August 9, 2023

One More Role an Executive Pastor Can’t Delegate – Episode 308 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

one more role an executive pastor can’t delegate

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Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills (Part 2)

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When senior leaders are clear on their roles and their giftings complement each other, the church is well positioned for health and growth.

We’re currently in the midst of a series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills where we’re outlining the three roles an Executive Pastor can’t delegate and the four roles a Senior Pastor can’t delegate. The idea is that by the end of this series, you’ll have a better understanding of how these two key leadership roles should work together and complement one another.


Last week, we unpacked the first two roles an Executive Pastor can’t delegate: making the vision actionable and driving core initiatives in order to free the senior pastor to focus on only the roles that they can be responsible for. 

In this episode, we’ll discuss the third and final role an Executive Pastor can’t delegate—leading a high-impact team—and unpack how that role plays out in their leadership. Listen in as we walk through:

  • The importance of health AND high-performance
  • Tips for your personal health and performance
  • Tips for leading a healthy and high-performing staff
  • Characteristics of an effective XP
To build a high-impact team, you have to have a mindset that aggressively pursues both health and high-performance in your staff. [episode 308] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet The future impact of your church and the fulfillment of the vision God has given you is dependent on the kind of team you build. [episode 308] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet To own the responsibility of culture, ask yourself: “What are the characteristics of my perfect team member?” Then ask yourself: “Am I modeling that for my team?” [episode 308] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Our teams are the biggest tool we have to accomplish our vision. [episode 308] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Executive pastors can’t delegate leading a high-impact team—in other words, they own the responsibility for building and leading a staff team that embraces both health and performance. [episode 308] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet
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This Episode is Sponsored by PlainJoe Studios:

PlainJoe: A Storyland Studio partners with churches, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and educational environments to create unforgettable strategic, digital, and spatial stories that lift the Spirit. 

Through architecture, branding, interior design, website development, themed environments, and more, PlainJoe champions churches as Sacred Storytellers and collaborates with a wide range of world-changing people and organizations. 

To learn more about working with PlainJoe’s team of down-to-earth specialists, architects, strategists, artists, and problem solvers, visit

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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. One of the key roles that an executive pastor can’t delegate is the responsibility of leading the staff day to day. And to build a high-impact team, you have to have a mindset that aggressively pursues both health and high performance in your staff. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills with a conversation on the third key role that an executive pastor can’t delegate. If you’re new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, before you listen, stop and go to and subscribe to get the episode show notes. When you do, you’ll get resources to support each week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide. Again, that’s to subscribe. Now, before we get into this week’s conversation, here’s Tony.

Tony (00:55):

PlainJoe: A Storyland Studio partners with churches, non-profits, faith-based organizations and educational environments to create unforgettable, strategic, digital and spatial stories that lift the spirit. Through architecture, branding, interior design, website development, themed environments and more, PlainJoe champions churches as sacred storytellers and collaborates with a wide range of world-changing people and organizations. To learn more about working with PlainJoe’s team of down-to-earth specialists, architects, strategists, artists and problem solvers, visit

Amy (01:45):

Well, welcome back to our series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills. Last week, Tony, you explained that we’re doing two episodes dedicated to the roles that an executive pastor can’t delegate, and then, in the next two episodes, we’ll discuss four key roles a senior pastor can’t delegate. And the idea here is that by the end of the series, hopefully, we’ll all have a better understanding of how these two key leadership roles should work together and complement one another.

Tony (02:10):

Yeah, that’s right. Amy. I think we joked last week these are the roles that senior pastors really wish their executive pastors would handle. And then, to be honest, these are the roles executive pastors really wish the senior pastors would engage. But in last week’s episode, we covered the first two roles an executive pastor can’t delegate, which are making the vision actionable and then driving core initiatives in order to free the senior pastors to focus on only the roles that they can be responsible for. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss the third and final role that an executive pastor can’t delegate and unpack how that role plays out in their leadership.

Amy (02:49):

Sounds good, Tony. So let’s dive right in. What’s the third role that an executive pastor can’t delegate?

