one yourself, I pray this guide helped you along the way. If you’re interested in knowing suggested guidelines for an executive pastor’s salary, please download the church Staff Salary Guide: A Short Guide On How Much To Pay Your Staff or check out this blog post for additional information.
ps. Watch this interview on the role of an executive pastor with Frank Barry, COO at Tithe.ly and Dave Blough, XP at Wintonbury Church.