What is an Executive Pastor and Do We Need One?

Getting people to agree on the definition of an Executive Pastor is about as easy as nailing spaghetti to the wall. The reason seems to be that every Executive Pastor’s job description is different. And, therein lies the beauty and blessing of having an Executive Pastor.

The Executive Pastor & The Lead Pastor

As I have fleshed it out over the last several years I have come accustomed to saying that the Executive Pastor is whatever the lead pastor needs it to be.

For example, imagine a lead pastor who is very visionary. He always has 10 great ideas to impact the church and community. But, every time he gets people together for a meeting, nothing ever actually gets accomplished because he spends all the time getting people excited. He needs an Executive Pastor that can come along side him and give direction and structure to how the vision will actually get accomplished.

Or, imagine a senior pastor that is a gifted teacher. The pastor however doesn’t have the first clue about how to hire or fire staff, what to do about the raising rates of their utility bills, and loathes all the “business” of running the church. He needs an Executive Pastor to come along side him and run the organization.

So, in just two examples you can see that the range of gifts, skills, and abilities will range widely in the role of Executive Pastor. What ultimately determines what the Executive Pastor does is based on the strengths and weaknesses of the Lead Pastor.

What do you not want to do?

That’s probably the best question an Executive Pastor, or a candidate for an Executive Pastor position, can ask.

Sit down with the senior pastor and have him share what excites him about his ministry and church. Then, once he stops talking, ask what parts drag him down. Executive Pastor… you just found where you’re needed.

Sure, you’ll help him with the exciting stuff. But, if you’re a great fit you’ll be excited about all the stuff that wears him down.

Common Jobs of an Executive Pastor

It is often true that an Executive Pastor will operate a lot like a Chief Operating Office, with the senior pastor being the CEO. One sets the course, the other figures out how to get them there.

So, an Executive Pastor will often deal a lot with logistics, administration, finance, building systems and structures, and things of that nature.

The Executive Pastor will often be responsible for the entire staff of the church and working with them to set and achieve ministry objectives.

The Executive Pastor will also be available and flexible to help make the Lead Pastor as successful as possible.

Who Makes a Good Executive Pastor?

While it isn’t a hard and fast rule, usually someone who loves Jesus, loves the church, and has been successful in business will make a good Executive Pastor.

Do You Need an Executive Pastor?

As someone who is one, I’d probably say yes. Think of all you could do with someone by your side who wants you to focus on the strengths and callings God has give you and wants to take on all the challenges that weigh you down.

Seems like a win-win to me, for you and for the church.

2 thoughts on “What is an Executive Pastor and Do We Need One?

  1. Edith Woods on Reply

    I don”t know how an executive pastor would work at our church.New Bethel seems smaller than the churches I know that have executive pastors.The executive pastor literally runs the church under the guidance of the senior pastor,that is his only job. So therefore he would have to be paid a salary and benefits. My question would be Could our church afford the extra expense? Also what would be the role of the senior pastor?

    1. Ryan Burns on Reply

      Great point, Edith.

      My initial thought is that the Executive Pastor is (generally) the best 2nd hire of the church. So, when it grows to a place that the work load is too much for the pastor the carry himself, that’s a great time to hire an Executive.

      At that point, it allows the Executive Pastor to more closely work with volunteers and ministry leaders and allow the senior pastor to spend more time on his gifts and callings (usually preaching/teaching, leadership development, and vision).

      Of course, there needs to first be enough work to justify the hire AND enough money to pay the new staff. If you’re missing either of those, it is probably not time to hire one.

      I’d also point out that if a church can’t afford an Executive Pastor, the lead pastor should be looking for individuals within the congregation who 1) love the Lord, 2) love the church, 3) love the pastor, and 4) are successful in business. These are the type of people who would be great “volunteer” Executive Pastors that can help until the church is able to hire one.

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