(This article originally appeared on the Acts 29 Network Blog).
A quick Google search for the words “executive pastor” will mostly give you hits for available job postings and existing executive pastor (XP) bios. Dig a little deeper and you might come across the occasional article. The reality is that there just isn’t much out there for the guy who sits in the second chair pastoral role in his church. So XP’s are often left to reinvent the proverbial wheel. This does not have to be the case. Below you will find descriptions of five resources that no XP should be without. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. If you have your own favorites, let us know.
1. Mike Bonum & Roger Patterson’s book “Leading from the Second Chair”.
This seminal work on the role of the XP charts out three leadership paradoxes that every second chair leader must wrestle with-The Subordinate-Leader Paradox, The Deep-Wide Paradox, The Contentment-Dreaming Paradox. XP’s (and those wanting to be one), and LP’s (Lead Pastor’s) who want to hire an XP should start here. It’s a quick, helpful read.
2. David Fletcher’s website http://www.xpastor.org/
Here you will find everything from articles on a wide variety of issues to policies and administrative helps from churches around the country. You’ll even find a test to see if you really are an XP. The test (the XP indicator) would be extremely helpful for the church planter who is trying to assess a potential second chair leader. Fletcher sees the XP role as having 5 key functions: Administrator, Catalyst, Mentor, Minister, and Overseer. The XP indicator functions like a temperament or gift analysis using these five aptitudes. The list of resources on the site increases daily.
3. The XP Conference held annually (February 6-7, 2008).
This is literally the only conference designed for XP’s in the entire country. Thankfully it’s a good one. Each February in Dallas, TX 300-400 pastors who function as XP’s (regardless of title) gather for two days of intensive training, idea sharing and community building. I went last year fully expecting to be the youngest guy there by 10 or 15 years. I was surprised instead to find a great mix of younger and older XP’s at churches ranging from 200 to 20,000 attendees. The main sessions were lively, on target and challenging. The numerous breakout session choices involved pointed and specialized treatments of a myriad of issues you are probably facing in your church right now. Bottom line . . . this conference is worth the trip. I went away last year with only one complaint; there was absolutely nothing for the church planter. When I shared my concern with sponsor Dr. David Fletcher of xpastor.org, he quickly invited me to lead a session for the church planting executive pastor at the 08′ conference. In addition to that session, I’ll be hosting an Acts 29 Pastors gathering for attendees at a local microbrewery on the first day of the conference. When you register, be sure to check the A29 box to receive information about this party. Find full details and registration instructions here.
4. A local XP network.
Unless you live just east of nowhere, there are probably guys functioning as executive pastors in your area. They may not have the title and they may be at older, larger, more established churches, but as the XP at a church of 10,000 recently told me “We do the same thing. I just do it with more 0’s at the end.” I’ve been meeting regularly with a couple XP’s locally for about two years and the time has been invaluable as we bounce ideas off of each other. Recently, we decided to invite a few other key local leaders to join us in forming an XP-Roundtable that will have its first meeting in a few weeks. Expect an article in a year or so on the successes and failures of this venture. If you are in a smaller church, don’t be afraid to call the XP at your local mega church (even if they are a part of the Willow Creek Association). Due to the XP’s inherent lack of stardom in the church, they remain pretty accessible even at the largest of churches.
5. Regular meetings with your visionary Lead Pastor.
If I had to say in one sentence what role the XP/second chair leader plays on the leadership team it would sound something like: “The XP’s overarching task is to see to the effective implementation of the Lead Pastor’s vision.” The only way to do this is to have dedicated regular meetings with just the two of you. In the early days of Terra Nova (as in . . . two years ago) I would barrage Ed Marcelle (our Lead Pastor) with questions until I got what he was saying. I would ask him to write out his thoughts and concepts and then I would rewrite them and review them until they became my own.
The only way you can lead a staff and volunteer team in implementing a focused vision is if you own that vision yourself. View your Lead Pastor as the walking embodiment of the churches philosophy, mission and vision and go to that well often. For you lead pastors reading this, assume that a newly hired XP will need a good five hours of your time each week for the first few months. You will likely assume that your visionary rantings are clearly grasped in one conversation. They are not. In the long run, this lengthy time investment will reap huge rewards in freeing you up to do what you do best for the church.