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.
Hey Fletch … I am struggling with how directive to be with my staff in terms of “expectations”?
DRF—For me, setting expectations is one of collaboration. I find that when I can have a discussion with someone, many times they set great expectations.
When I turn leaders loose in their area of giftedness, I generally find that they need coaching, not a foot on the gas pedal. I weave my personal expectations into the discussion, so that in the end, we arrive at a good product.
Talk with your staff. Open the door for them to set high expectations. The discussion will be fruitful.
Hey Fletch … I have all Thursday called #NMT (No Meeting Thursday) and set it aside to do just that. I only do strategic planning. I don’t do any other self work or meet with leaders. Thoughts on that?
DRF—The best leadership coaches around the country recommend ‘think time.’ The tyranny of the urgent is always with us.
Dwight Eisenhower said: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Follow the thinking of a President of the United States. Give yourself sufficient space to focus on important issues.
If you can devote an entire Thursday to ‘Think Time,’ that is fantastic. Your staff may not like it because you will come in on Friday with so many ideas and things to do. Humor, trace.
Hey Fletch … I attended the XP-Seminar a few years ago and took one of your XPastor Online Courses. I am now on the leadership team of our church. We have grown rapidly from 300 to 2,000 in less than 5 years. Our Executive Pastor job description was for a smaller church and had no measurable expectations. What do you have as examples of Executive Pastor job descriptions or job interview expectations to lead a church that could be 3,000 with a large growing staff?
What services do you have available for coaching an XP and evaluating performance of an XP?
DRF—Your church is in a massive growth phase. That is so hard to deal with and everyone wants those kinds of problems. You have blown through the 600 and 1,200 person levels. Those are huge cultural levels for churches.
Here is a ministry description for an XP of a church of 3,500. When you get to that size, the role description tends to be broad. Specifics often go into annual strategic goals and tactical plans, which are highly specific and change from year to year.
In terms of personalized coaching, my style is to do 6 and 12 month engagements. The current and anticipated size of your church is a daunting task for many new XPs. There are specific things that the Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor and Elders need to do … and they radically change when attendance goes from 2,000 to 3,500.
If you would like to talk more, we can chat by email or set up a phone call.
I’m so pleased for your church. I also hope that you hear the concern that I have for you guys. Seminaries teach how to cope with failure, but rarely teach how to deal with success. Styles of leadership, governance and management change with every size of church, 300 to 600 to 1200 to 2,000 to 3,500.
Response—Thank you very much for your quick reply. Very complete.
We will be working on updating the XP job description and coaching in Feb.
Hey Fletch … I see that there are three types of Executive Pastors. There are those who are the solo XP for a church, an XP of Ministries and an XP of Operations. Do you see this too? Is there better wording that’s more clear, or another way to slice it?
DRF—Shakespeare writes “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other word would smell as sweet.” The exact names are less important in your question than the roles that they fulfill. Yet, your wording resonates with me. I wrote an extremely popular article, “3 Kinds of XPs” and said:
Whether you call the position Executive Pastor or Senior Associate Pastor or Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, there are many vital roles that need to be filled in the modern church. Leading and managing the church has become complex and multi-dimensional.
In the old days, a mechanic could work on any car with a wrench and some muscle. Now, mechanics are specialized to work just on your Toyota Hybrid using highly complex machines, computers and battery analyzers. Whether you like it or not, the same is true in the church.
The easiest way to see the rise in the Executive Pastor position is to walk through time. As you read the following scenarios, consider the pressures on the Senior Pastor, how the Senior Pastor was trained in seminary and how the church changed in various decades.
The most important thing is to nail down exactly what the person does.
Sole XPs in churches have an umbrella function like the Senior Pastor. Everything in the church falls under their purview. XPs of Ministries are only responsible for the strategy, planning and execution. XPs of Operations are only responsible for the entire facility, HR, finances, insurance coverage, and safety.
All three models of the Executive Pastor work in various churches. The key is to find what your church needs and how it will work in your local culture.
Hey Fletch … I’m an XP and we just raised $10 million for a new building. Now what?
DRF—The simplicity of the question has profound implications. It reminds me of the movie “The Candidate.” Though Bill McKay (played by Robert Redford) has no hope of winning a Senate race, he succeeds. A final shot is McKay getting into a car and saying, “What do we do now?” McKay had a plan on running for the Senate but not for being a Senator.
Raising funds for a new building is the first part of the plan. It is like winning the Senate seat. Now you need to consider the master plan for your campus, define the exact use of the building, do a Request For Proposal (RFP) for an architect and builder, survive the building process and then move in.
Most Senior Pastors and Executive Pastors are ill-equipped to plan a building and oversee the contractor. To get to that step, you first need an architect who understands your vision and a builder who will construct it.
