5 Things Every Senior Pastor & Executive Pastor Need From Each Other

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have published a couple of articles about the relationship between the Senior Pastor and Executive Pastor on my blog, LeadingSmart.com. Here is a short overview of those articles with some bonus material just for our Vanderbloemen readers.

The relationship between a Lead Pastor and an Executive Pastor is an extremely important one. The more they get along and sync together in their vision, the better everything else will "click" for the rest of the church. On the flip side, in their relationship isn't healthy, things can break down on every level.

I detailed five things every Executive Pastor needs from their Senior Pastor. Those five things are:

  1. Clarity
  2. Authority
  3. Loyalty
  4. Access
  5. Spiritual discernment

In the follow up article, I mentioned five things that every Senior Pastor needs from their Executive Pastor. Those five things are:

  1. Strategic judgment
  2. Competence
  3. Someone to process
  4. Buffer
  5. Speak truth to power

Today, I want to expand those thoughts and talk about the five things that every Senior Pastor and Executive Pastor need from each other: 

1. Trust

This is the basis for all healthy relationships. Without trust, no relationship can flourish. The Senior Pastor needs to know that the Executive Pastor trusts his heart. Decisions might be hard to support, at times, but there needs to be trust that is visibly communicated to the staff and volunteers. Likewise, the Executive Pastor needs to know that the decisions he or she makes as they carry out the vision and mission of the church will be supported by the Lead Pastor.

2. Chemistry

At a base level, you must be able to tolerate each other. For the relationship to thrive, it can’t be based only on Christian love for each other, but there must additionally be a genuine like and admiration for the other. If you can’t play in the sandbox at the same time without someone throwing sand or getting mad and leaving, then it’s going to be difficult to get any ministry done. Effective leadership requires a team that is in sync, and that starts at the top.

3. Mutual Respect

You might be a Hollywood-level actor, but if you don’t trust your team members, that is very difficult to fake. A solid relationship between a Lead Pastor and their Executive Pastor requires a high level of respect for the others unique gifts and skill set. If the Executive Pastor thinks their boss is an idiot, that’s going to come through in the way they leads the team. And if the Senior Pastor doesn’t hold the Executive Pastor in high esteem, everyone will know.

4. Support

This has already been mentioned, but it bears repeating here. Support may be the most important intangible that these two leaders can offer each other. The Lead Pastor must believe in his core that the Executive Pastor has their back. If arrows are shot, they must each know that it will be the natural response to live or die together. The Executive Pastor needs the total support of the Senior Pastor if they are going to be able to move forward in leading the team and making decisions.

5. Honest Communication

This is a two-way street. The Executive Pastor must learn to speak truth to power. That requires an open and honest relationship, filled with respect and trust. The Executive Pastor must also be open to very frank input about their leadership, attitude, communication style, blindspots, or ineffective management style.

This is such an important relationship to get right. Our cause and mission in the local church is so important that we don’t want to risk the loss of time and effectiveness by having tension in this crucial relationship.

At Vanderbloemen, we believe so strongly in the importance of these two roles that we have created two separate coaching networks. You can read more about them here:

What are other important aspects of the relationship between a Lead Pastor and an Executive Pastor.