Tony (02:54):

The third role that they can’t delegate is that of leading a high-impact team. In other words, they own the responsibility for building and leading a staff team that embraces both health and performance. And we talked a bit about this last week about how an executive pastor needs to keep the team aligned and on mission together, but their role and leading the staff goes well beyond that.

Amy (03:17):

Yeah, absolutely. I know this is one area that a lot of churches and leaders find challenging because I think every team has a natural tilt to either being a really healthy team or being a really high-performing team. So I think it takes a lot of intentionality to find kind of that balance. I always think of the scales of justice, that one, you know, where one side dips as you add weights. We wanna try to find as much balance in there as possible.

Tony (03:41):

Yeah, I think it would be a mistake to think that we need to find a leader that can naturally balance both because this balance doesn’t really come naturally to anyone. It’s something we have to work at every day. And it’s even harder to find the balance between them as your church and your staff grows in number. So keep, keeping that balance gets harder and harder the larger the staff team grows. But, in a lot of ways, this could be the most important role that an executive pastor does because the future impact of your church and the fulfillment of the vision God has, has given you is dependent on the kind of team that you’re building. And our teams are the biggest tool we have to accomplish our vision. So this is really a, a responsibility that we can’t take lightly as executive pastors.

Amy (04:28):

Yeah, I work with these conversations a lot, Tony, in the staffing and structure part of our engagement. And there’s some clear dangers to having a team that’s out of balance. We found that by not paying attention to both health and performance, it can lead to things like low morale and really create a toxic culture. For instance, I’ve worked with a team. They were so well suited on the health side of things, very healthy team, but it was really to the neglect of getting stuff done that performance side. And by health I mean, you know, having a healthy personal connection with God, practicing Sabbath, showing care to your teammates, bringing encouragement to one another, praying for one another. And those are all great things we want on a team. But health in and of itself is not an end; without that counterweight of high performance, these teams are really at risk of really not making any kingdom impact. And I’ve seen that up close and personal with a team. And the flip side is true, too. You know, a team that puts all the emphasis on performance at the expense of team health, well that culture, man, it feels transactional, like you’re only as good as your last achievement. You’re kind of utilitarian. And often, this leads to an unintentional culture of fear, I think. And, of course, when high performance is not counterbalanced with health, you’ve got a lot of people doing organizational ministry, but really it’s to the loss and the cooling off of their own personal faith and walk with God. And we’ve seen that, right? With, with burnout and people being disenfranchised with being on a ministry team. So that balance is definitely a key.

Tony (06:03):

That’s right, Amy. And hopefully, there aren’t too many listeners hearing that and thinking, “Uh-oh, that sounds a little bit like my team.” In fact, I’m guessing none of our listeners are sensing that because we have, you know, the high-capacity, great executive pastors, they are the only ones listening to our podcast. So I’ll assume the executive pastors that are listening today are finding a great balance in the, in these areas. And their teams actually look more like these indicators of health and high performance. There is an authenticity that exists in the culture. People sense that they are cared for personally, and they are intentionally caring for one another. Another example: the team is spiritually vibrant. And so we’re not having to really push each other when it comes to spiritual formation in the steps we are taking spiritually because everybody’s engaging spiritual next steps. The team has a sense of alignment. In other words, there’s clarity around vision. There’s clarity around priorities, and everybody understands the win for their role and the wins that the ministry is trying to accomplish. And then another example, there’s accountability around performance. And going back to those goals and priorities that have been established, we are making sure that we’re actually delivering on those goals. And, Amy, we’ve worked with so many great executive pastors through the years, but I’ve seen examples of this even in my personal time on church staff teams where the executive pastors really are understanding this priority of not just accomplishing a great vision but understanding this is, this is a long run that we’re on. And in order to effectively engage the mission in the long run, we need to prioritize the overall health of the team as well.

Amy (08:03):

Yeah, I wish every church staff team looked like the one you just described, but then, I guess we might be out of a job if that were true. And, and then we could talk for a long time about the how behind building a healthy and high-performing team. In fact, we actually did a half-day Masterclass on that exact topic. I think it was back in 2021. But for today, maybe we could just take a little bit of time to get to the how and offer some practical takeaways for leaders who are listening with a disclaimer that we can’t get to it all in our conversation today.

