I never wanted to be a senior pastor. Well, that’s not the whole truth. When senior pastors would introduce me by saying, “this is my education man,” it crossed my mind to be senior pastor – in an alternative way! But I have stayed the course for my love of congregational faith formation.
The introduction by the senior pastor speaks truth about church staff hierarchy and hindrance.
How does the church staff work together? What leadership style promotes the best response from each minister for the common good of the church? Who’s in charge of the church staff clergy?
Congregations of historic Baptist origins make final decisions through business meetings about the recommendations and motions offered by ministerial staff, diaconate, and lay-led committees. There is the occasional lone ranger voice, but, in the end, the church body decides as a communal experience.
The question remains: how does the ministerial/pastoral staff serve in day-to-day operation for the shared church mission? How is it a communal experience? The congregation does not own that operational responsibility. So, who’s in charge for coalescing the ministry-planning and decision-making of the clergy?
Most church members default to the senior pastor as CEO or president. Congregations bless and grant such power because it mimics their workplace experience. The members also want one person to approach.
Three biblical leadership words – pastor, elder, bishop (Acts 20:17-28;1 Peter 5:1-5) – are generally considered the same office in Baptist church governance. “These words in Greek indicate different functions and not different persons.”
All clergy on Baptist church staffs are pastors by this explanation. There is not an added or different office outside of deacon, though different staff pastors carry particularized foci. All pastors ought to share in the various pastoral duties typically assigned to and carried out by the senior pastor.
The absence of hierarchal leadership does not abandon the necessity for a lead pastor. A Lead Pastor spearheads the team creatively in at least these ways:
- Lead Pastors celebrate and bring to light individual giftedness of all staff pastors for the enlightening diversity those gifts offer all areas of church life.
- Lead Pastors share all decision-making issues with the other pastors and shuns pocket-veto approaches, fostering maximum imagination.
- Lead Pastors encourage members to directly address the other pastors in the cases of disagreement with one of the ministers.
- Lead Pastors develop strategies for all staff pastors to share in the preaching, teaching, marrying, burying, and other pastoral duties to grow credibility for all staff pastors.
My ministry experience in four churches over thirty-five years gives me hope for the Lead Pastor teamwork strategy. The church gains immensely because the pastoral team works together seamlessly for the common mission and vision to which they have all been called.
Abandoning the silo approach to congregational ministry coalesces all that God has put together for a particular church in a particular time. May pastoral staffs find a shared and seamless approach to generative leadership.