XP 2018-03-19T15:15:36+00:00

“Hey Fletch” on XP 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.

XP in Church of 300 Needs Coaching

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Hey Fletch … I see on your site that you provide coaching. I am interested in the process and the price. I am currently in a split role of Children and Executive Pastor at church of 300. I greatly desire additional training but am presently lacking in funds for much—$39,000 isn’t worth complaining about but only goes so far when supporting a large family! Thanks for your time.

DRF—It sounds like an interesting journey for you at the church. This could be a great season of growth in your ministry. In your two ministry areas, there will be plenty of diversity. Kids one day and HR, legal, security, facilities the next. I would encourage you to get some good people on teams to help lead those areas.

The best coaching occurs in weekly phone calls and email exchanges. Personalized mentoring is a sounding board with someone outside the congregation who brings an objective perspective to strategic issues. It gives access to a person with broad knowledge and experience in leading the church. There are a great many things to cover, from giftedness to strategy, current ministry issues to future needs. The XP role is an interdisciplinary one with so much to master. The modern world is amazingly complex, a myriad of initials, such as FICA, SECA and ACA.

Some churches of 300 have funds to help you find a paid coach. If not, perhaps you could find a local XP who could mentor you. You could consider taking some of the XPastor Online Courses for executive pastors and church leaders. These can be audited or taken for credit. When taken for credit, they can be applied to a  Master’s degree at Crown College.

God’s best to you in your dual role!

Two XPs in a Church

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Hey Prof … I’ve been learning that there are a number of different ways churches use their executive pastors, more than I realized! The idea about the two XPs in a church seems like a good one.  

Does it allow people to focus in their area of expertise? It seems usually an XP is stronger on the side of business-finance-operations or one the side of ministry strategy-planning-coaching. I admire the solo XP who maintains a great work/life balance among all the constant issues. I believe even for a high leadership lid person this must be difficult over time. 

It seems like having the lead pastor supervise one extra person wouldn’t be that big of a drain. It potentially creates a stronger decision-making team at the top. The downside could be power struggles and less unity. The LP could favor one over the other. Or, it could take longer than ideal to make decisions.

All that to say is that I’m interested in how this plays out in the real world. Have you seen it work well or poorly over time?  

DRF—The two executive pastor model can work well. The success depends on the team and the culture. You have laid out many of the issues quite well in your question.

Some senior pastors don’t do well over time with two reports. These SPs tend to be stronger visionaries or shepherds. They find the long-term work of managerial leadership to be a challenge. The team meetings are often good but the mentoring, iron-sharpening-iron and annual reviewing begins to fail. Sometimes staff begin to ask: “Who is driving the car?” or “That decision was good business but did it fit our ministry vision?” 

The challenge of two XPs is that you need a team meeting of the SP and two XPs to decide a major issue. While this should be easy, it can break down.

Consider the math. With two people, there are four possible problem points—my internal issues, your internal issues, my issues with you and your issues with me. With three people, the possible problem points rise from four to nine. There are more opportunities for communication, process and relational breakdowns.

In this light, people comment that a camel is an animal made by a committee. If this happens, the three-person team will evolve back to the SP-XP two-person team.

I have known of three-person executive teams that love the format. The SP casts vision and preaches, the XP of Ministry oversees strategy and planning, and the XP of Operations ensures that the facility, legal, HR and financial aspects are taken care of. The church is becoming complex in response to a challenging society. Consider that safety issues just fifteen years ago were elementary compared to the advanced planning and policies needed today.

Many times these three-person teams have people with different backgrounds. An XP of Operations tends to have a strong work-history in business operations, such as a COO. The XP of Ministry tends to have a seminary degree and experience in leading church ministry staff and planning. The XP who was previously a CEO or entrepreneur tends to do better in a SP-XP team.

It really is a matter of the church culture and the team.

Was an Elder, now I’m an XP

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Hey Fletch … I have been an elder in our church for many years. Just last month, I became the new executive pastor. What are some of the major things that I need to be aware of in this change? 

DRF—Congratulations on your new role! That’s an exciting step in your life and in the life of your church. The transition from a role on a church governing board to a staff member has some significant areas to be aware of. Let me share two areas of communication challenges:

Watch your language!

Remember that you have two tons of power in your speech. You can throw around 2,000 pounds of power as an elder and another 2,000 pounds as executive pastor.

Your words carry a great deal of authority. When you whisper a suggestion, it will come across as a loud command. When you yell … well, don’t do that. 

You may be amazed to learn that people took your blue sky thinking as a game plan to follow. You were just shooting the breeze and they were taking action notes.

Listen a great deal!

Get a new feel for how the staff functions. Board members may spend four hours a week at the church. Now you will be spending ten times that amount.  

Ask open-ended questions, not “yes or no” ones. Follow up on the person’s response to your question and go deeper into the subject. People may need to know that you are really interested to give you the “full scoop” on an issue.

