At any church over a couple hundred in attendance and even some with less attendance you are likely to encounter a multiple pastor staff. As churches grow more pastors are needed to shepherd more specific areas of the congregation. Whether it is small groups, youth, worship, outreach, or missions as churches grow pastors will be placed into roles to oversee those ministries. Each person who fills that pastoral role, in the ideal, is called to that particular ministry. They feel that God has placed a burden on their heart to shepherd people in that area.
Now on any leadership structure there is always a place where the final decision will rest and typically that is with the Lead Pastor. However, in a good structure everyone is included in the decision making process and has input and the Lead Pastor serves as a sort of tie breaker in the event of indecision.
In my last post a new friend pointed out that this isn’t typically the case as he as experienced and seen as a Worship Pastor and in much of my experience I can agree. There seems to be both within the internal workings of the church and within the perception of the congregation a pastoral hierarchy that determines the weight of input and pastoral capability. I remember one moment in particular where I was talking with someone who made the remark “…but you’re not a real pastor” since I was a lowly Youth Pastor. This individual meant no disrespect by the comment but it revealed the perception that in many minds the title and role of “pastor” is reserved only for the lead person. As I’ve thought about that and reflected on the comment left in yesterday’s post I realized that I wanted to make some statements regarding the roles of pastors.
As I stated above, each ministry is usually overseen by a Pastor who is called and equipped to minister in that area. Over a period of time an individual’s call may change and lead them to shepherd in another area of ministry but each place there should be a call from God to be there. If this holds true then how do we correct the misconception that one role is more vital or more “pastoral” than others?
Here’s what I think:
Pastoral Roles Are Equal
When it comes right down to it all pastoral roles are equal in importance. A Youth Pastor is called to be a pastor to youth, youth leaders and parents. That’s an important role. A Worship Pastor shepherds musicians and the congregation as they engage in worshiping our Creator. A Lead Pastor guides, directs, and pastors the congregation and the rest of the staff. All of the roles serve a purpose. When we elevate one over the other we are essentially saying that one group is more important that the other which is simply not true. Some may respond pragmatically and say that the roles that serve adults is more important that a Children’s Pastor or Youth Pastor because adults bring in the money to keep the church going. While the business aspect of that idea may be true, the spiritual is not. The church is not a business and it’s primary purpose is not to bring in money but to be a gathering of people who desire to encounter and grow with God. Therefore, since each ministry is working towards that purpose, all pastoral roles are equal.
Vision and Mission Are Team Activities
Pastors should all be a part of determining the vision and mission of the church. This is essential because these pastors are working as a team to accomplish the set goals of reaching people. Each pastor should be a part of determining it and must most definitely buy into it in order to shepherd in their particular area. A worship pastor cannot be a puppet that a Lead Pastor uses to make their services look or sound good. Rather, a worship pastor must be bought into the mission and vision and given room to actually shepherd in their area of expertise. There must be a team approach in Pastoral ministry because each individual has their finger on the pulse of those categories.
Different Calls, Different Ministries
The final reason why I believe that the perceived hierarchy should be dispelled is because each Pastoral figure is called to their particular ministry. What I am saying is that a Lead Pastor is called to be a Lead Pastor not a Worship Pastor. They must recognize that their shepherding capabilities will not be suited for the roles that they are not called to. A Children’s Pastor is called to Children, not Youth. Each pastoral role takes a different gift set. The myth of this hierarchy would lead us to assume that the person highest on the pyramid is capable of shepherding in every area which simply isn’t true. While a Lead Pastor may have at one time been a Youth Pastor that does not make them called or qualified to lead Youth in the present situation. That Youth Pastor is equally valuable in a different role. You could call this understanding of pastoral roles “complementarian”. Equal value, different giftings.
Overall, if the hierarchical issue lies within the leadership of the church then I would say two things. One person cannot do everything. Building a staff environment that values each pastor in their role will build a stronger team, stronger church and stronger vision. Lead Pastors who are seeking God and the best for their church will value the other pastors on their staff and the input and accountability that they bring to the table. If not, they are only seeking to glorify themselves and build around their personality not around a mission and vision that seeks to reach people for Jesus and grow them in discipleship.