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The purpose of an Executive Pastor

This is probably the clearest I’ve got it so far, and I’ve been thinking about this for a while. The purpose of an Executive Pastor is to:

  1. Help the Team Leader ‘lead’.
  2. Support the Team as it ‘teams’.
  3. Keep gospel work absolutely central.

If an Executive Pastor plays a special role for the church, it is primarily helping the Senior Pastor as they “lead”. And right there you have to stop, because every SP is different with different skills, strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. As such, a good EP will “shadow” their SP and try to take on whatever takes up most of their SP’s energy. Thus no two EPs will be the same. (That said, some common EP responsibilities are; facilities oversight and management, strategic planning, resource management, financial management, policies, insurance, legal, IT, communications, calendar oversight, vendor relations, fundraising, etc.)

But the SP is not the only thing they help manage. The EP plays an important role in keeping the SP’s team to keep on being a team, to keep being on track. Again, since each SP and each Team is different, this will look like various things. One common aspect is to see what’s sapping the team’s energy most and trying to put things in place to offset that. (E.g. If all your team is exhausting themselves with IT issues, don’t wait for them all to fix it themselves, get someone to come in and help everyone. If they’re all struggling to keep organised, develop a system that will help them not hinder them.)

However, the last aspect of an EP’s role is the most important. It’s keeping the gospel work as the priority while they do the things around it. I’ve heard stories of Church Managers who have crippled their church staff with red-tape, policies and procedures to such an extent that the staff do less people work… they all become servants of the EP. But that’s the wrong way around. The EP is always a servant of the gospel and a slave of the team.

A great picture of this is Stephen in Acts 6. The Apostles can’t keep up with the logistic activity of food distribution, so to keep focused on gospel work and prayer they appoint people like Stephen… who then goes and preaches, gets arrested and martyred. Now that’s a good EP!

Aside: When is it an Executive Pastor, General Manager, Administrative Leader, etc?
We’ve made the decision that a large part of my responsibilities is to prayerfully pastor people and speak into pastoral situations in an executive (high-level) manner. I’d suggest that if an Exec Pastor is not preaching or playing a key role in high-level pastoral decisions, they might be better titled “General Manager” or “Executive Director”.

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The love that sparks the task should fuel the task

When you start a project or task its easy to get motivated. New things are exciting and carry a sense of momentum. But we don’t just go and do new things… we do things that we believe in… we just find it easier to do the new ones!

So how do you keep plugging away at the project or task when it’s no longer new?

Part of the answer is to re-consider the motivation that made that task exciting in the first place. Ask yourself (or your team), “What were you excited about this project before you got started? What were you hoping it would do?”

The goal or purpose of the project shouldn’t have changed since then. And that means the motivation to reach that goal shouldn’t have changed either.

So dig into the love that sparked the task, and keep working to use that motivation to fuel the task.

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Repost: Leading through anxiety

Once during my apprenticeship, I was responsible for the Sunday meeting (setup, order or service, etc). I’d make sure people knew they were “on”, I made sure people knew what they had to do. It was a little ants nest of activity.

One week I was on holidays. Everything was already prepped, I just wasn’t there. When I got back to work, the first thing I did was call one of the guys who was “on” to make sure everything went ok.

“Yeah, everything was fine… In fact, it was the most relaxed and quick setup ever.”

Boom.

So, things went better when I wasn’t there…

After chatting this through with a few people, I realised that I had a tendency to lead through anxiety. I can (without meaning to) create a feeling of pressure and urgency when none really exists.

Sure, sometimes there is a pressure situation, sometimes the sense of anxiety is appropriate. But, don’t let that be your operational standard.

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Repost: Try not to confuse your relationship ‘hats’

Some people you know on only one level; the local barista, a taxi driver, the policeman pulling you over for speeding. Its a pretty simple relationship, because you’re the driver and he’s the cop.

But what if the cop who pulls you over is a guy from your soccer team? Or your barista is a member of your church? Or your taxi driver is the husband of the couple you’re doing marriage counselling with?

In those situations, you have to be clear about what “relationship hat” you’re wearing… you’re not wearing the soccer team mate relationship hat, you’re wearing the driver/officer hat.

You can really stuff up a relationship when you try to wear two hats at the same time; “So officer, remember how we won the final together!?” doesn’t work.

I think this is really helpful in church staff teams, where we’re all close and good friends in Christ. Sometimes we need to say things to each other on the basis that we’re “Christian brothers” only. Other times we need to say it on the basis that we’re “employees” only.

This also plays out in share houses. Flat mates need to get used to saying things like, “Hey, I need to have a conversation with you, not as a friend, but as a flat mate.”

Four Leadership Styles

When it comes to leading people, it’s helpful to think about two aspects of every leadership conversation…
First, there’s the (horizontal) aspect; who makes the decision at the end of this conversation? Is the final decision way over on your side as the leader, or is it way over on the team member’s side? Or do you want the decision to be somewhere in between?
Second, there’s the (vertical) aspect; how much discussion takes place between you and the team member? You might have heaps of discussion about an idea or option, or you might have very little discussion at all.
The diagram below presents four possible alternatives when leading. We call them the four leadership styles. They follow a particular path where the more you want a mutual decision, the more discussion is required.

Leadership Styles 2015

Repost: Please criticise after you…

1. Think of a better (realistic not idealistic) alternative.

2. Assume the person you’re about to criticise has already thought of that alternative.

3. Assume that the person has some really good reason (or info that you don’t have) to have chosen against that option.

4. Ask them what that reason(s) is.

Then, please, please DO criticise!!

Most critics don’t even do the first. Some do come up with alternatives, but they assume you couldn’t have thought if it. Very few are gracious enough to ask why you’ve made the decisions you have.

I love those people ;)

Don’t do things for the right reason… Instead, do them for the right…

Christians have an appropriate concern about their motives. We want to do things for the right motivations, and we want our church families to do things for the right motivations. 

That’s a good thing. However, we can get caught up in the reasoning behind the right reasons. Are the reasons too guilt motivated? Are the reasons theologicaly sound? Are the reasons reasonable for where I’m at. 

So, rather than doing Christian things for the right reasons, a better way to approach it might be to do things for the right person. Yes… Jesus. 

When you consider who Jesus is, your forgiver, your brother, your master, your God… It motivates us relationally. We do things for him who died and lives for us.