A Critical (Often Overlooked) Trait of an Excellent Executive Pastor

Sam Rainer

June 3, 2013

In many churches, the senior pastor leans on the executive pastor more than any other person. The executive pastor position is often paradoxical. Executive pastors feel the tension of submitting as a subordinate to the senior pastor while at the same time leading with a high level of influence. Their roles can change quickly, since they are the ones often tasked with adding structure to the vision of senior pastor. Executive pastors become the operations of the big picture. In this way, executive pastors find themselves in the unenviable position of being the Jell-O others are trying to nail to the wall. On a personal note, I’m thankful for my executive pastor. He is tough and serious. He always has my back.

Much good material exists on the qualifications and strategies of an executive pastor. And there are different types of executive pastors as well. Some focus more on finance. Others focus more administration. Some have a strong teaching role. But I believe all executive pastors must possess a critical—and often overlooked—trait in order to accomplish their ministry.

Intuition: The executive pastor must be able to get inside the senior pastor’s head.

You can be brilliant at finance, administration, management, and teaching. But without an intuitive discernment about the feelings and opinions of the senior pastor, an executive pastor will have difficulty executing anything. Executives execute. You cannot get things done without understanding the views of the senior pastor.

This close relationship requires access and openness. If you are a senior pastor, and you’re not giving your executive pastor access to your schedule, vision, and thoughts, then do not expect anything to be executed properly. Additionally, senior pastors must be open with their executive pastors. When the executive pastor finds out about something at the same time as everyone else in the church, the time to execute properly shrinks dramatically.

The intuition to finish the thought of a senior pastor is a critical trait of an executive pastor. As a senior pastor, I value this intuition more than any other trait in my executive pastor. Most capable people can learn finance, administration, and management. But intuition is a true gift.

If you are currently looking for an executive pastor, of course you should match skill set with job description. More importantly, however, pull back from the resume and job description. Ask yourself, “Can this person get inside my head? Am I willing to give this person access to almost every part of my life?”  The best executive pastors are intuitive leaders who also happen to execute well.

3 comments on “A Critical (Often Overlooked) Trait of an Excellent Executive Pastor”

  1. Jim Baker says:

    My Senior Pastor, Mike Glenn, and I refer to this attribute as “psychic radar” or the ability to discern what the other is thinking, somewhat like a spouse who can complete their mate’s sentences. We have found it to be an ability that we both need and which can be enhanced only from spending copious amounts of time together.

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Thanks Jim. I love hearing about what you guys are doing at Brentwood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *