The Leadership Journey of Lead Pastor and Paid Staff
By: Bill Easum
The growth of a church depends mostly on the growth of the lead pastor and paid and unpaid staff. This sound so obvious in principle, but, in practice, we see it break down time after time.
What a pastor and staff have to do in a church with less than 200 in worship is vastly different from what that same pastor and staff have to do in a church of 3,000. It's my contention that one of the reasons most churches never reach 1,000, much less 3,000, in worship is because the pastor and staff do not grow in their ability to lead and resource more than 100 people at any one time. So, here are the major growth spurts that a pastor and staff go through from 0 in worship to 3,000.
The Leadership Journey of the Lead Pastor
If the pastor is a leader, s/he has a major hand in setting out the preferred long-range vision of the church. Instead of using a lectionary approach, the pastor focuses preaching on transformation and growth and doesn't become distracted from the subject matter because it takes time to imprint a congregation with the message of the Great Commission.
As the church grows through the first transition point, the pastor has to learn how to recruit, manage, hire, fire, and resource both paid staff and unpaid church leaders, as well as hold them all accountable (not an easy thing with volunteers at the front end of this journey). Along with this, the pastor must set out clear expectations and manage the church leaders and staff around those expectations.
Throughout the journey from 200 to 500, the pastor must continue to hand off ministry and begin to value getting ministry done through others instead of self.
By the time the church reaches 1,000 in worship, the pastor has handed off all ministry. This frees up the pastor to focus on developing the power of the pulpit, overseeing the four Core Processes (Inviting, Retaining, Discipling, and Sending) and becoming a capable strategist who is more forward looking than ever before.
Now the pastor has to learn how to lead once removed. By now, there is more than one layer of staff, and most of the staff is supervised by other staff. The goal at this point is for the lead pastor to relate primarily to four key staff who oversee the rest of the staff. This is the point where it becomes more imperative than ever that the DNA be embedded in all the paid staff.
From 1,000 and above, the growth of the church is mostly dependent on how well the paid staff function. The lead pastor now has to coach at a distance because somewhere along the way an executive pastor/leader type is hired to oversee most of the program staff and to keep the organization running so smoothly that the lead pastor doesn't have to get involved in any day to day activities.
At this point the lead pastor must focus on the following:
* Providing deep and profound teaching/preaching: This becomes one the primary ministries of the lead pastor. Failure to excel here usually means the growth of the church stops.
* Making sure the growth of the church doesn't outstrip the space the church either owns or rents: The farther a church moves beyond 1,000, the more space issues, especially parking, come to the front of the lead pastor's concern. The trick here is for the lead pastor to have a plan for more space two years ahead of the church reaching the 80 percent capacity mark. Whether the plan includes building or going multi-site, it seldom can be accomplished in less than a year.
* Thinking glocally: This means that the lead pastor is seeking God's wisdom on how to take the church beyond the church's current ministry area (think multi-site or digital ministry), as well as developing an overseas ministry. The more focus a church has on overseas mission, the more likely it is to have a strong hometown mission.
The Evolution of the Paid Staff
When the church is small, the lead pastor has to work with unpaid servants/volunteers and s/he must hold them accountable to their chosen work area. The first hire the pastor makes should be a worship leader whether full or part time. This is the most important hire the pastor will make.
As the church grows beyond the 200 mark, the staff begins to delegate and empower as they release ministry to others. Delegation means that the person has yet to prove him or herself so the person regularly checks in with staff person. Empowerment means the person has proven him or herself to the point that the person is set free to accomplish the mission however s/he chooses with little supervision. This frees up the paid staff to coach more apprentices. In a thriving church, every leader has at least one apprentice or they aren't considered a leader.
By the time the church moves beyond 500, the paid staff should have apprenticed enough people to turn all the day to day ministry over to them. Now staff becomes coaches and supervisors rather than doers of ministry.
The farther the church moves beyond 1,000, the more important it is that all staff be self-starters and require little or no supervision. Instead, their primary role is the reproduction of leaders and developing systems that will allow the church to grow and reach as many people with the Good News that it possibly can.
Growing a church is no different than growing leaders because the church is nothing more than people on a journey to be more Christ-like. In all the talk about growing the church, we should never forget that the church is people and is the sign of God's Kingdom here on Earth. Our goal is never to grow a large church; our goal is to enfold as many people as possible into the Kingdom. The growth of the church is simply a by-product.
Note: If you want to know more about the evolution of the pastor and staff and how it relates to the growth of the Kingdom, be watching out for our book, Staffing the Effective Church, which will be released late next year.
Bill Easum is president of 21st Century Strategies, Inc. a full service church consulting group since 1987 whose mission is to equip Christian for global impact, www.churchconsultations.com.