August 23, 2023

2 More Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate – Episode 310 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

2 more roles a senior pastor can’t delegate

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Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills (Part 4)

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Great leaders don’t try to do everything themselves. They understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and recognize the value—to their organizations, the people they lead, and themselves—of leveraging the strengths of others. 

But in order to delegate well, you have to start by identifying the key things only you can do.

We’re wrapping up our series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills where we’re outlining:

After all, when both of these senior leaders are clear on their roles and their giftings complement each other, the church is well positioned for health and growth.


In this episode, we’re discussing the final two roles a senior pastor can’t delegate: leader of leaders and the culture champion. Listen in as we walk through:

  • The four steps of the leadership pathway
  • Leadership advice for churches at every size
  • Four steps for creating culture
  • The benefits of an authentic culture

How to Sharpen Your Vision-Casting Skills

As your church grows and the world around it changes, your vision needs to be refreshed. JoiTony Morgan, Amy Anderson and guests for this free webinar where you’ll get re-energized to clarify your church’s vision and learn how to successfully rally your congregation around it.

Great leaders understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and recognize the value—to their organizations, the people they lead, and themselves—of leveraging the strengths of others. [episode 310] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet If your church is growing, you can’t lead like you used to lead when your church was smaller. [episode 310] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet The leader you are today may not be the leader you need to be in the future for where your church is going. [episode 310] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Your church’s culture influences your effectiveness as a leader, the quality and efficiency of the ministry work performed by your staff, and the effectiveness and growth potential of your church. [episode 310] #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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We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.

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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. Being great in the role of senior pastor requires you to also be great at delegation. To learn to delegate, though, you have to start by identifying the things that only you can do and what you can’t delegate to anyone else. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy finish up our series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills with a conversation on the final two roles a senior pastor can’t delegate. If you’re brand new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, stop before you listen and go to to subscribe to get the episode show notes in your email. When you do, you’ll get resources to support each week’s episode, our Leader Conversation Guide and access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s to subscribe. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s a word from Tony.

Tony (00:56):

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

Amy (01:45):

Well, welcome back to our listeners and welcome to you, Tony. I just want you to know that, as I’ve been traveling, I continue to bring rain to every church that I’ve seen in the past several weeks. So, if you have a drought in your area, just hire me, and I will bring the rain to your community. Where have you been?

Tony (02:05):

That’s good. I well, well, I was just recently in Pennsylvania helping a church consider next steps related to multisite.

Amy (02:13):


Tony (02:13):

I mean, we did, we did, we collected data at the end of last year, and through that process, I think we learned a third of churches that are larger than a thousand people in attendance were planning to launch a new location within the next 12 months. And that must actually be happening ’cause it feels like we’re constantly hearing from churches that are looking for help moving their multisite strategy forward. So, that was a fun conversation with the church up in Pennsylvania this past week. So, yeah, and if, gosh, if you’re considering multisite, we’d love to help your church with that as well.

Amy (02:52):

And was this a church that has not gone multisite yet? So they were just thinking about launching into it?

Tony (02:58):

They, they’re in the very, yes, they are in the very, very early stages of multisite right now.

Amy (03:03):

Those are my favorite churches to work with because we can help them learn what other churches have already learned. Right?

Tony (03:10):

That’s right.

Amy (03:11):

Those of us who’ve been through that. All right. Well, today we’ve reached our final episode of our series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills, and so far, we’ve discussed the three roles an executive pastor can’t delegate and two of the four roles a senior pastor can’t delegate, which was casting vision and being the primary spiritual leader and teacher. And, Tony, I feel like we have a lot to cover today with these last two, so let’s just get right to it. Sound good?

Tony (03:36):

That works for me.

Amy (03:38):

All right. What is the third role a senior pastor can’t delegate?

Tony (03:41):

Yeah. The third role that can’t be delegated is being the leader of leaders. No matter the size of your church or your staff team or lack of staff team, senior pastors have to be the primary leaders in their organization.

Amy (03:55):

Yeah, Tony, that word leadership means different things to different people. So what exactly are we talking about when we say senior pastors have to be the leaders of leaders in their churches?

Tony (04:05):

Yeah, that’s a good question, Amy, because I think most senior pastors need to broaden their views of leadership to include influence. Sharing influence is a key component of great church leadership, especially as the church grows when the churches are young and small. Senior pastors use their influence to accomplish a lot of tasks that make the church run. But as the church grows, it requires a shift in leadership focus. And senior pastors must begin to use their influence to fulfill the mission and the vision of the church. And this shift requires a senior pastor to evolve their leadership to a different level. In other words, the leader you are today may not necessarily be the leader you need to be in the future for where your church is going.

