What Lead Pastors Do In Growing Churches

I’m not a Lead Pastor.   So you might want to ask why I would write about what Lead Pastors do?  I have served as an Executive Pastor for the last four plus years.  This is a first for me.  I have been a Lead Pastor, church planter, associate pastor, strategist, consultant, coach, and denominational executive, but not an Executive Pastor…at least not until now.  However, from day one I have defined my role by the Lead Pastor’s job description.  As someone who has worked with Lead Pastors all of my ministry in one way or the other, I have been able to observe and work along side of some of the best.  That’s why the place I begin in defining my own role is by understanding the Lead Pastors role.  If you asked me to sum up my role in one sentence I would put it this way, I see it as my job to see that he is freed up to do his.  If there are fires to put out, whenever possible I put them out.  If there is business to conduct, whenever possible I conduct the business.  If there are staffing issues to resolve, that’s my job.  The list goes on and on.

Let me tell you why this is so important.  The longer I serve in the local church the clearer it becomes.  Lead Pastors in growing churches see their role differently then those in stagnant churches.  There in lies my job.  Here is what is what I see the Lead Pastor do in growing a church.

  1. Cast Vision – Last week we had our Best Practice Coaching Network.  Our coaching networks consists of 12 to 14 Lead Pastors of young churches.  We spend a day together every month working on the issues in our churches and in our lives that impact their role as Lead Pastors.  Last week we talked about the Best Practice of Being Mean about the Vision.  That’s right being mean about the vision.   Not being mean, but being mean about vision.  Lead Pastor’s have to get a vision from God and see that it is systematically implemented.  It seems like the smaller and younger the church the meaner you have to be about the vision.  There’s just more that compete with the vision.  Sometimes it is our own fickleness about the vision and other times its well intended people with a better vision or lack of vision.  At the same time, the larger the church the more you have to focus on casting vision.  You would think the larger you get the more you can put it into cruise control when it comes to vision.  That is just not so.  Bill Hybels was right when he said vision leaks about every six weeks.  What we are learning at Mountain Lake is that vision leaks about every six days.  It’s not that people don’t get it, but we all tends to loose our way when it comes to vision.  Chances are if you are a Lead Pastor you feel like all you do is talk about vision.  I have news for you…you are not thinking or talking about it near enough.    You want to know how to spend your time as a Lead Pastor!  You must invest more and more time working on vision in solitude, with your ministry team, a few key groups, and a few key individuals.  It is what you spend a majority of your time doing.
  2. Teaching – If you are a Lead Pastor and you are reading this you probably agree wholehearted with me about the teaching thing.  If anything you may be into your church two or three years and still waiting on that much needed weekend off.  Perhaps you have been at it for many years and for each of those years you have taught during the weekend services at least 50 to 51 times.  You feel the pressure week end and week out.  Add multiple services and multiple campuses to the equation and the pressure does nothing but escalate.  You may not feel your pain, but I do.  At the same time it is your job.  It is what you do.  It is your responsibility to lead the charge when it comes to the weekend teaching. Every few months after time alone with God and with a few key people you come up with that annual or semiannual teaching calendar with the burden of speaking on behalf of God to his people.  This is not a small task.  It is not for the faint of heart.  On the other hand it is also your responsibility to carve out some kind of life for you and your family.  I mean go ahead and pile the other stuff that life throws at you into your teach schedule and…well you get it…after all you are the one that lives with the pressure.  Let me say that our Lead Pastor Shawn Lovejoy manages this as well as anyone I know.  He is serious about nurturing his own spiritual, emotional, and relational vitality.  He has raise up two or three guys around him who can teach.  Even when he doesn’t teach he is all in it.  He still plans the teaching calendar with his team, facilitate the preparation time, reviews the last cut of the message, listens to every message, and offers incredible feedback.  He is naturally a gifted coach so some of his best work is coaching some of us guys who don’t teach every weekend.
  3. Leading the Team– Sure if you are the Lead Pastor you can delegate leading the ministry team to an Executive Pastor or some other staff member, but at the end of the day it is your responsibility.  This involves you setting the culture for the team.  It also involves you taking responsibility for recruiting the right team members, especially when it involves key staff positions.  You need to see that you are spending time casting vision and modeling the way.  Vision is caught more then taught.  You will also need to see that you invest time in building up the team.  You may only attend certain meetings and do certain things during the meeting, but if you are not leading the right people in the right way you are not doing all of your job.  As we have grown larger as a church with more people to care for and more staff or ministry team members, who direct reports to our Lead Pastor has changed.  In many ways that number has decreased, but at the same time his responsibilities for leading the team has increase.  You can not delegate leadership.  Leaders lead!
  4. Raise Resources – If there is any one place where the job description changes between a growing church and a stagnant church it is in the area of raising financial resources.  It is a difference maker.  As a leader your goal should be to create a culture of generosity.  This task is not for the faint of heart.  I have found through the years that many pastors just won’t talk about money.  At the same time you have to.  It is one of the subjects that Jesus kept addressing over and over again.  Jesus knew that the love of money would grip our lives and ruin them.  At the same time he knew a generous heart could release us from our stuff and set us free to serve and have greater impact.  I realized a few years ago how desperately people need to give.  It’s for them…it’s for the Kingdom…it honors God.  It’s your job as Lead Pastor.
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