Get a a great team of advisors, consultants and an owner’s representative. For example, let’s say that you oversaw the contractor on a building project ten years ago. You are now rusty in that discipline and your experience is limited at best. Find a church member or hire someone who will work closely with the contractor. A good owner’s representative can save tens of thousands of dollars and a million headaches.
Congratulations and God’s best on your next steps.
Hey Fletch … Question! What do you do, if you know God has called you but not sure what He is calling you to do? Moreover the person in question is careful not to embark on a mission he was not sent.
DRF—Greetings to you in Ghana. I so enjoy getting emails from Christian leaders outside of the United States. It is amazing to see the cultural differences and the ministry similarities.
The Apostle Paul had an experience like yours. He wanted to go to Bithynia:
When they came to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this, so they passed through Mysia and went down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul during the night: A Macedonian man was standing there urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” After Paul saw the vision, we attempted immediately to go over to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. Acts 16:7-10
The important words are “they attempted to.” God gives us great deal of motivation in the Gospels and wisdom in Proverbs. I assume that open doors are meant to be walked through. When I see an open door for ministry, “I attempt to” enter it. That is an act of obedience—the door is open, I can do a ministry and so I begin to walk. If God does not want you to enter that ministry, very soon He will close the door. In the words of Luke, “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this.”
Notice what comes next. Paul learns that God wanted him to be in a small version of the City of Rome:
… and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia, a Roman colony … On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the side of the river, where we thought there would be a place of prayer, and we sat down and began to speak to the women who had assembled there. A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, a God-fearing woman, listened to us. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul. Acts 16:12-14
If you are moving, God can steer you. Go through those doors and God will either direct you elsewhere or open ministry to you. There is an old saying, “You can’t steer a ship that is tied to the pier.” God’s best to you as you respond to new opportunities to serve!
Hey Fletch … I used this XPastor.org article for doing research on a plan for our church: ‘Emergency Preparedness For Churches.’ Can you expand on the ideas?
DRF—This is a hot topic right now. I so enjoy the perspective of the two brothers who wrote the article. One was an FBI agent and became a Police Captain. The other is a Police Lieutenant. This is an insider’s view of the issues.
You may want to check out Brotherhood Mutual’s book: The Church Safety & Security Guidebook. Among other things, it covers an active shooter, domestic disputes, a missing child, medical emergencies and severe weather threats.
The key is to plan in advance. You need to designate who will communicate in an emergency, who will call the authorities, and how to assemble an emergency response team.
Hey Fletch … I am new to the role of Executive Pastor and would like to try to pull together a workshop led by you for 10-15 Executive Pastors in our denomination. I would create the list of invitees and work out all the logistics. I would poll the pastors to talk through topics of interest and then have you lead us through the discussions. Is this something you have done before? Thoughts?
DRF—Thanks so much for your note. I would love to talk with you about this. I travel to your city at least twice a year. If you combine it with one of those trips, we could cut the airfare in half! With the upcoming 12 workshops around the country on church staff compensation (soon to be announced), I will be in your city a third time.
Over the last two decades, I have done many workshops and seminars. Coming in February 2019 will be our 15th XP-Seminar. There are so many things that your group could talk about, such as being a new XP, staffing, ministry strategy, vision implementation, managing upwards, operations, fiduciary responsibility, audits, working with a finance team, building ministry teams …
Hey Fletch … I’m confused over the difference between “strategic” and “tactical” issues in church ministry. Can you help?
DRF—Wikipedia says “The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that govern tactical execution.” Tactic is from the Greek τακτική meaning the “art of arrangement.”
About 2,500 years ago, the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War.” In it, he said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Tactics and strategy are not at odds with one another—they’re on the same team. They have been for many centuries!
Another article said: “Strategy defines your long-term goals and how you’re planning to achieve them. In other words, your strategy gives you the path you need toward achieving your organization’s mission. Tactics are much more concrete and are often oriented toward smaller steps and shorter timeframes along the way. They involve best practices, specific plans, resources, etc. They’re also called ‘initiatives.’”
Hey Fletch … I’ve been in ministry a long time. Your XP-Seminar is unlike anything that I have attended before. I absolutely love it. The XPastor site exudes something different than most sites. What is it that is different?
DRF—Thanks so much for your gracious words. The free XPastor site has been around for over 14 years and has over 700 articles and thousands of pages of PDFs. Our aim is for articles that will stand the test of time. A good article should last at least five or ten years, often more.
Webster defines a blog as: ‘a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer.’Blogs are short and wonderful snippets of thought. That is not XPastor.
