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  • Writer's pictureAlice J Stewart

The Outsourced XP

Have you ever heard of an Executive Pastor? They're called an XP, for short, which is pretty jazzy. 

I find Executive Pastors in larger churches, and in a few mainline churches - larger Methodist and Presbyterian churches. 

The theory is that an XP will help a larger church with growth, health, and complexity - primarily on a business level but also with a pastor’s heart. 

What about a smaller church, a shrinking mainline church, a struggling mainline denomination who doesn't "do" Executive Pastors? And what about churches who aren't planning on growing right now? What about churches who are called to shrink in numbers and do it well? 

If we remove "growth" from a congregation's needs seeking an Executive Pastor, we still have health and complexity to deal with. 

Change within a context does not operate on a sliding scale. Quite the opposite. Those with less are hit hardest. 

A hurricane will crush our property, no matter if we have little to lose. We'll still lose it all. In fact, there will be fewer pieces to pick up in the aftermath than if we'd owned a mansion. 

A rise in inflation or a hit to our take-home pay (or both!) will create a crisis if we're on a tight budget, where someone who has more cushion in their cashflow may be able to adapt. People lose their house, car, everything. Keeping a job after so much loss is also a real trick. Failure can compound and cascade. 

Likewise, the complexity of an organization does not grow significantly smaller when we are a small congregation. A bit, yes, but not a great deal. The business of staying in business needs to be done, and smaller organizations have fewer people to do it, less time to do it in, and can't afford someone with the skills, compared to larger organizations. 

Smaller, shrinking, and struggling mainline congregations are already complicated. And life is getting yet more complicated, not less. The health of a congregation is still vitally important, both spiritually and operationally. 

It pains me that the least of us must do without an Executive Pastor when we need it just as much as a larger, growing congregation. We have multiple options and are creating more every day to provide the clergy we need and yet sometimes cannot afford. So, let's begin exploring ways to support smaller and shrinking churches so they may stay in business. 

Outsourcing is the first thing that comes to mind, and churches have explored quite a few ideas along these lines. We've talked about this before regarding communications and accounting services. 

But what about high-level professional help? I think it's possible. In fact, I know it is. That's why I started Grow+Small Church Consulting in the first place. 

And Executive Pastor is responsible for business issues such as: 

  • operations, strategic planning, administration, finances, human resources, facility management, succession planning, leadership development, technology, external relations and compliance, project management,

and is also able to perform other congregational duties, such as:

  • outreach, volunteer coordination, pastoral care, and content creation.

Executive Pastors are pastors, and they are executives. They are gifted with administrative as well as pastoral skills. They partner with the clergy, much like a COO will for a CEO. They are like the other half of the brain. 

Executive Pastors don't need to be ordained or have a theological degree, but neither should they be ignorant or lack a theological grounding. XPs wear multiple hats and manage a team so the clergy can be free to devote themselves to preaching, teaching, pastoral care, visiting the sick, prayer, and all the things that - if done well - already take 60 hours a week. 

Sounds terrific, right? Why don't we all have one of these people?!

We do. Or, at least, we've tried. Smaller, shrinking, and struggling mainline congregations engage volunteers or skilled retirees or those who don't need to work or hire those whose skill-set is limited but willing to give it the old college try for a few dollars an hour.

We've limped along like this for a long time, and we'll likely continue. But be aware that policy/legislative compliance and technological change are accelerating. It's harder for even middle-aged professionals to keep up these days. It's no wonder our older generations - as willing as they are and as much energy as they have (I'm always amazed!) - get overwhelmed with trying to keep even a small church in business. 

Does your church need an Executive Pastor? Consider outsourcing one. What is one operational project that needs to be nailed down? Financial project? Strategic project? Start there. 

And, as always, ask for free services first. 

Beat the bushes and find a real professional - a Director of Operations or COO locally - who is willing to volunteer for your congregation. 

Ask your denominational leaders if they have people who can help with these specific projects. The worst they can say is, "no!" 

And, if the free resources dry up, find a professional who can help on your discrete project - one with a flexible payment plan. 

Of course, Grow+Small is here for you, but you may be aware of others. Follow your heart. Pray about it. 

Contact us if you'd like some (FREE) advice on your next steps here


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