Last time we looked at the brilliance of God’s Ephesian 4 model for the church and how it promotes each person serving where they fit best.
In part 2 of the series, we will be looking at 2 of the 6 ministries of the Executive Pastor (XP) and why churches become a better place to serve and grow when these ministries are active.
Good Executive Pastors Serve as Sponges
The first ministry comes from a conversation I had with my friend Garvin (another very experienced local XP) over breakfast. During our meal, Garvin shared stories of times that he had stood between his Senior Pastor and unsettled members, staff, and elders. Garvin calls this service his ministry of the sponge because he regularly absorbed the arrows or hits so that his pastor did not have to.
I have frequently thought of this as being a shield for my pastor. But I like Garvin’s imagery of the sponge because XPs absorb the hurt of these issues into their hearts and then carry them as they serve. I have found that it takes a special blessing from God and solid personal disciplines to process these hurts quickly and stay healthy.
The ministry of the sponge is one of my favorite ways to serve because I feel like I am helping my pastor avoid the hits and hurts that could shorten his service and hinder him from fulfilling his calling completely. This type of ministry is different from evaluating systems, launching new processes, and leading staff because an XP gets to serve their pastor directly, and that is more ministry than management.
The ministry of the sponge is also a service to the church family because it increases the likelihood of a person’s issue being addressed. Most pastors have a full plate already and have little extra time or energy to tackle special projects or emergencies. The XP can serve everyone involved by listening carefully and then mobilizing the appropriate leader or team to address the issue. This takes the pressure off the pastor to have to deal with the issue directly.
There are also times when very broken or upset people rain all their angst down on the pastor because they have nowhere else to turn, or believe that the issue is his fault. Most of the time, a pastor can handle the attack and process the impact of that hurt without too much damage to his heart directly. But if there have been several of these types of “conversations” on a given Sunday, the pastor may not be able to walk away unscathed.
Over time, these hits can accumulate and wear the pastor down. If the pastor has an XP who can step in between him and the majority of these interactions, his longevity in ministry and enjoyment factor can increase significantly. If your church does not have an XP who can serve in this area, please identify a staff member who can, or release the Elders to step into this role. The long-term benefits to the health of the pastor and culture of the church will be easily noticed and well worth the investment.
Good Executive Pastors Anticipate
The second major service that the XP provides is what I have named the ministry of anticipation. Your first question probably is, “Anticipation of what?” The answer is the anticipation of the things that pastors do not normally think about. This is another one of my favorite ministries because I feel like I am actively protecting my church family on a day to day basis.
The ministry of anticipation looks for and addresses many areas that might result in wasted resources, injuries, missed opportunities, and a host of other problems that are small today, but may grow into a major distraction or energy drain in the future.
Most of the time, pastors are focused completely on people and serving them. They do not have time to walk around their building looking for potential trip hazards, future maintenance issues, or security weaknesses. They also may not have the time or bandwidth needed to spend enough time with every staff member, Elder, or key volunteer to spot small slips in character, growing burn out, or hurts that need a professional voice to address. But they really want to, and a failure in this area can wreck the heart of a pastor who truly loves his church family.
An XP can minister in all of these areas by anticipating potential issues and tackling them before they have time to take root. This is an important service because it removes pressure from an already busy pastor and releases him to focus his attention on shepherding proactively instead of reactively. Proactive shepherding empowers leaders to think deeply and pray for wisdom in an unrushed way. Reactive shepherding runs the risk of band-aid answers and desperate prayers that fix the symptoms of issues without addressing the underlying causes.
The ministry of anticipation requires time and a different mindset then most pastors specialize in. XPs are good at this because their business mind, education, and experience have trained them to look for and plan solutions to issues that may or may not ever happen. Some people thinks this means not having faith in God to protect us or the church. I do not think that is the issue at all. It is not lack of faith in God, but an abundance of life-experience this side of Heaven that supports the fact that we have an active enemy who hates the church and is looking for ways to hurt it every second of every day.
These are the first two ministries of the XP. As I said earlier, if you do not have an XP sitting in the second chair, please find a key volunteer, Elder, or staff member who could fill in and help in these very critical areas. In the next installment of this series we will look at 2 more ministries that an XP can perform on your staff. Those two ministries are the ministries of maximization and load-sharing.
Be blessed, and I look forward to connecting again next month.
The views and opinions expressed in this guest post belong to the author, who is responsible for its content, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Telios Law PLLC.
About the Author
Featured Image: ”Screenshot of SharedXP Website.”
More articles in this series: Part 1