You will now see the staff from the inside, not just as a board member. Understand their challenges, frustrations and joys. Get to know what makes them want to do ministry at your church. 

The bottom line is: Speak less and listen more.

Being Directive with Staff

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

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.

3 Kinds of Executive Pastors

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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.

XPastor Course Syllabus

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hey Fletch … is there a syllabus available for the XPastor Staffing Course, Operations 101? I took your Generosity Course and enjoyed it!

DRF—I’m so glad that you enjoyed the Generosity Course. Let me email you the syllabus for Staffing. We are now putting the syllabus as a part of week 1. Most people only want the syllabus after they sign up for a course.

The syllabus is helpful as an outline of the course and speakers. The book list for each course is custom created for the area and will give many good materials. 

I’m so glad that you are a life-long learner. May your tribe increase!

Learning About Leading a Church

Monday, May 14, 2018

Hey Fletch … please I want to know more about the school. Thank you.

DRF—I love hearing from folks overseas. We don’t offer a school so much as courses for church leaders. You are in Ghana and can easily take the classes. The courses are on:

    • Operations 101—Staffing
    • Operations 102—Church Communications
    • Operations 103—Finances, Part 1
    • Operations 104—Finances, Part 2
    • Operations 105—Facilities
    • Ministry Strategy 201—Strategic Ideas
    • Ministry Strategy 202—Generosity

If God gives me some more time, we will do more courses. But right now, that is what we have available.

You can take the classes for enrichment, and many do that. Or, you can take them for credit through Crown College and get it applied to their online Masters program. That’s a deal!

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.

Business Guy Doesn’t Know Church

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hey Fletch … We hired an XP about a year ago and he is killing us. He is gruff, direct and all business. He doesn’t get what it means to be a pastor. Help!

DRF—Many new Executive Pastors come from the business world. They are used to making decisions, corporate policy and a fast pace. I wrote a “Hey Fletch” on ‘The Church Moves as Glacial Speed.’ You may want to read it and give it to him.

The only problem to comparing the church to a glacier is that it does a horrible disservice to glaciers! The first thing that a corporate type needs to learn is that the church has all its stakeholders present every Sunday. Companies rarely gather all their owners, stockholders and customers together at one place, let alone every week. Church members deeply care about how the campus looks, changes that are made, using the facility for their group and how communication is shared on Sundays and in email.

Pastors are a different breed of cat. Most pay for seminary on their own. Who gets lucrative stock options to put into a retirement account? There is often little job security when new leadership comes to a church. Pastors are leading the charge of a spiritual war—praying with grieving families, counseling a teen who is suicidal, teaching the Word with conviction, discipling people through challenging situations.

Here are some things you can do. Invite your XP into your ministry. Take them on a youth trip to Mexico. Grab their hand and bring them for a day into the local homeless shelter with you. Ask them to join you in a challenging “on call” situation. Take them to lunch and share the challenges of your ministry.

Your XP is on a steep learning curve, just as you were when you first entered ministry!

Worship Pastor for 30+ Years Wants to be an XP

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hey Fletch … I’ve been on the phone with a friend where my son is on staff. He suggested that I reach out to you. I’ve served 30+ years in Worship Ministry at large Baptist churches and have been on the executive team for each church. Also, I was 8 years in a secular business. I am feeling a call to move toward the role of Executive Pastor and want to see what opportunities are available. Would it be possible to talk further about next steps?

DRF—First let me say that I would be pleased to visit with you. You have great experience in executive level leadership in significant churches. That will give you plenty of insight and wisdom for the XP role. Having business experience as well is a bonus. 

The XP role is a multi-disciplinary one. A Youth Pastor can specialize in youth and a Worship pastor can specialize in worship. The XP must know how to lead youth and worship pastors, finance, HR, legal, insurance, ministry strategy, budgets, relationships with the governing board, congregational communication—just to name a few.

I would suggest that you read “Three Kinds of XPs.” Discern what type of XP you might be best at. Take the XP-Indicator to see your giftedness as a leader. Then, take a look at the rest of the XPastor site, especially the “First Six Months” items. Finally, take a look at the Great Resumes to see how to share your good ministry  experience with others.

Let me know when you are ready for a phone call.

Key Selection Criteria for Hiring an XP

Monday, April 9, 2018

Hey Fletch … I am just working to word up some Key Selection Criteria and interview questions to present and get signed off so we can move to advertise the XP position. If you had a few moments to look and comment on the attached Position Description and Selection Criteria, I would value that. Hopefully we will sign off on this with any appropriate amendments on Wednesday this week to begin to advertise and fill the role ASAP.

DRF—I like the way you have described the document, Key Selection Criteria. It is both inclusive and sets your expectations for the role. I would suggest that you put percentages of time in the role description. You have five main areas:

Executive, Human Resources, Pastoral Care, Operations and Evaluation. Over the course of a year, should each of these areas get 20% of the XPs time? Or, will one area get 40%, another 20% and so on?

