2 Essential Qualities Of Executive Pastor Candidates

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The role of the Executive Pastor is growing to be an important position in mid-to-large sized churches. In fact, executive pastors often are the second most important role to hire for, aside from the senior or lead pastor.

What is unique about this role, however, is that churches may not need to hire for it until they are growing and expanding in a way that an executive pastor would be able to build upon. Many churches may not know exactly what an executive pastor does, so interviewing for the position can become difficult.

Here’s a quick background on what an Executive Pastor is, according to John Piper:

He is the human nerve-center for the creation, development, staffing, coordinating, and direction of ministries in the church. He sees that these things get done, so that communication, harmony and faithfulness to the vision prevail. Most immediately he relates directly to the staff as the central sprocket that all their cogs fit into.

Executive pastors are different from senior pastors in that they are immediately familiar with all the organizational aspects of the church: their job incorporates creativity and leadership as well as an administrative giftedness. Because they are more involved in the day-to-day operational tasks (planning, directing, evaluating, guiding, problem solving with ministries), they ensure each ministry has what it needs to operate well and fits the mission of the church.

In our work at Vanderbloemen, we have interviewed many candidates for executive pastor positions and gathered the key topics that should be discussed in the process. These questions will easily help narrow down your search and find the right person for this unique and important role.

1. Spiritual Journey

First and foremost, ask thorough questions about your candidates’ spiritual backgrounds: how they came to faith, how their theologies would fit with the leadership of the church, and if they’re a good spiritual fit. Do they approach ministry the way the church does? Do they have a theological “chemistry” with this church?

Although more operational in nature, this is still a pastoral position that will be in a place of leadership at a high level. Your next executive pastor should be a solid candidate spiritually, theologically, and administratively.

It is also ideal to have some previous pastoral experience; oftentimes associate pastors and campus pastors make great executive pastors because they have already been leading in smaller ways, which could translate easily into a larger setting.

Some specific traits to look for and ask about:

  • Having a heart for Kingdom work
  • Having a driven work ethic
  • Attention to detail
  • Approachability, trustworthiness, and leadership – is this someone that the rest of the church staff could come to with requests and for problem solving? 
[FREE DOWNLOAD: 4 Keys To Assessing Pastoral Traits In Candidates]

2. Previous Experience 

Ask your candidates about their past work experiences and accomplishments to evaluate what they would bring to this role. This is a highly organizational role that has oversight in finances, hiring staff, and identifying what a ministry needs to grow and thrive. For example, someone from the business world that made the switch to ministry would be great in an executive pastor role.

We’ve found some highly qualified executive pastor candidates that have previously been Headmasters or Directors of a school, Chief Operating Officers or Directors of Operations, and Human Resources directors.

Some specific things to ask about are:

  • Metrics and goals in a previous position  
  • Size of staff or organization previously overseen
  • Experience running a business
  • Strength in strategic planning and analysis, program and project management, budget management, and growth planning.

If your church is in a current season of rapid growth and development, the strategic move could be hiring an executive pastor to manage it. Knowing what to look for in this role is the best way to find quality candidates and help your church continue to grow in the future.

What are some other traits or questions you’ve asked in an interview with an Executive Pastor?

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