Church Staffing

Every pastor needs another puzzle piece


By: Justin Anderson

Lead Pastors aren’t good at everything. Well, most of us anyway. Even if we want to pretend we are, those around us know better. We are good at some things and bad at other things. The key is to find people who are good at what you aren’t.

Most churches begin with the Lead Pastor acting as a puzzle piece that everyone else connects to. They all have their roles to play, but ultimately they connect back to the LP. This can work for a long time – depending on the capacity of the leader, it can last years. Typically though, an LP taps out in this role at about 250 people. That’s when he needs a second puzzle piece.

A Lead Pastor can’t always be the center puzzle piece that everything else connects to; he needs a piece that some of the other pieces can connect to. To lose the metaphor for a moment, ideally an LP has no more than 3-5 direct reports. When you get beyond this, the LP can’t be as focused as he needs to be on the most important work. When this begins to happen, you need to start looking for an XP.

So, what do you look for in an XP? That’s where the puzzle metaphor is helpful. You need a piece that connects to the LP and can make connections with the rest of the pieces.

In other words, the best XP’s are complementary.

The most common question I get about Executive Pastors is, “What does an XP do?”

And I always respond the same way, “Whatever the LP doesn’t do.”

Normally, the XP will have some administrative, financial or HR responsibilities, but the most consistent theme is that they are a complement to the LP. They are whatever the LP isn’t.

For instance, when I was an LP, I had XP’s that were executors. I am naturally pretty strategic and enjoy building structures, so I needed Executive Pastors and Directors who could take a strategy and make it happen, and then make sure it kept happening. Since management and execution are weaknesses for me, I found complements who were great at those things.

In my current role, I still handle most of the strategy and structure because the LP I work with is naturally a teacher and discipler. So even though I don’t fit the mold of the typical XP, we found our complement.

If you are an LP looking to hire an XP or vice versa, look for complements. You need a puzzle piece that fits with your counterpart and the rest of the staff.