You know how some families are Disney families? Or running families? Or musician families? In our case, my family is all about executive church leadership.
My wife, Holly, and I both have a long history of serving on church executive teams. I've been an executive pastor (as well as a campus pastor and lay pastor), and Holly was an executive director at our former church, where I served as an elder. We're passionate about leading and serving churches in that way.
Through the years, we've learned a lot about church executive teams and about the people who make ideal members of those teams. It takes a person with a special set of skills and some unique character qualities to succeed on a church's executive team—in other words, to take the church in the direction God would want it to go.
I've identified four traits to look for in your executive team members. If you see the following traits, you have a great team. If not, now you know what to nurture in them and what to model more of yourself.
1. They lead and, when necessary, they follow.
Serving a church at an executive level isn't easy. In fact, it can often feel like a complicated dance. Sometimes executive team members are called to lead—and lead strong. Other times, though, God calls them to follow. They also have to be able to discern when to assume each role.
It can be tough! But the best executive team members have mastered this dance. They can analyze available clues—the lead pastor's cues, other team members' behavior, the gravity of a given situation and organizational morale—and gather the courage to act accordingly. Team members who have this ability are invaluable to a healthy, godly team.
2. They advocate for the voiceless.
A great executive team member is a trusted advocate for people not in the room. These leaders inspire others by working hard to prove their character, competency, passion and work ethic. They're not only godly men and women but are also top performers who care about others. They're courageous enough to speak up for those who aren't there to speak for themselves. For example, if a campus pastor is being told they have to give a welcome message they feel doesn't resonate with their campus, their executive leader can advocate for them if they aren't being heard. They push back on dysfunctional systems on behalf of others and offer the best ideas and solutions for the team.
3. They champion the best choice for the whole organization.
Good executive team members are advocates for individuals, but they're also champions for the organization as a whole. These team members think bigger than their own campus, ministry or passion. They make decisions in the best interest of the entire church. They listen openly to all sides of an issue and make the best decision for the whole.
4. They mediate between fellow team members and staff.
A great executive team member is a trusted mediator who has courage and competency to navigate difficult conversations. Not only that, but they also mediate with both clarity and kindness and can create solutions that satisfy everyone. They typically sit on the lead pastor's immediate team, lead several of their own teams and act as a peer to other executive leaders. You better believe they need strong relational skills, and they have them.
Not only do they understand other communication styles and can adapt to reach those who communicate differently, but they also understand others' perspectives. That allows them to mediate well during misunderstandings—often while facing budget and time constraints and amid failures and successes. Their unique ability protects morale for the entire church staff.
When it comes to an organization's problems, a true mediator has eyes to see them, courage to speak them and competency to fix them.
So whom on your executive team do you recognize as not only an advocate, champion and mediator but also someone who has mastered the lead-follow dance? Those are all characteristics of people who are for others. To those people, "being the leader" isn't the point. It's about doing the right thing at the right time to achieve the right outcome.
Identify your team members who possess those qualities and elevate them as mentors to those who aren't quite there yet. Remember, it's all a work in progress toward stewarding our leadership for God's glory.
Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide. Available on radio stations across the country, "Chris Brown's True Stewardship" provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. Follow him at stewardship.com, on Twitter (@chrisbrownonair) or on Facebook (chrisbrownonair).
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