SP 2018-03-19T15:18:40+00:00

“Hey Fletch” on Senior Pastor Issues

From around the globe, people tune in on Fletch’s warm and sound advice. He’s a friend and “church doctor,” bringing an objective perspective, broad knowledge and vast experience. Your question will get a personal reply from Fletch.

Senior Pastor Is Going to Burn Out Soon

Friday, June 22, 2018

Hey Fletch … Thank you for checking back on us. Our lead pastor is an amazing preacher and leader. However, we all fear he does too much. He is micromanaging the staff and working way too many hours. What can you suggest?

DRF—Your church is in a major growth phase. That is a wonderful place to be but it can be a wild ride for senior leadership.

When I wrote my dissertation, I cited one pastor who said that leading a mega-church was like “riding a wild tiger.” We are too scared to let go and too scared to hold on! Leadership is a wonderful and terrible place to be. So many people—really an entire village—depend on you.

Growth will stall if the senior leader or leaders are not empowering others. Sharing vision and delegating work to others is imperative. Micromanaging is a sign of not trusting the staff with the implementation of the vision. Encourage your pastor to take at least one full day off each week. God did when He created the world. That’s a great example to follow.

Ask how you can help implement the church vision. Ask the lead pastor to frequently explain the vision and how it should work out at the church. Then offer to take on specific tasks to implement that vision.

Is a Senior Pastor Transition Just a Holding Pattern?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hey Fletch … Our senior pastor is leaving soon. It looks like we will have a 12 to 24 month transition period. It that just a time for ministries to be in a holding pattern, like planes circling and waiting to land at the airport?

DRF—Many great things can happen during a senior pastor transition. I would encourage you to not view it as a holding pattern. The new senior pastor needs to see a church that is alive and thriving, not just waiting for a new leader.

When I led the staff during a 20-month transition, our strategic team each year set out four main goals to accomplish. Here are some of the results

  • We sent 200 people on short-term mission trips one summer.
  • We began a daily Bible reading that was emailed to over 1,300 people in the church family. The reading had a devotional response from various church leaders.
  • We ended the fiscal year with a 20% surplus of our annual budget in the bank.
  • We brought a nationally-noted evangelist to our Easter services.
  • We saw the waves of tension go from 30 foot waves down to 3 foot waves.
  • We brought back a Christmas event and added a fresh and gospel-compelling walk-through of the night of Jesus’ birth. The first year 15,000 people came and the second, 22,000.

God honors the plans of leaders when they step out in faith. Don’t sit back and wait for the new senior pastor. Lead the congregation in some great, all-church goals.

Managing People

Monday, June 18, 2018

Hey Fletch … As a pastor, managing people drains me. It sucks. It’s a skill that no one wants to do—a real pain. I don’t want to be the bad guy, like the staff person who said to me, “You are riding me about how I’m not performing.” All this makes me feel like I’m boiling inside. 

DRF—We all have different gifts. Your words and thoughts share that managing people is not one of them. From our conversation, I know that you are strong in other things, like relational skills and shepherding. Very few people are strong at both relational counseling and managerial leadership.

When we work outside of our giftedness, several things happen:

    • We work slower. Things just take more time to do well.
    • It uses more energy. Doing the same job as a gifted person can take much more energy.
    • It takes more concentration. You are not skilled in the area so you must focus on the task. You can’t “drive with one hand,” but must keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes firmly glued on the road ahead.
    • We can come across as cranky and irritable. The work is hard and not enjoyable. It is terra incognita. With all the energy being diverted to the task, we don’t have spare resources to be kind, gentle or sociable. 

Here are some ways to improve:

    • Affirm that others are good at managing others and that this is not a part of your giftedness.
    • When in a management conversation, apologize in advance that how you come across may not be at your best. “Hey, talking about your performance is not easy for me, so bear with me if I don’t say everything as well as I should.”
    • Lean into your natural gifts. When the person said, “you are riding me,” use your natural relational strengths to reply. “I’m sorry that you feel that way, but your issues are affecting the entire team. We need harmony on the team and need to resolve the issues.”

As you do more managerial leadership, the skills will get easier to use. You may never enjoy the conversations. Like improving your golf swing, you can improve!

Boss Stole My Idea

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hey Fletch … my boss stole my idea and said it was his. What gives?

DRF—That’s a hard one to hear. I’m so sorry that you had this experience. Can you go back to your boss and get some clarification? Can you explain to him that the idea was yours? Can you share your disappointment and angst?

Some ideas are born out of collaborative efforts. When things are products of a work group, they should be shared as “the team created …” When an individual comes up with an idea, it should be shared as “this team member had a terrific concept and I want to put it forward.” 