Amy (04:51):

Yeah, I saw that up close and personal, watching our church grow from 1,800 to over 20,000. It was imperative that not only our lead pastor, but those of us on the executive team continue to evolve in our leadership. And we’ll talk a little bit about how this leadership looks different based on the church’s size later, but let’s also talk about leadership by its two functions. So, first, leading up, right, meaning the senior pastor has to provide leadership for the board, the elders and anyone else that’s empowered with some authority over the senior pastor, right? Use their influence to lead up. They also need to lead around, meaning the senior pastor has to provide leadership for the staff leaders who report to the senior pastor because one person can’t carry that entire leadership load. So the senior pastor has to be intentional about building a team of capable staff leaders and helping those individuals grow in their leadership.

Amy (05:46):

And what I love about that landing, Tony, when, when senior pastors can get to that place, they can actually release all their concern about what everybody else is doing. You’ve seen it, right? They’re always, “Are people doing their job? Is this being done?” And I often tell my pastors, when you get to this place where you have a trusted team around you, you just need to be the chief encouragement officer. You get to walk around and catch people doing things right. And when things aren’t being done right, you have a team of people that you go to for that resolution. But it’s such a critical relationship between that lead pastor and the leaders that he or she has placed around.

Tony (06:21):

Yeah. And actually, Amy, that leads very well into this next part of this conversation, which is related to the leadership pathway, and you can really think about this in five different steps. So leading self, leading by example, leading through other people, which is primarily through delegation, leading other leaders, primarily through empowerment, and then leading through the vision. So, obviously leading self, that’s pretty self-explanatory, but then, we actually kind of step into these, these four kind of next levels of influence when it comes to leadership, beginning with leading by example. And this really is when we model for others how we do church, how we do the things that we do. And this is where leaders still, they’re getting their hands dirty because they’re showing others how to get things done. And it’s, it’s really an important part of leadership influence. The third level, then, is leading other people. And like I said, this is when we begin to delegate, to share tasks, to share responsibilities. And eventually, great senior pastors learn how to give responsibility to other people in order to broaden the amount of ministry that can be accomplished. The fourth level, or the fourth step in this pathway, is leading other leaders. And as I mentioned, this is primarily through empowerment. In this third stage, it’s similar to the second stage, except that you’re not only handing responsibility to other people, now, you are giving leaders decision-making authority. You’re, you’re giving them the authority to actually move critical parts of your mission forward. And those leaders now have that responsibility to really shape who you are, who their teams are and then the broad direction of their ministries. And then, lastly, the five, the fifth step in the leadership pathway is leading through vision. And moving into this final stage of leadership or influence requires you to become the catalyst for a movement. And we’re not gonna spend a lot of time talking about that this week because we hit that in last week’s episode: being the primary vision caster and being the catalyst of, of where your, your church is going into the future. But that kind of helps you think about the five steps that I might need to be taking in my influence in my leadership to help the church move its mission forward.

Amy (08:57):

Yeah. And Tony, thinking through the different steps along that pathway, it makes me think of the age-old question, you know: are leaders born or are they made? You know, can someone at the bottom of the pathway, someone who’s maybe just modeling for others how to do things right now, can they really learn to lead at that highest level of leading through vision? Or is it something that’s more, I don’t know, intrinsic within us?

Tony (09:17):

Well, you know, Amy, if you want an example of a leader growing through some of these stages, we don’t really need to look any further than Exodus 18. At the beginning of the passage in that chapter, Moses leads by example. He is listening to everyone’s problems. He’s kind of working through conflicts and offering solutions. But the scope of that role begins to overwhelm him, and it’s too much for him to handle on his own. So his father-in-law, Jethro, advises him to kind of expand his span of care by delegating other, other places of influence and decision authority to other qualified leaders. In order to do more and to be more effective, Moses had to entrust some of his responsibilities to others. It’s just a natural part of his evolution as a leader. And I think that’s a good example of growth and development as a leader and also learning from the wisdom of those who are older and wiser. Now, one caveat here, I think some, I think leadership is a gift. And some people have leadership gift, and some don’t. And so, we might be in leader, we might have different people in different leadership roles, but not everyone might be gifted as a leader in that role. And likewise, I do think God uniquely wires some people with higher, more leadership capacity. And because of that, the potential for more leadership influence. And I really think part of learning how we can best contribute to the mission, as part of the body of Christ, is for us to both recognize what is, what is the gifting that God has put into me, and then, secondly, if you have the leadership gifting, what level of, of leadership capacity or leadership influence has God put into me? Because when we have understanding of that, it helps to better position us within the body of Christ to accomplish only the things that God has created us to accomplish in his mission.

