Hiring an Executive Pastor
The 7 Essential Qualities to look for:
Every senior leader needs a partner in ministry. Hiring an Executive Pastor (or Associate Pastor) is probably the most important hire you’ll ever make. The Executive Pastor is someone who will help bear the pastoral burden with you, leading the staff or volunteers and carrying out the Sr. Pastor’s vision. Gateway Church strongly believes in the importance of having a great executive pastor to help support and execute the vision of the Senior Pastor. When hiring an executive pastor, we encourage you to look for these seven essential qualities in the candidate.
THE SEVEN ESSENTIAL QUALITIES OF AN EXECUTIVE PASTOR:
1. They can be entrusted with leadership.
A good Executive Pastor should have administrative skills, but more importantly, they should have leadership skills. They are ultimately responsible to execute the functions of the senior pastor, making things better. They should have a love for building and taking things apart, fixing what isn’t working, and putting it all back together again. They exhibit a high degree of spiritual maturity and moral integrity. The Executive Pastor should be someone who leads by example, demonstrating a mature faith with the ability to lead others in their own spiritual growth. They must possess strong moral character and be committed to living out biblical principles in all aspects of life.
2. They are energized by meetings and administration.
Moving on to our next essential, let’s use a horse illustration. A thoroughbred horse is built for speed -they typically run a race and then go out to pasture to rest and rejuvenate. A quarter horse can run hard all day, eat a few oats, sleep standing up, and be energized and ready to do it again the next day. The Xp should be built and wired like a quarter horse, not a thoroughbred.
The Xp has to care about those they are leading, inspiring, and serving—not just the organization’s mission and vision but also the individuals within it. People who are wired this way understand that an organization is made up of people and not numbers or charts; their primary focus will be on the people, not projects. They should also understand that some of these people are volunteers and need to be appreciated as such. It takes a special kind of leader to build trust and loyalty among those they serve.
3. They demonstrate loyalty.
Building upon the first two essentials, the ideal XP, while capable of visioning, understands they are casting and executing your vision instead of their own. They are keenly aware that they have been entrusted to carry out ministry on your behalf. They work hard to carry out the vision you have cast. They are loyal and understand they are an extension of your leadership. The best XP is a self-starter who takes initiative in their responsibilities and has problem-solving skills. The right XP must be able to think on their feet, anticipate upcoming needs, and be comfortable leading a team of volunteers. They are coachable, teachable, and capable of taking instruction without getting defensive or closed off. The ideal XP will have the ability to balance several tasks simultaneously while managing their time effectively. They must also be able to communicate clearly with staff members and volunteers alike. Finally, they should always strive to represent the heart of the church and Sr. Pastor.
4. They represent you well everywhere they go.
This principle is exemplified in the life of Timothy and his relationship to Paul. “Timothy is like no other. He carries the same passion for your welfare that I carry in my heart.” Philippians 2:20-21 . That’s the kind of passion you want your executive pastor to have for representing you, no matter where they go. The executive pastor must be someone who is trustworthy and responsible, with strong communication skills, able to relate to all members of the church community including staff, volunteers, clergy, and laypeople.
In addition, they should be experienced in managing operations within the organization with strong decision-making ability and sound judgment. Ultimately, an executive pastor should embody all of the values of the church – from compassion and empathy to integrity and respect – so that they can help guide the church’s mission.
5. They have the relational capacity and interpersonal communication skills.
These attributes are demonstrated through a mutuality of respect and appreciation marked by honor, partnership, and respect. Interpersonal communication skills are essential for an executive pastor to effectively serve in their role. These skills enable the pastor to express their thoughts and feelings with clarity and engage in meaningful dialogue with both members of the congregation as well as other staff members. Interpersonal communication skills encompass verbal, non-verbal, and written components that allow for successful collaboration between individuals or groups.
Equally important, the executive pastor must possess the ability to listen, build strong relationships, maintain composure, negotiate solutions, and inspire others through their words and actions. By developing strong interpersonal communication skills, an executive pastor is able to create trust among congregants and bring people together with a unified vision.
6. They possess high emotional intelligence.
Executive Pastors have an incredibly important role in providing emotional and spiritual support to their staff and church. As such, emotional intelligence is a vital skill for pastors to acquire. Emotional intelligence involves understanding our own emotions, as well as being able to recognize and respond appropriately to the feelings of others. By developing emotional intelligence, Executive Pastors can more effectively empathize with those in their care and lead them through difficult times. It also helps them build relationships, resolve conflicts, and foster a sense of community among their congregation. With emotional intelligence, pastors can better serve as leaders and mentors to those who look to them for guidance.
The XP should be observant, sensitive, mature, understand boundaries, and implement them relationally. They should show the ability to empathize, sympathize, and think in the moment. They have an understanding of their personal ministry gifts and how those gifts are to be developed within the context of a team. The XP should understand that each member of the team brings unique experiences, perspectives, and abilities that complement one another as they seek to fulfill the mission of the church.
7. They must possess a correct understanding of authority.
This is the most essential quality. Do not put anyone in the XP role that has not proven themselves to understand authority and be submitted under that authority. While this relationship is a partnership, the XP’s authority is delegated authority from Sr Pastor. The Bible is clear on the authority of leaders, with verses such as Ephesians 5:21-25 emphasizing that leaders should lead with humility and gentleness. This passage encourages leaders to be devoted to their flock, caring for them in a spirit of love and service. It also stresses that they must respect each other, as well as honoring each other in the same manner they would want to be respected.
Leaders should always strive to lead according to God’s will and put Him first in all matters concerning authority. In 1 Peter 5:2-3, we are reminded to “be shepherds of God’s flock” and to exercise authority over those entrusted to our care “not lording it over those entrusted to you.” Ultimately, these verses help to remind us that true leadership comes not from self-imposed authority but from following God’s example of humility, gentleness, and love for others.
Recapping the Essentials
In conclusion, the senior pastor plays a vital role in any church organization. They are responsible for setting the tone, vision, and direction of the church and its staff. As such, it is important for a senior pastor to look for the seven essential qualities when hiring an executive pastor. An executive pastor should be trustworthy, energized by meetings and administrative tasks, demonstrate loyalty, represent you and the church well everywhere they go, have strong relational capacity and communication skills, possess high emotional intelligence, and finally, must possess a correct understanding of authority. With these seven essential qualities in place, the senior pastor can ensure that the executive pastor they hire is capable of taking their vision forward and leading the organization effectively.