Some leaders do what you have experienced—they present the work of others as their own. They may feel that as the “boss” they have the right to this. Good ethics dictate this not to be the case. By not giving proper credit, your boss stole from you. The best practice is to share the fantastic ideas of staff members and give proper acknowledgement.

I have never heard of a person being fired simply because they hired smart people. The better that a person hires and promotes the work of others, the more good credit comes to the entire team. If your boss would have said, “this person created this,” the others in the room would have thought, “that boss has a great team and must be doing something right to get such great ideas.”

Leading Through a Senior Pastor Transition

Monday, May 7, 2018

Hey Fletch … Just wanted to say thanks for this XPastor.org article: Leading Through A Senior Pastor Transition.

DRF—Chuck Olson, one of the XPastor Community, wrote that article. I’m so please that it was helpful to you. A Senior Pastor change in a church is a challenge. Chuck lays out the groundwork there—Keep Perspective, Provide Continuity, Provide Stability, Look Ahead, Seek Outside Help, Emphasize Prayer, Advance the Mission, (Over) Communicate, Seek Counsel and Anticipate a “New Song.” 

Having gone through several SP transitions in my XP tenure, I agree with what Chuck says. You may also want to read a new Senior Pastor’s perspective, in Jeff Jones’ article: Succession Thoughts. I also wrote a case study on the transition from Gene Getz to Jeff Jones.

God’s best to you in your transition! Let me see if Chuck Olson wants to add anything to the article that you mentioned.

Chuck—Looking back on these transitions in leadership, I would want to add one more: Keep a journal that traces and captures God’s activity in your own soul during the ups and downs that attend times of change. These seasons will be some of your richest times of how God first works deeply in your life before He works through your life.

Torn Between Senior Pastor and Executive Pastor Roles

Friday, April 27, 2018

Hey Fletch … Hi again! Been a couple years. Followed your advice. Finished my MBA. Started and currently running my own business. And this year began taking night courses for a Master of Divinity. Been networking a ton as well.

Can I be honest though? I’m really torn between the Lead Pastor and XP role. I’m gifted in teaching and vision, but not in shepherding, which makes me think I would suffer as a Lead Pastor. But then, I’m afraid that as an XP that I wouldn’t use those teaching/vision gifts that I fell compelled to use. Any way to sort this out? I know you’re busy! Thanks for any help or homework you can send my way.

DRF—Love hearing from you and your progress. That is fantastic. Volunteer to preach as much as you can. Teach in adult groups and kids groups. Develop that gift! If you are gifted there, then fan that flame.

As for not being a “shepherd,” I know many lead pastors who are teachers first, vision casters second. On stage they are warm and “shepherding,” but off stage it is a challenge for them. If you become a Lead Pastor, I recommend: hire a Care Pastor. Let them be the warm embrace to the congregation. There are many people who want to be Care Pastors … I could recommend 10 great Care Pastors for every 1 great XP or SP.  

Response—Thanks for the fast reply! I will certainly do that. As for a Care Pastor, that’s a great idea. I was thinking that my “thinking” nature would need to be counterbalanced by a “feeling” pastor. Based on your advice, am I right to assume that most XPs do not have the gift/desire to teach? Is that the main reason that SPs transition to XP?

DRF 2—It’ more a matter of time. Preaching every week, at least to do it well takes 20-25 hours of study, preparation and delivery time. There goes half the week! To be an XP takes another 25 hours of ministry strategy, planning, HR, Ops, Facilities, staff time, board time, etc.

‘You Don’t Matter’ said the Senior Pastor

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Hey Fletch … I’m demoralized and ashamed to repeat what my Preaching Pastor said to me. In front of one of my staff, he said, “You don’t matter. People won’t remember you when you are gone. I’m the one up front every Sunday.” I’m heartbroken and don’t know what to do.

DRF—I am so sorry to hear of your pain and travail. As they say in California, “that’s a real bummer.” I would hazard to say from your email that your pastor has said things like this to others. You are not the first. This means that the problem is not with you but centers with him. You may have provoked him but did not deserve that response. Jesus offers a better way to talk with others!

It seems your pastor has become infested with “I’m the Top Man Syndrome.” Unfortunately, we can see from the time of Israel that people want a king. God wanted to be the King, but the people of Israel asked for a human king. God gave them one. A problem with being king is that everyone else becomes a second rate citizen, including you. Churches often want king leaders.

You received the brunt of your Senior Pastor’s feelings of inferiority. He projected on you his own feelings of inadequacy. He knows that he can’t be king of the church but many of your congregation have put him on that pedestal. It is a scary place to be for the pastor, to try to deliver what only God can provide.

You have three options. First, you can overlook the offense. That will be hard and will not help your pastor. Second, you can gently confront him in the spirit of Galatians 6:1, “Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness” Net Bible®. You can say that you were hurt and offended at his harsh words. Give him a chance to apologize and make amends. If he makes amends, it will need to include your team member who was present when he made the original remark. Third, you can find a new place of ministry, if God allows you to leave.