Tony (08:32):

Absolutely. So first, I’ll speak to you, the leader who’s listening, because I believe the biggest impact of your leadership will be through how you model this concept to your team. You, you can say you value both health and performance, but if your day-to-day life shows something different, people will catch onto that pretty quickly. So first, a few quick tips for your own increased health as a leader. You need to stay connected to Jesus. Keep the main thing, the main thing. You also need to become a student of your soul. Be willing to look inwards and invite others to help you do that. And then pay attention to your personal rhythms. Does your calendar reflect what you say you value? And again, if you’re not modeling that, people will pick up on that quickly, and they will start to kind of reflect how you operate. And so if you’re not healthy, if you’re not practicing good, personal rhythms in your life, the rest of your team will begin to mimic that. And then, a few more tips for increasing your performance as a leader. First, give the gift of clarity. You need to define the wins and priorities for your team clearly, and you need to do this often. And your team is looking for this. They want somebody to provide that clarity. You also need to focus on what only you can do. I mean, that’s the whole point of this series. In order for you to focus on these roles that you cannot delegate, that means you’re gonna have to empower others to maybe take on some of the responsibilities you’re still carrying today. And then, you need to own your team’s culture. You need to own your team’s DNA because you can be a really healthy team that performs well for a season but not for the long run.

Amy (10:23):

Those are great tips for the performance side of things. From the health side, Tony, I would add, just from my seat in working with teams, just start having honest conversations about any issues you’re experiencing. Stop avoiding difficult conversations. I often share an exercise with the Johari Window. You know, all of us, when I’m meeting with churches, we all have blind spots. And I think when we call ’em, when we recognize other people have blind spots, we’re rightly motivated to give them feedback ’cause it’s not about punishing them. It’s about you’re their manager; you’re their leader. It’s your job to help reduce people’s blind spots on the team. So stop avoiding difficult conversations, and alongside that, develop better conflict management skills. You know, we, we know how we should handle conflict. Matthew 18—we’re all striving for that. That’s really a character issue, but we’re also so human. And so just providing training and modeling it, you know, from the executive pastor seat is really important. I also think keep short accounts with your team. That was always a Lance Witt line when we would work with teams. Just short accounts, shore things up. Don’t let them grow; don’t let them fester. And then, lastly, also from Lance, teach your team how to work really hard and then how to unplug really hard. Those things, you know, that long run that you were talking about, Tony, if we wanna be in it for the long haul, we have to work hard and we have to rest hard.

Tony (11:52):

That’s good, Amy. And you know, what it really comes down to is asking yourself, “What are the characteristics of my perfect team member?” And then asking yourself, “Am I modeling that for my team?” I mean, that’s what it means for the executive pastor to really own this area. And as I’m talking about this, Amy, I’m just reflecting. We were at a gathering several months ago with several large churches. And one of those churches has gone through a lot of transition in leadership in recent months, and they have successfully really elevated some key people in their teams into significant leadership responsibilities. And when we kind of talk with them about how is it that you were so easily able to identify people on your team to step into expanded leadership responsibilities, what I picked up on that was they were not only defining clearly in their language: this is what healthy performance, this is what health looks like on our team. But the leaders, the senior pastor and the executive pastor, they were modeling this. And because of that, the other leaders on their team started to mimic that. They started to act like their senior pastor and their executive pastor. And then, when there were opportunities for positions that that needed to be filled on the team, they didn’t have to look outside their organization because they had people already operating within this culture that they were trying to create around high performance and team health. They already had a number of younger leaders that were ready to step up into those leadership roles.

Amy (13:36):

That’s a great example, Tony. You know, so we just talked about the how behind leading a healthy and high-performing team. Now, I think it could be helpful to talk a little bit about the who, you know, going back to the executive pastor profile we referenced last week, meaning what kind of person, Tony, and what kind of skills are needed for an executive pastor to be able to fulfill this part of their role?