You will help your future XP by setting out priorities via setting percentages of time. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but guidelines. However, in a review, percentages of time is a great benchmark. Say that you wanted Pastoral Care to get 20% and in the review the new XP said, “I spend 60% of my time there.” Well, you have an issue to work through. Food for thought. Bon Appétit.

Coaching for New XPs

Friday, March 30, 2018

Hey Fletch … I’ve heard you might provide coaching for new XPs. If that’s the case, how do you structure the coaching experience and how much does it cost?

DRF—Great to hear from you. Coaching for new XPs is vital! The first year has a huge learning curve. Essentially, the XP role is an interdisciplinary one and XPs have lots of hats to wear. Those hats range from working with the SP & Board, HR to Legal, Operations to Facilities, Tech to Communications, Strategy to Tactics, Annual Reviews to Annual Budgets, Ministry Oversight to working with Ministry Staff.

I see from the church’s website that you are the Senior Pastor. Are you bringing someone in from the outside, promoting a staff person or hiring a congregant? Each one of those scenarios has a completely different flavor.

The structure of coaching always begins with at least two months of weekly phone calls. Depending on the church, I can do a one-day audit to kick start the process. Then, depending on the need, the development process often is in weekly or every other week calls. Assignments are given each week, as that contextualizes the process and enhances the value for the church.

Is this the type of coaching that you are looking to have in your church? As for the price, I tailor that to the church and need—and I try to help growing churches as much as possible.

It would be a joy to help you and hone your church’s ability to serve the King.

Two XPs in Our Church

Monday, March 26, 2018

Hey Fletch … I’m trying to research churches that have a double XP organization. We are thinking of an XP of Operations and an XP of Ministries. We currently have a Lead Pastor and then me, the XP. We want to split up my duties into the operations side and then hire an XP that the other pastors would report to. Currently we have a staff of six pastors including the LP. So the other five report to him, not to me. We want to go with me and the Ministry XP being the only ones that report to the LP. The worship guy, discipleship guy, youth guy and christian school guy would all report up to the Ministry XP. Are we on the right track? 

DRF—Have you read this popular article on XPastor: Three Kinds of Executive Pastors? What you have outlined has been done and can fit … depending on your organizational culture. The key is not overloading the LP with direct reports. If both the XP of Operations and XP of Ministry report to the LP, then the LP needs to do reviews, approve vacations/trips/conferences, etc. If you follow an Acts 6 model of having the LP focus on the Word, preaching, vision and leadership … then you want to give him enough hours to do that. Overseeing those vital staff positions takes time and energy. 

You are doing some great thinking here and are on a good path. Let me know what you decide to do.

Executive Pastor as Dr. No

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Hey Fletch … one of the challenges that I face as Executive Pastor is that everyone is pitching things to me. I feel like I’m “Dr. No.” There are tons of good ideas but we can only do so much as a church. Thoughts?

DRF—I know the feeling. I recently got a crazy email asking me to host an event with a local caterer. It was über strange. Part of the role of “top leadership” in a church is to field those emails. Whether from a congregant or the community, you need to respond in a gracious manner. Congregants get longer emails. For a business offer, perhaps save a draft email with a well worded decline that says something like: “Thanks so much for contacting us. We get so many good ideas but we can’t do all of them. I will get back to you if we are able to move forward with your offer.”

Church Grows from 300 to 2,000 in 5 Years

February 17, 2018

Hey David … We have grown from 300 to 2,000 in less than 5 years. Our original Executive Pastor job description was for a smaller church. What do you have as examples of Executive Pastor Job descriptions. What services do you have available for coaching an XP?

DRF—Everyone wants your problem! It’s wonderful. Massive growth is an enormous challenge. You have blown through the culture levels of 600 and 1,200 attenders. 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 go into annual strategic goals and tactical plans, which are highly specific and change from year to year. Other job descriptions can be found here.

I would be pleased to talk about personalized coaching. My style is to do 6 and 12 month engagements. There are specific things that the Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor and Elders need to do … and they radically change when attendance goes from 300 to 2,000 to 3,500.

Who Needs an XP?

January 26, 2018

Hey Fletch … What is the best way to convince a strong Senior Pastor of the necessity for creating an XP role at the church?

DRF—The answer is “complexity.” Strong Senior Pastors understand that! Churches of all sizes deal with complex budgets, the Affordable Care Act, ministry strategy, child safety, security to prevent an active shooter, hiring and termination, legal issues, staff culture, ministry best practices, etc. On “complexity” check out this interview I had with Matt Branaugh of Christianity Today. 

Dan Reiland wrote on XPastor, ‘Who Needs an Executive Pastor, Anyway?’ It is a short and to the point summary of the need. Dan wrote that in 2014. Due to ever increasing “complexity,” in 2018 we are now see the role in ⅔ of churches with between 500-1000 people in worship. I’m still boggled at that statistic. Ask your Senior Pastor how “complexity” has affected your church.

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