Pray and carefully consider what you should do.

Senior Pastor Constantly Bringing Change

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hey Fletch … I have a senior pastor who is constantly bringing change to the church. One week it is a new way to do small groups, and he did this by blowing up our existing Sunday adult fellowships. A week or two later, he is toying with the structure of the worship service. What should I do?

DRF—The issue you raise is one of the “Rate of Change.” Every church has a different coefficient of change, that is the ability to accept and actively adopt new programs and methods. Just as we exegete the Scriptures, so we should exegete the culture of our churches.

As Sam Chand said at an XP-Seminar, “you don’t always recognize culture into you have stepped in it.” Then the soles of your shoes have all the more of the cow pasture on them. Check out Sam’s book, “Culture Catalyst: Seven Strategies To Bring Positive Change To Your Organization” 

Bringing this up to the Senior Pastor may be delicate. Perhaps you can show to him some of the culture pain that is happening. Work on the timing of cultural changes … most congregations will change, given the right perspective and their needed amount of “absorption time.” I’ve asked Sam to respond …

Sam Chand’s Response: First of all please know that your Pastor is normal. The tendency of most Pastors can be to find places and spaces in the church to jump-start and relaunch. It’s tactical (focus on activity) but not strategic (focus on organization). So it becomes more of a trial and error and not impact and outcomes based. Your Pastor is a good Pastor who is not complacent, not afraid of shaking things up and wants the church to grow.

He can accomplish much more however if he takes into account the church’s pain threshold for making changes. In my book “Leadership Pain” I break it down simply as:

Growth = Change

Change = Loss

Loss = Pain

Therefore Growth = Pain

Establishing a culture in which the “why” behind the “what” is not only understood but can be easily articulated is crucial. In my book “Culture Catalyst” I break down the word CULTURE to make it tangible as:

C = Control

U = Understanding

L = Leadership

T = Trust

U = Unafraid

R = Responsive

E = Execution

You and your church can get a free diagnosis and prescription at www.samchandculturesurvey.com. You’ll get 8 pages free, giving you the empirical data explanation and assistance for each item. Your Pastor can move from tactical to strategic and then he can lead with focus on sustainability (making changes last) and scalability (using changes to grow).

I know you love, support and pray for your Pastor…keep doing it. Thanks for this opportunity to respond.

Should the SP & XP Both Report to the Board

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hey Fletch … Have been an XP for nearly 20 years and I’m curious on your thoughts on organizational structure of the SP/XP positions. I’ve twice been in the “2nd chair” position, organizationally under the SP, and once things start to go bad I’m the vulnerable one that loses his job when the fault is elsewhere. I’ve seen an org chart that has SP and XP as co-equals organizationally. Clearly the SP is still visionary leader, but the XP reports to the Elders, not the SP. The XP supports the SP but not as likely to have SP try to terminate if both are accountable to the Elders.

DRF—It gets down into the culture of churches. There are a some churches that have the XP and SP report to the board. I haven’t kept a list of them; that would have been nice! They seem to work well. However it is a paradigm shift for the American church. As a nation we are “one leader” focused. All responsibility and authority tends to go to one person, not to a team of leaders. There are some church plants who are changing this. You get two equal guys who plant the church. Otherwise, you are trying to change decades of culture—and many people resist that.

SP is Ready for an XP

Friday, February 23, 2018

Hey Fletch … 21 years ago God gave me the privilege of leading a team to plant our church. Thank you for your ministry to XPs around the world. We are looking for our first Executive Pastor. To this point I have largely played both roles since I have some XP-like gifting, as a result, I think I have held the church back, and am ready to focus purely on being the Senior Pastor. With your vast experience, would love your wisdom on how best to go about this, and weigh the factors you are very aware of—internal hire vs. external; someone I know and trust vs. highly skilled person I do not know. Do we use a search firm? Feel free to direct me to resources on your robust website.

DRF—There is plenty to unpack in your questions. They are deep and have so many implications. You have been flying at tree top level for many years. Tactics are great but you need to be at the strategic and visionary level 99% of the time. You will need someone that you completely trust to run the organization. Letting go of tactics will be a challenge as it is part of your wiring. But, you know that you need to focus on preaching, leadership and vision. Trust is going to be the key ingredient between you and your XP. Second will be your ability to disengage from important issues and focus on only the vital. Your biggest “enemies” will be yourself and the tyranny of the urgent.

I would be pleased to talk with you. The first call is no charge, if you need help after that, we can work on a consulting arrangement. Check out this popular article on our Key Articles page, Three Kinds of Executive Pastors. It has helped many churches evaluate the kind of XP that they need. I’m looking forward to talking with you!

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