The “Executive Pastor” role serves a truly unique function in their respective churches. Also known as “the second chair,” the Executive Pastor is tasked with supporting and facilitating the goals of the Senior Pastor, while also having the responsibility of ensuring that every ministry and operational area of the church is running smoothly and effectively.
If you were to describe the Senior Pastor as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a congregation, the Executive Pastor serves as the Chief Operating Officer (COO). He or she is responsible for overseeing an entire church operation, from supervising staff and volunteers to managing finances and the facility to ensuring that the church is available to support the many and varied needs of the congregation and the community.
It’s a special job for special types of leaders.
One day you have to approve the purchase of additional art supplies for the pre-school. The next you’re ensuring that there is a quiet room available for an AA meeting. And every day you’re dealing with the multiple and often complex challenges that come with running a large staff. Not to mention those occasions where you’re called on lead a service, teach a Bible study, preside at a funeral, or give a sermon.
“Executive Pastors, especially in big churches, carry a heavy burden,” says Mike Bonem, facilitator of TMF’s Executive Pastors’ Learning Community. “It’s a very different role than that of the Senior Pastor because you’re trying to lead, but you also want to complement the strengths and vision of your Senior Pastor. You’re balancing the needs of many different roles, while trying to be a good spiritual leader for your congregation.”
Initiated more than eight years ago by TMF to provide a professional forum where members could hear from experts speakers from a variety of disciplines discuss the different aspects of leadership and all of the challenges and responsibility that accompany the role of a leader.
The Executive Pastors’ Learning Community also enables members to share their successes, failures, aspirations, and lessons learned with others who understand the unique demands of the job all too well. It’s an environment where members can openly and honestly discuss the most difficult challenges of their positions, and get frank, knowledgeable and insightful input from colleagues who have faced similar issues in their ministries.
“The Executive Pastors Learning Community is so important because of the deep and profound impact it has on the members of the group” explains Bob Johnson, Executive Pastor at Chapelwood UMC in Houston and a member of the Executive Pastors Learning Community.
“I know that I’m better at my job because I’ve been a part of this group. And I would venture to share that everyone else in the group would say the same thing about themselves. We learn so much from our collective wisdom, our knowledge of best practices and the fact that every individual involved is on a quest to find new and better solutions to issues that affect all of us, and the Church at large.”
Discussions within the group range from the mundane frustrations of day-to-day tasks to some of the major denominational issues facing the Church. It’s not surprising that trust is a major factor in helping members of the group to communicate freely and honestly.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the level of mutual respect within the group,” say Bonem. “Even when individuals diametrically disagree on an issue, I am so impressed by the healthy, respectful and ultimately productive conversations that result. And it’s all because of trust.”
While conversations are important, the Executive Pastors Learning Community is really about the actions that result from those conversations.
“Every Methodist church shares a common mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” says Johnson. “This group has helped me to help my church accomplish that mission more effectively. I’ve learned to be become smarter, stronger, and more courageous in my efforts. And I have the Executive Pastors Learning Community to thank for much of that success.”