XPastor presents articles of length and substance. Each one is written by a leader in their area of church expertise. They are much longer than a 150 word blog post, generally between 1,000-2,000 words, sometimes more. We don’t publish listicles of the ’10 Things You Need to Do This Week,’ with a sentence beside each one.
At XPastor, the material makes you think. It challenges you. You may not always agree with everything you read, but isn’t that how we best learn?
XPastor is free. We don’t pay people for writing their articles. It is a gift to the church around the world. To pay the rent, we host the XP-Seminar and workshops, as well as do strategic consulting with churches.
This is what makes XPastor different and effective for church leaders around the globe.
Hey Fletch … In response to the March 8, 2018 “Hey Fletch” column, let me add (and feel free to use my name here): In regard to how often our people come to church each month, we are closer to the traditional three times per month because we have so many worship service options. Sports and club programs and travel options are one of the main reasons for the drop from worship attendance of 3 or 4 times a month. Alternate worship service times help with that. Plus, sermon-based small groups cause those who miss to listen online to be prepared for their groups. Larry Osborne
DRF—Larry, thanks so much for sharing. Normally “Hey Fletch” is anonymous for the ones asking the questions, so I appreciate you giving permission to share your story. With five campuses, you make it easy for people to worship near where they live. I noticed on your Vista campus a variety of worship service times—Saturdays 5:30pm, Sundays 7:30am, 9am, 11am, 12:45pm, 6pm. It would be hard to say, “our kid’s sports program on Sunday morning made it impossible for us to worship this week.” Tami and I love going to church on Saturday nights. When I was young, I used to go to Vista to visit my great-grandmother. I’m thrilled that there is now a vibrant church in that region!
Hey Fletch … I have heard you talk about “easy onramps” in a church. What do you mean by that?
DRF—Every church needs places where newcomers can easily “get on board.” Existing attenders also need to know how they can revitalize their spiritual lives in groups ranging from the basics, to ongoing study, to serving others. I like to call these “easy onramps.”
One size does not fit all churches. Just as you have different kinds of onramps to get on a freeway, tollway or to catch a train, so you need customized ways to engage people. I would be pleased to work with you and explore what will work best for your church. You need a carefully designed ministry strategy, not a bevy of tactical programs. More is not always better. A strategy of engagement takes time and planning to be most effective. Give folks an easy onramp to the exciting path of following Christ as your church.
Hey Fletch … In a February 6, 2018 “Hey Fletch” column I saw the question: Is anyone out there using a system that allows a church to broadcast a Spanish speaking translator to our congregation? My wife is from Argentina and we sometimes attend a Spanish service near us in the States. When they see me walking in, they hand me a headset without even asking. I find that attending a service being translated into English makes me focus more on the entire message. I get more out of it than I do in an English service. I think that this is because there is an inevitable short translation delay. I pay attention to the body language of the speaker, catch the crowd reaction and then hear the translation. I’d recommend to someone that is considering offering translation services to attend a church that is spoken in a foreign language and translated it to English to get a feel for the experience.
DRF—This comment is pure gold. From my experience in doing ministry in four dozen countries, that comment is true. The act of translation forces me to listen better and enhances my spiritual growth. Thanks for writing in!
Hey Fletch— I so love the resources that you are providing on XPastor. I recently transitioned into the Operations Pastor role, which for us is similar to an XP in most churches. First, I’m observing that ministry leaders have a hard time seeing the holistic ministry picture, and how their ministry is a small puzzle piece in the larger organizational puzzle. Second, ministry leaders make a habit of doing almost everything at the last minute, as in moments prior to the start time of a service. HELP! How do I address these problems?
DRF—Those are some great questions in your new role! For your first question, a huge piece of your role is “setting the stage.” You must show leaders how their ministry fits in. Their eyes may glaze over at the complexity of the entire church. Take time to share the big picture, strategy and vision. Show how their ministry fits into the vision of the church. Explain in stories how what they are doing matters as vital piece of the whole organization.
For the second question, solve this one and you will win a Nobel Prize! Many go into ministry with strong people and relational skills. Unfortunately, this means they need to go to “the school of hard knocks” on planning, strategy and organization. Preach it hard. Give them workable schedules. Set deadlines and show them how to make those deadlines. Unfortunately, prepare to be regularly disappointed for the first year but things slowly will change.
Hey Fletch … Is anyone out there successfully using a system that will allow a church to broadcast a Spanish speaking translator to our congregation? Their desire is to sit in on our live service, rather than attend a Spanish speaking service. We would prefer not to distribute devices but rather have them stream a signal to their cell phone or tablet with a set of earbuds.
DRF—I love this question! Thanks for writing back and saying: “We’ll be testing a device that promises to be a very good fit. A little pricey, but just what we’re looking for with expandability. The recommendation came from a person in our church.” If you go with it, write an article about the journey. That is valuable!