Over the years, I have been asked many times, “Why don’t you start your own church? Why do you want to be an Executive Pastor?” It is a fair question. I have a simple answer. “Everything I have ever desired to see in a local church, I see at Grace Family Church.” It has been true for the entire nineteen years I have been here. There are a number of other things that other churches do that I like, but the overall heartbeat and vision of GFC is built into my core. After all those years, it makes sense that I would fill almost every role of leadership and ministry – eventually becoming Executive Pastor. As Executive Pastor, here is the challenge – can you lead from the back of the room?
Know the Vision. I have known Pastor Craig for twenty-nine years. (It blows me away to write that – I have only been married for twenty-six.) Even as a college kid, I admired Craig and Debbie’s passion for Christ and people. When I heard they were starting a church, I knew it would be about those two things. Having been with them since the one year anniversary, the core values that define GFC have never changed. Methods, events, people have changed but not the message. I have developed a strong conviction for the same vision in reaching people for Christ. To lead from the back of the room, you have to know the vision of your pastor and carry it like your own. If you have ideas on how that may be improved, feel free to share them…behind closed doors. Craig is one of the most secure men I have met in my life and he welcomes feedback and new insights. Yet, I would never do that in an open forum. Always in a setting where he can react and question freely. People ask if we ever disagree. Probably more than you think we would – we are two distinct personalities and mind sets. But it is extremely rare that we would leave a meeting on opposite sides of a conflict. We work it out. That type of “open dialogue” demonstrates his strength as a leader and makes it easy to get behind his vision, while making it my own.
It’s about others. If you want to be in a place of recognition and importance, than I suggest you DO NOT go into ministry. Notice that I started the sentence with “If you want.” Ministry is about other people and you will always be giving out. In this position, it rings true even more. You are serving the Lead Pastor, staff, volunteers, congregation and the community. Each aspect takes different skills and mindsets. You have to learn their gifts, talents and personalities so you can lead appropriately. You learn the power of “servant leadership.” It is truly the only way I see this position being most effective.
Walk in humility. Can I be honest? Sometimes, it is painful to see others in the front of the room get accolades when you are the one in the back of the room. Do I have an ego and enjoy hearing praise from people? You bet I do. As I have grown in my ministry, this has lessened over the years. I am not a young leader needing the affirmation of others to feel good about myself. Leadership can be a lonely place. As an executive pastor you are supporting others in the spotlight. You want people to see the vision of the lead pastor and connect with him. If you are going to be a solid executive pastor, you need to do the “inside work.” Insecurity, fear, people pleasing, and lack of “ownership” are all big factors in limiting your effectiveness. Do the hard things today and get rid of that junk so you can lead in genuine humility and strength.
Know you make an impact. Here is my “job description” using an illustration from Deadliest Catch. I am an ice breaker boat for all the people on my staff. (Yes, all of them should get the benefit of me doing this.) My job is to break as much “ice” in front of my people which keeps them stuck and prevents them from moving forward in their vision and ministry. I will break up as much ice as I possibly can so we can see the greatest forward momentum. Then, I get behind that staff person and push, push, push giving them the resources available to make as much forward progress as possible. Until they get stuck in the ice pack…and we start all over again. Impact is not seen every day…it is seen in growth. Growth in the church and growth in people. I love seeing our staff impact lives and knowing that my role helps them to accomplish that. If I continue to break “ice,” we will reach more people for Christ while growing ourselves into spiritual maturity.
All these things are important if you are going to lead from the back of the room…and I wouldn’t want it any other way.