Tony (13:57):

Yeah, that’s a good question, Amy. And I think there are a few key things that that come to mind. Number one, they have to have a proven track record of developing people and achieving results through others. Meaning they’re very results focused. I mean, they can recognize leadership potential in other people and call on that when needed. And then they have this proven ability to recruit the right people and put them in the right seat to succeed and then to continue to, to develop them once they’re in those roles, as well. Secondly, they drive a culture of both health and high performance. And obviously, that’s what we’re talking about today. But in terms of personality and wiring, that means they have a heart for theology and a head for business. They get, they get the balance between running a business and leading a ministry. And because of that, they don’t trample on people. But they drive behavioral values through their example. And then, the, the third thing that comes to mind here as we’re trying to define who is the right fit for this role, they have to be a leader that the staff will follow. After all, influence is evident in people’s readiness to follow him or her. And they also need to have a high EQ or a high level of emotional intelligence. And that means they can build trust by being easy to talk to and easy for people to confide in. They don’t have huge mood swings or outbursts of temper. They have a reputation for making careful and informed decisions, and then they make the staff and volunteer leaders feel safe, heard and trusted. And when someone is speaking to this leader, they’re not worried about gossip or manipulation. They know that their work and, more importantly, their feelings about their work matter to the church. And, you know, as I’m describing this leader that the staff is willing to follow, I’m actually recalling several years ago a senior pastor was in one of our cohorts, Amy, and he, we were talking about the importance of the, this executive pastor role. And he, he thought, I think I know exactly the person that needs to be in this position. And I said, here’s what you need to do. If you’re pretty confident, you know who this person is, go back to your team. And I, I don’t recommend this all the team, but I had high confidence he was gonna get the answer that he knew he needed. I said, go back to your team and ask them, if you had to pick your boss and it couldn’t be me, the senior pastor, and obviously, it couldn’t, can’t be you. You can’t lead yourself. Who would you pick to be your boss? And everybody on the, on the team picked this woman who he eventually put into the executive pastor role.

Amy (16:55):


Tony (16:55):

And it was all a reflection of the fact that she was the type of leader that other staff members wanted to follow. She was living out some of those characteristics that I mentioned a little bit ago. And because of that, she was more than ready to step into this position of influence because she already had the influence.

Amy (17:15):

That’s a great example, Tony. And you know, I, a lot of churches come to us because they’re struggling to find the right person with the right wiring to fill their executive pastor role. And these are churches who don’t feel like they have the right person currently on their team. They’ve evaluated the team members. But if that’s, if that’s you, I’ll give you a little hint about where to find your executive pastor. They might already be in your church but just currently in a marketplace role. We know from our research that people who are attracted to ministry roles tend to lean more towards the health and people side of things. You know, if you think about the ministry team you’re serving on, probably a lot of those people are people people. So in order to bring in that balance of driving towards performance and results, you might have to get creative about where you look. And many times, these people may already be in your church, a big fan, but just using those skills in the marketplace. So just a little free consulting tip for you. All right. Well, Tony, that wraps up our conversation on the three roles an executive pastor can’t delegate. And senior pastors, you are not off the hook because we’re talking about you next week and unpacking the four roles that you can’t delegate. So, Tony, anything else you wanna add to today’s conversation before we wrap up?

Tony (18:27):

So, this week, we are actually gathering in one of our cohorts with church leaders. This current cohort is just focused on multisite leaders. And we’re gonna do this again. We’re, this week, with nine great churches, leaders from those churches. And there was just a lot of interest in that. So we will repeat that. But related to today’s topic, our listeners, I just want to give you one last reminder that we’re going to be launching a brand new executive pastors cohort. And that’s going to kick off this October. And this cohort starts with a two-day gathering hosted by me and Amy and then continues in virtual meetings for the remainder of the year. And if you’re interested in joining us, you can learn more at the link in your show notes, but don’t delay. Spots are limited, and registration will close on August 15th.

Sean (19:21):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Like Tony mentioned, if you’d like to learn more about or register for our upcoming executive pastor cohort, you can do so by using the link in your show notes. And if you don’t yet have the show notes, just go to to subscribe. Next week, we’re back with another new episode in our series. Until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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