Health and Growth

14 Skills Every Executive Pastor Needs: The Definitive Guide

A comprehensive list of the professional skills that make an epic executive pastor.

14 Skills Every Executive Pastor Needs: The Definitive Guide
by

Paul Maxwell

The executive pastor role is difficult to describe, and it can be even harder to fill.

Many executive pastors feel that their role is a catch-all for chaos—the everything-and-anything pastor who doesn’t let any of the important details fall through the cracks.

This responsibility can feel daunting. Especially for a church that is growing and figuring out how to delegate new resources, hire new staff, and create new programs.

The executive pastor role can easily feel, at the same time, both impossible and necessary.

But there are many gifted people out there who are perfectly suited for this position. They thrive when tasked with these responsibilities. They are gifted in the way a corporate executive needs to be gifted, but they have the heart, character, and calling that pulls them toward local church ministry.

Whether you’re an executively gifted pastor, an executive pastor looking to round out your skillset, or a growing church searching for an executive pastor, here are the 14 skills every executive pastor needs.

1. Administratively gifted

Being administratively gifted is different from being detail-oriented. A book editor can be helpfully detail-oriented. A box boy at Target can be helpfully detail-oriented. But being administratively gifted is more than that—it is a meta-skill.

Being administratively gifted means that you know how to create and manage systems that make the details work for your church. This may include hiring and leading a team of detail-oriented people. But being administratively gifted means that you need to know how to creatively work on the back end of details—on the models and systems that keep the inflow and outflow of details efficient, smooth, productive, and comprehensive.

2. Complements other staff

Not every executive pastor would fit in every church. If your church already has a highly competent administrator and a senior pastor with strong visionary skills, the executive pastor may need to take on more preaching, budgeting, and boots-on-the-ground team leadership responsibilities. If the church has an administrative vacuum and a strong preaching pastor, but no vision and a bloated leadership staff, then the executive pastor position would make more sense as an administrator/efficiency expert. 

Some of these variables are fixed, and some are flexible. Some people can choose to fulfill an executive pastor position that they’re not most suited for—and they can do it well—and some of them can’t. The church’s hiring committee or human resources department needs to do the hard work of figuring out what kinds of executively gifted people they are looking for, what kind of people they would be willing to hire even if they aren’t perfectly suited for their job description, and what kind of fixed traits are deal breakers for the position.

3. Visionary

An executive pastor needs to be able to cast a vision for the church. And, if the senior pastor has a visionary skillset, then the executive pastor needs to be able to participate in dialogue with the senior pastor in a contributive role. More than that, the executive pastor is typically responsible for translating larger visions into concrete details so that the team can evaluate whether the vision, timeframe and methods are doable and affordable.

4. Fiscally competent

At the end of the day, the executive pastor should be tasked with being the numbers person. This means that the executive pastor will lead the team in everything related to church finance, even if that means outsourcing most of the tasks to others who are more gifted in their respective domains. For example, while the church administrator may be highly gifted in accounting, the executive pastor will not only oversee that position, but also the church’s investments, overall financial strategy, and short- and long-term financial goals and relationships.

The executive pastor will have an eye for achieving small percentile advantages in every financial tool the church uses in order to enable the church to build wealth so that it can more successfully and sustainable resource its ministry interests.

5. Long-Term thinker

The average church staff member will have the luxury of focusing on day-to-day tasks related to the business of the church itself. Preparing lessons. Cleaning rooms. Planning events. Counseling. Outreach. 

But while everyone else is playing checkers, the executive pastor needs to be playing chess. The executive pastor is ultimately tasked with enabling the church to win the longer, more complicated game of building a lasting and powerful legacy in the community so that other church staff members can focus their concentration on achieving excellence in each of their respective domains of responsibility and expertise.

6. De-escalates potential conflict

A leader who freaks out when chaos strikes will lead their church to ruin. Other staff members can panic when something goes wrong, but it needs to be someone’s job to maintain emotional stability and clear-headedness when everything feels off-tilt. That’s the job of the executive pastor. Because the executive pastor is tasked with managing the complexities and chaos of the church, it falls to that position to set the emotional tone for the staff when handling difficult issues.

As the executive pastor, you should be able to compartmentalize what are your personal feelings about a situation from your job, which is to keep your church organization running smoothly. 

