Having worked with a number of new executive pastors making the transition into the role, I always have one very important recommendation. “Make sure the lead pastor is actually putting you in the position.”
What do I mean? In many cases the lead pastor is more than a little reluctant to actually put the new executive pastor in the position right from the start, preferring rather to have them “transition” into the role “over time.” I believe that it’s important to name the new executive pastor, announce it to the staff and congregation, and include all changes in reporting structure right from the start. Why? The success of the new executive pastor depends on it!
When I agreed to take on my current role way back in April of 2004, our senior pastor put me in the position formally. He worked with the staff ahead of my start date to gain their buy-in and made sure they knew they would no longer report directly to him as of my first day in the role. He also made an announcement to the congregation on Sunday morning, including bringing me up on the stage to formally introduce me as the new executive pastor, including a brief description of my duties.
Within a few weeks to a month, the senior pastor literally moved out of the office and began to work from his home office. He literally checked out of the daily supervision of the staff as well as the financial and operational details of running the church. Over the next 6 months, aside from working directly with me in my new role to implement a plan we had formulated together, he rarely came in to the office. If he did, it was to oversee details related to Sunday morning services.
Sounds crazy, right? It worked well, though. The staff quickly went from going to him to coming to me with issues. I was able to quickly get into the details of running the church without a long drawn out transitional period.
There’s an important point here that I don’t want you to miss. When a lead pastor makes a decision to add an executive pastor, they should have already made the decision that their own role needs to change. In order to grow the church to the next level, they must fundamentally change their focus and how they are spending their time. This change, therefore, should happen as quickly as possible after the new executive pastor is on board.
If you’ve recently made this transition as either the executive pastor or lead pastor, please comment and share your experience.