Executive pastors are tasked with some of the hardest knowledge work in the church.
They must regularly engage in systematic thinking, software and church management systems that require multiple skills to operate competently, and at the same time execute their job duties primarily as an ordained shepherd of the flock in which God has placed them.
Because the executive pastor is required to perform many different tasks that conscript a disparate set of complex skills, the ability to maintain a high productive pace is one of the soft skills which will differentiate between the executive pastor who is merely a glorified church secretary and the executive pastor who takes responsibility for bringing the church’s vision and operations as an organization to a profoundly higher level.
Here, we’re going to dive into seven principles of maintaining a sufficient level of throughput in your workload such that the church can organizationally handle the burden its God-given vision places on its leadership team.
The problem with most blogs on productivity is that they all say the same thing.
- “Batch your work”
- “Use a scheduling app”
- “Block your time”
Yada, yada, yada.
You don’t need Google to tell you something you could have written in 5 minutes. But executive pastors need to draw on certain principles unique to their position that enables them to effectively fulfill both aspects of their role — executive and pastor.
Their tasks are not simple.
They change daily.
Advice such as “establish a routine” aren’t straightforwardly applicable to the executive pastor’s role, which is often to prevent logistical emergencies from interfering with the smoothness of the church’s worship service and work.
The productivity secrets we’ll look at today are from some of the most successful executive pastors, and they are unique to the role.
Keep that in mind.
Let’s get into them.
1. Articulate a vision for your role
With an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in hand, and time to learn how they interface with the strengths and weaknesses of your church, you can determine for yourself: “This is exactly what I specifically can dream to do for our church.”
Ask yourself how much you can accomplish on a team that is excited to have you on board.
Collaborate with your senior pastor to make sure that this vision aligns with the overall vision of the church and plugs in directly to assist in the realization of the church’s core mission statement.
2. Relegate meetings to office hours
This is about more than time blocking. It’s actually the opposite. Set whatever office hours you believe your church leadership team agrees are reasonable (and fight for as few and consistent hours as possible), and direct everyone who requires a meeting to go through your assistant to set a time.
This may even be as simple as using Calend.ly to allow people to submit specific and detailed meeting requests through a custom Calend.ly link.
3. Opt for enterprise solutions, not boutique services
Executive pastors need to think like executives. No more hacks, workarounds, or aggregating 100 different inefficient services. Think scale.
Ask what systems you’ll need to have in place when your church is twice its current size and implement them now. It’s your job as an executive pastor to see every potential path—wins and losses—and plan for the best while preparing for the worst.
Instead of using your junior high leader to build your church’s website on Wordpress, opt for a more secure and stable web solution like Tithe.ly Sites. On and on it goes, down the list—for every systemic tool you have, make sure it can scale.
Think in terms of enterprise solutions, not boutique services. Boutique companies usually don’t become the best company in its industry, and the likelihood that they will not scale to meet your capacity in the event of church growth makes their tool a liability rather than an asset.
Clean and reliable systems are organizational assets. Acquire as many of them as you can by working with established and reputable companies with corporate credibility. Your church may not see the need for them, but they will experience the effects of them in the efficiency of your operations and the smoothness of the church event experience.
4. Delegate everything. Yes, everything
Always be seeking to make your job unnecessary.
This is what will make you truly necessary.
Whatever church task you’re tempted to take on as an executive pastor, make it your job instead to find someone else to do it. People won’t think you’re lazy—they’ll understand that you’re charged with seeing and fulfilling all of the operational needs of the church and that it’s your job to make sure all of these needs are met by someone.
It’s hard for most people to make the shift from thinking like an employee to thinking like an executive. The executive pastor is a fundamentally delegatory role. The executive pastor has a sixth sense for what needs to be done, and a seventh sense for who should be doing it. Soft skills that make this discipline easier are: networking, managing your social capital so you’re not straining certain relationships, and cultivating a positive ecosystem of mutual ownership and willingness among the team so that people take initiative to fulfill their job description and beyond.
5. Invest in your personal or virtual assistant
The better your assistant is, the better work you can do. Not every church budget can account for an executive pastor’s assistant. If that’s the case, try to get a budget for a virtual assistant that you can train on your systems, preferences, and processes.
A well-trained virtual assistant could potentially cut down on 70% of the time that you spend doing the manual labor of communication. Have them manage your schedule, your email, and everything else digital in your world so that they can give you a brief, daily digest that you can resolve on your terms in your time blocks.
Otherwise, you are subject to the tyranny that the Internet exercises over your time. Remove that tyranny by putting someone else in-between yourself and the constant contact of email, scheduling, and digital communication so that you can focus on the more strategic work you were hired to do.
6. Give direct access only to two people
Give direct access only to the lead pastor and your assistant.
No one else needs to be texting or calling you for professional reasons. If they are, you route them through your assistant to set up a meeting during your office hours.
Most executives don’t have the option of doing this. As an executive pastor, you can. Take advantage of this so that your church is served well by your presence on the team. Remember—delegate. You don’t need to rely on anyone else to delegate things. You do the delegating. Therefore, as the executive pastor, nobody needs direct access to you. There are other people on the team that exist for this purpose.
This comes back to thinking like an executive.
Get out of the “manual labor” mindset and remember what maximizes your ability to add value to the church team. It’s not glad-handling members, visitors, and staff with 4-5 one-on-ones per day. The executive pastor’s job resides in architecting a system that enables the manifestation and magnification of the church’s vision and delegating the tasks therein. Tailor your productivity strategy to this job description. Your church will feel the benefits of this choice.
7. Lobby for an aggressive budget
The bigger the church budget you can work with, the easier problems are to solve. Don’t get me wrong—throwing money at problems isn’t always a feasible way of managing growth and overcoming obstacles in your church.
Yet, the executive pastor is tasked with upkeeping the unseen operational realities that facilitate the smoothness of the churchgoer’s event experience. The more money you have, the more tools you can put in place to make the church run efficiently and effectively. This is your job. The bigger your budget—in a crude sense—the bigger your potential to manifest the vision and mission of the church.
Over to you
The executive pastor position is like none other, and hiring the right executive pastor is challenging.
Make sure that your productivity strategies are tailored to the unique details of your role. If you don’t, the church will suffer. As you strategize your productivity protocol, remember these seven principles that uniquely empower the executive pastor role:
- Articulate a vision for your role.
- Relegate meetings to office hours.
- Opt for enterprise solutions, not boutique services.
- Delegate everything. Yes, everything.
- Invest in your personal or virtual assistant.
- Give direct access only to two people.
- Lobby for an aggressive budget.
Extra Point: Use Tithe.ly ChMS
Tithe.ly’s ChMS is a fantastic enterprise tool for executive pastors to manage teams, oversee their use of Tithe.ly’s communication tools to manage their tasks and domains of responsibility, and to monitor the health of the church relative to its vision. There is not a better tool out there for executive pastors to get a comprehensive overview of their successes and failures, as well as drill down to the granular data of each member, volunteer, visitor, and staff person.