Your Guide to Hiring an Executive Pastor
Hiring an executive pastor can exponentially increase the good a church does within its community. Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy role to fill. Pastors placed into executive positions must have very specific skill sets – because it’s about much more than simply acting as an aide to the head minister.
Making the choice on who to hire is unlikely to be an easy decision, and in reality, it shouldn’t be. By utilizing the following guide, though, you can be more confident that you’re choosing the right executive pastor.
Executive Pastor Job Description
It’s important to realize that many churches claim to have pastors in executive positions when they really don’t. While they’re certainly not lying about having such a position, they simply don’t understand what it actually entails. Many ministries will incorrectly claim, for instance, that their operations pastor or administrator is holding the executive position.
In reality, this role is clearly and impressively defined by job hiring websites:
“An Executive Pastor oversees a church’s operations, strategic planning, administration, finances and human resources to achieve their mission and vision. [They] lead and oversee church staff such as preachers, elders and deacons.”
This definition shows that the duties of executive church leaders extend far beyond assisting the pastor or handling administrative duties. The major goal behind filling this position is to lessen the burden experienced by the head pastor. This frees them up to handle other important duties such as hospital calls, funerals, preparing sermons and more.
Attracting the Best Talent
Due to the many responsibilities shouldered by executive pastors, volunteers typically don’t handle the position. When you choose the ideal candidate to take on the role, you can do so from within your ministry or through an outside hire. Either way, attracting the best talent involves offering the right compensation.
Consider all the following factors when setting out to find an executive pastor:
Understand Salary Laws
The salary laws in your city or state could vary from federal statutes. It’s important to understand these laws before seeking to bring on new talent. A misinterpretation of the law could not only drive off potential candidates, but it could also leave your ministry open to liability.
Look at the Cost of Living
You should never offer the absolute minimum in compensation when seeking the best talent for your congregation. Statistics show that most areas in America have a higher cost of living than their minimum wage would provide for. If you don’t offer a salary in line with the local cost of living, you either won’t get good talent or they’ll have to live outside of your community.
Offer Ordination for IRS Housing Benefits
When your ministry’s executive pastor role is ordained, you can make the role more appealing by offering a housing allowance. If a salary package includes an amount officially designated as a housing allowance, whoever you hire will receive extensive tax benefits from the IRS.
Be Clear About Benefits
Many career choices are as much about benefits as they are salary. The Ministers and Missionaries Benefits Board (MMBB) offers an in-depth guide on negotiating salaries and benefits. Ideally, you’ll be able to offer continuing education, retirement benefits and help cover healthcare costs.
If other benefits of working at your church include sabbatical offerings, free gym access and additional perks, make sure to mention these as well. Particularly for potential executive pastors from outside your church, as they may not know all the smaller benefits you can provide!
Consider a Bonus Structure
While it may sound strange to offer a bonus structure in a church position, it’s important to remember the role of executive pastor is all about meeting goals. If one of their duties is to increase virtual tithing or community outreach, for instance, set a particular date to reach a certain outcome.
While improving the congregation’s ability to do God’s work should serve as an incentive, giving your potential hire more financial stability is also an attractive perk.
You can also let applicants know you take the position seriously by utilizing the DonorWerx Framework to increase engagement and overall giving. Contact us today to find out how.
How to Hire an Executive Pastor
When you’re ready to fill the executive pastor job at your ministry, choosing benefits isn’t the only important step you should take. Measuring your church’s health, practicing discipline, and seeking out proven results are all essential. Consider the following strategies when seeking out a pastor for the executive role:
- Perform SWOT Analysis: You should first discover your churches Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) before deciding who to hire. This will help you figure out the attributes you should be seeking in an applicant.
- Seek Advice from Other Churches: If you’ve never hired a pastor to the executive role, find other churches with a thriving leader in the position and ask them how they did it. Mimicking successful practices often leads to success.
- Look for Experience: You need to find business-savvy talent to fill the executive pastor role. A religious individual should certainly fill the role. Still, try to find someone who also has experience in project management and team leadership at a minimum.
- Remain patient: Your ministry has likely gone a while without a pastor in the executive role, so a little more patience won’t hurt. Try to interview at least five potential candidates before making a choice – because this decision will have huge repercussions.
- Make this a Partnership: Interviewees need to understand this isn’t a role they can merely “tap out” of. They’ll have a “buck stops here” position with extensive authority. They need to know they’re in a partnership with the senior pastor.
Roles of an Executive Pastor
Regardless of how much work you put into hiring an executive pastor, it will mean little if you don’t understand their roles. This can dictate which attributes and experience you’re looking for in the hiring process. A pastor in the executive position can take on many parallel roles of a corporation’s Chief Operating Officer (COO):
- The Executor: You have goals for taking your church into the future, and an executive leader can be the one to set out and accomplish these goals.
- The Change Agent: Big changes are sometimes necessary for the health of a church. It’s often best to have an executive pastor rather than adding to the senior pastor’s burden.
- Pastor’s Mentor: If a head minister is new to their position, an experienced pastor can serve as a mentor.
- Complimentarian: Church leaders can’t be experts in everything, but a pastor in the executive position can serve as a complement to the leader’s skills.
- Partner in God: Sometimes just having a partner to take on responsibilities can be invaluable.
- Heir Apparent: If the time comes when a head preacher moves or retires, the executive pastor position can serve as a great training strategy for their replacement.
- MVP: Churches often offer an executive leadership role to hang onto talent that may otherwise leave. They may even “poach” talent that’s looking for a new place to worship.
Once you understand these roles, choosing the right executive pastor becomes a much easier process. You need more than a person of faith, and you need more than a skilled professional.
The truth is, you’ll need both. You should put as much time into this process as you would when hiring a senior pastor – because they’re likely to have the same effect on overall church health.
Make the Right Decision From the Start
Creating any position within your ministry and choosing someone to helm it is typically a difficult decision. It’s much different than hiring someone within the business world. That’s because, when someone is part of your church, they’re part of your family. This is why you should strive to make the right hire from the start. By following this guide, you can do just that.
Once you hire an executive pastor, it’s important to provide all the tools for them to do their job effectively. DonorWerx offers digital giving software and one-on-one guidance for increasing donor engagement and overall tithing. Schedule a Discovery Call with us today to learn how we can help your ministry do the work of God.
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