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.