I’ve been approached more than once over the years by individuals who are interested in “doing what I do.” They’re interested in becoming an executive pastor someday. They ask, “How do I become an executive pastor?”
Given the uniqueness of the role and my path to the position, I’m not sure what to tell them. There’s no degree or “typical” career path. In fact, in most cases, people in this role didn’t set out to become executive pastors. They were working as a leader in corporate America, very involved in their church, and over time invited into the role by their senior pastors. This was certainly the case with me.
It’s almost an accident; at least it seems that way to the perspective executive pastor. Rather it’s answering God’s calling when he had something else in mind for the corporate leader needed to help the church accomplish its mission. In much the same way as a senior pastor is called to plant a church or otherwise become a pastor, the executive pastor is called out of corporate to come alongside the senior pastor who God has used to grow a church to the point where senior leadership help is required.
So, what do I say? Knowing the position’s duties, the first thing I tell a prospective candidate is to stay in corporate for a while. This is the case when I’m talking to a person in their 20s and even early 30s. At 24, a person doesn’t have the experience needed to lead at the level required of the executive pastor. The executive pastor has to know a little about a lot. Leading other leaders, handling the finances, planning, managing the facility, and the myriad of other duties require a bunch of experience.
“What type of degree do I need?” many ask. If they have no degree, first and foremost, I tell them they need a technical or business degree. I have a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems with a minor in Business Management. This has served me well, but many other degree types work just as well. The point here is the undergraduate degree should be something other than a Bible degree. If the person already has a degree like I’ve described, then, by all means, they should pursue a Bible degree. If a person has no degree but a lot of experience, I’ll usually tell them to pursue a Bible degree.
But probably the most important thing I tell a person is to get connected at their church and begin to serve in an area that would qualify them for the position. And, most importantly, begin to develop a relationship with the senior pastor.