The extant literature presents material on how to discover when an Executive Pastor is needed in a local congregation. Wes Kiel, in his unpublished article that was used in three Leadership Network forums in the early 1990’s, wrote about the early signs of when to hire an Executive Pastor:

When a church moves from having one staff member to two or three there are obviously significant changes in the way the church is administered. However, such changes are usually not the changes in kind which are required at the point where a church has a staff of seven or eight or more full time program people and several part time staff members as well.

A managerial shift is needed with a larger staff. When there is managerial tension, this is an early sign of needing an Executive Pastor. Ken Godevenos, an independent management consultant, articulated a similar line of thinking:

Your church is growing. The Senior Pastor has several professional and support staff to supervise but admits he is neither a manager nor an administrator. The church programs are growing in number. The church board is trying its best to move to the Carver Model of Governance and only provide guidance while the staff runs the church.

If all or some of these statements ring true for your church, an Executive Pastor (EP) might be the answer.

This can be reduced to the following:

  • The staff need more than the Senior Pastor can give.
  • The ministries of the church are growing and adding complexity to management.
  • The governing board is moving to a governance model (discussed later in this chapter), so that staff run the church.

This points to not just the managerial issues of a larger staff, but the ministerial complexity brought by the added activity of those extra staff members.

From his research of more than sixty churches in fifteen states, Wes Kiel expands this concept:

My research would indicate that, as a general rule, the churches who have implemented this position in the last 10 or 15 years have done so when the staff of the church has reached 6 to 10 full time positions or the equivalent in part time and full time staff persons. It is, therefore, the size of the staff (and the program) more than the size of the congregation which most directly leads to the establishment of the role or hiring of the person to fill it.

The size of the church is not the determining factor in hiring an Executive Pastor. An optimum time to look for an Executive Pastor is when the church has six to ten full time staff and when the Senior Pastor realizes a new management model is needed. The Senior Pastor should realize the staff size is too large for the preacher to lead and also preach every week. The governing board should be ready to delegate more management authority to staff.

In Godevenos’ online article, he suggests the scope of the role: “To implement the ministry vision of the senior pastor and church board through the management of operations and programs as well as the supervision of staff.” Ted Engstrom, though not necessarily speaking of the Executive Pastor, discusses a pastor with the gift of administration:

How would a person with the personal gift of administration function as a pastor? What sort of church organization would he set up? Where would his primary emphases lie?

Such a pastor would probably major in providing a well-organized, smooth-running organization, with every phase and department carried out and functioning with decency and order.

Wes Kiel has a complimentary finding: “The reason most frequently given by lay persons for encouraging the employment of an Executive Pastor is the lack of time or giftedness for administration on the part of the Senior Pastor.” The type of person who is a good candidate for the position of Executive Pastor is one who has the organizational and administrative ability to manage a large staff, with many of those staff members being trained professionals and holding a Masters degree in theology.

Whereas the limited scope of the Associate Pastor and Business Administrator served the church as it grew, there was a change needed in management as the church grew. The overloaded job description of the Senior Pastor needs to be pared. One such church was Santa Cruz Bible Church. In 2003, Santa Cruz realized the burgeoning requirements of a Senior Pastor were onerous and a change was needed. On Santa Cruz Bible Church’s Teaching Pastor Search page, the church recently posted the following item:

Teaching Pastor – Position Profile – General Information

This is a new position created by separating the previous Senior Pastor role into two positions: the Teaching Pastor and the Executive Pastor. Both the Teaching Pastor and the Executive Pastor will serve as Elders and report directly to the Elder Board. The Teaching Pastor will be the lead preacher with responsibility for the pulpit ministry, and supervise the staff in the worship and tech areas.

The church has gone so far as to eliminate the hierarchal adjectival Senor in the title, replacing it with the verbal noun Teaching. The Teaching Pastor oversees only staff related to the public persona of the preacher in the worship service. The Executive Pastor oversees all other staff and manages the church. As both pastors are peers and report to the Board, this will make some clergy and governing boards uncomfortable.

Wes Kiel gives a once-over of the responsibilities the church management requirements once it has seven or eight staff:

At this point the coordination, supervision, and management of the staff so that all are contributing toward the larger goal, pulling in the same direction, doing their share of the work, having access to their share of the resources, experiencing a sense of being cared for and important and given the opportunity to use their gifts in the most fitted slot, becomes a large and very necessary task.

The church needs an Executive Pastor when it needs a gifted administrator and leader, when the staff grows numerically beyond the managerial capacity of the Senior Pastor, when there is ministerial complexity due to the scope of the work by the staff, and when the governing board is ready to empower the staff by functioning in a governance model.


View the footnotes and read the entire dissertation in PDF format:  Fletcher Dissertation