7. Delegates responsibility

The executive pastor is, ideally, the person who can step into any role and do it very well. Yet—and this is a bit counterintuitive—the executive pastor’s job is itself not to do any of those things. The executive pastor is tasked with leading the teams that execute the necessary tasks that keep the church running. 

The more on-the-ground tasks the executive pastor insists on doing, the less able he or she is to carry out his managerial duties. If the executive pastor decides to participate heavily in the accounting process because he is gifted in accounting, then he is underserving the other teams of volunteers and staff who need a leader.

8. Operates with a clear sense of job description

Because the executive pastor position can easily become a catch-all for every random detail, it’s easy for the job itself to balloon into something unmanageable. It’s important that the executive pastor has a very clear sense of his or her own job description so that other staff and volunteers have the opportunity to grow into more responsibility and so that the executive pastor position doesn’t become something that should really take 2-3 pastors to successfully complete.

9. Committed to congregation over personal brand

Executive pastors are often very gifted communicators, and more than other church staff positions will receive opportunities to write, speak, and engage with the culture on a larger stage. While these opportunities can be fantastic platforms to grow the church and have an impact for the kingdom, it’s important that the executive pastor focuses a majority of his or her work hours and energy on the church itself. 

The role of the executive pastor should not be a ceremonial position—it should not be something that is determined by cultural praise, but by personal character and competence. The valuable executive pastor will always work diligently to keep a strong connection between his giftedness and the wellbeing of the church in this respect.

10. Cultivates healthy church culture

The executive pastor should have a steady hand in the shaping of the church culture. This starts with the senior leadership team. It is important for someone on the senior leadership team to take ownership of this major product—cultivating a healthy personal culture within the church. 

How your senior team relates to one another, and consequently how they relate to junior staff, and consequently how those staff interface with members, will directly determine how people feel when they enter and participate in your church. 

11. Attention to detail

As we mentioned earlier, attention to detail is different from administrative giftedness. It is most important for an executive pastor to be administratively gifted. And yet, it is likewise important for the executive pastor to have attention to detail—for two reasons. 

First, if it falls to the executive pastor to hire detail-oriented people, then it is necessary for him to be able to assess their level of competence in this regard, which requires that the executive pastor himself or herself must be detail-oriented to some degree. 

Second, there are busy seasons in which the executive pastor must compensate for a staff shortage, vacation, or abundance of work by taking over for other roles. Because it falls to the executive pastor to manage the efficiency and effectiveness of these teams, it is important for him to be able to flex into these positions when necessary.

12. Values human resources

Church leaders are called to be above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2). One of the most important ways a church can remain above reproach is by having a human resource department to manage hirings, firings, on-boarding processes, training, and to ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local employment laws. This not only protects the church from liability but also contributes to the healthfulness of the church culture

13. Onboarding architect

The executive pastor should have a very clear sense of how to integrate new members onto the team. Because many churches have teams composed of a mix of staff and volunteers, the executive pastor must shape the onboarding process in such a way that helps new team members to internalize the culture of the church so that they can extend the mission of the church in the ministry in which they participate. 

A church culture is very delicate, and the onboarding process very often sets the tone not only for the team culture of a specific ministry but every individual that ministry touches.

14. Able to pastor

There is an important distinction between an executive pastor and a church administrator—and it is that the executive pastor is an actual pastor.

While the executive pastor is valuable to the church because of his business-oriented skills, it is important to remember that part of his role is to exercise real spiritual responsibility for the sake of his church staff and members, and the manner in which he conducts himself as a pastor has greater spiritual implications than the average corporate executive. The executive pastor must be able and willing to teach, counsel, and pastor when called upon—this is, after all, half of the job title.

Over to you

Does your church have an executive pastor? Are you an executive pastor looking to improve your professional skills? Are you a growing church considering the addition of an executive pastor?

Be sure to carefully consider the skills here, and whether or not those who you are considering for the position bring these qualities to your team. More than that, as you craft the job description for your executive pastor, carefully consider not only what skills you hope he or she will bring to your team, but what sort of executive pastor your church specifically needs. Ideally, you want to make a 30-year hire. Make sure that the thoughtfulness you put into choosing and fashioning your executive pastor is suited to this ideal.

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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14 Skills Every Executive Pastor Needs: The Definitive Guide