Amy (11:24):

Yeah, I love that. So, Tony, you know, I think maybe some pastors who are listening right now might feel like they’re stuck on the leadership pathway. Can you, can you talk about that a little bit?

Tony (11:34):

Well, yeah, you may feel stuck, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s pretty common. But the good news is we have some advice that you, can help you get unstuck in this area because we’ve found that where senior pastors get stuck in their leadership often aligns with the size of their churches. So, I’ll quickly offer some advice for senior pastors of churches at, at each size. Let’s begin with pastors of smaller churches. They tend to get stuck because they only lead by example. In other words, they’re trying to do all the ministry by themselves. And unfortunately, the culture of a small church often expects and, and encourages that behavior.

Amy (12:16):


Tony (12:16):

If that’s you, it’s time to start giving away ministry tasks and responsibilities to other qualified leaders. You’re, you’re probably going to feel some anxiety as you make that leap, but if you commit to adding delegation to your leadership, to your influence, it will pay off for you for the leaders you delegate to and for your church as a whole. When it comes to mid-size churches, they tend to be good at delegating but haven’t made that leap to empowering other leaders. They’ve learned how to tell other people what to do, but they haven’t really given away ownership of ministry to other leaders and particularly around decision-making authority.

Amy (13:02):


Tony (13:03):

So delegation helps you accomplish more, but the people you delegate tasks to when they complete those tasks, tasks, they’re gonna be coming back to you for their next task. And so you end up becoming the bottleneck for accomplishing ministry in your church. If that’s you, it’s time to move beyond delegation to empowerment. And like I said, that means finding some higher capacity leaders that we can actually empower with decision-making authority as it relates to the ministry that they’re trying to accomplish and the team that they’re building to get that ministry done.

Amy (13:40):

Yeah. You know you haven’t effectively empowered others if all roads continuously lead back to you for decision-making.

Tony (13:46):

That’s right.

Amy (13:47):

And, Tony, it sounds like these levels of leadership are at each size, are actually corresponding with the levels of influence on the leadership pathway. Did I pick that up?

Tony (13:56):

Yeah, you’re right. And I’m glad you caught that. As our span of leadership grows, we have to keep moving up and expanding the breadth of our influence. So with that in mind, lastly, for pastors of larger churches, you, you’ve already made the leap to empowerment. But, sometimes, church pastors get stuck in this phase because they fail to develop a team of leaders around them who can empower others. So the senior leadership team becomes a ministry bottleneck. When the ministry gets bottlenecked, these senior pastors find that they don’t have the margin to assume the important role of vision caster. And dropping other responsibilities that only a senior pastor can do will limit the ministry effectiveness and growth potential of your church. So it’s, we have to figure out how do, how do we give leadership, how do we give influence away? And for larger churches, it’s not just to an executive pastor. You’re gonna need a broad team of high-capacity leaders so that you, your ministry continue to have growing impact in people’s lives.

Amy (15:03):

Well, those were great examples and very practical takeaways, I think, for leaders of churches at every size. And it sounds like the key thought here is if your church is growing, you can’t lead like you used to lead when your church was smaller. And if you want your church to grow, you need to start taking steps on that leadership pathway to create an environment for church growth. All right, let’s move on to the fourth and final role that a senior pastor can’t delegate.

Tony (15:28):

Well, this fourth essential role is the most recent I’ve added to the list, Amy, but I’m convinced it’s crucial. Senior pastors can’t delegate being the primary culture champion in their church. I mean, culture really is that set of behaviors that define what the team does, how it behaves and what it values. And it starts at the top of the organization. If the senior leadership team is preaching and teaching values and practices, the senior pastor doesn’t exhibit those same values and practices.

Amy (16:00):

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Tony (16:01):

There’s going to be a disconnect, and tension will begin to arise on the team. So it’s the senior pastor’s responsibility to set the tone for the team and lead the church by example in this area.

Amy (16:15):

Tony, we just, we were talking the other day with Tiffany, who’s on our team. And she just read Seth Godin’s newest book, and we grabbed a phrase from that that defines culture. It’s “People like us do things like this. People like us do things like this.”

Tony (16:29):

That’s right.

Amy (16:29):

I found that to be the simplest definition of what we’re looking for when we talk about defining your culture. And I think this is an area every leader would agree is important, but the tricky thing is that culture can feel so intangible and hard to define. That’s why probably the most important thing a senior pastor can do is just that. Right? Define it. Put it into words. And don’t leave it up to chance or just assuming people will watch you and behave like you.

Tony (16:55):

You’re, you’re right, Amy. So the first step here: define what’s distinctive or unique about your team. And we like to frame that up in a set of culture-shaping behaviors that define what the team does, how they behave and what they value. And those behaviors, both positive or negative, those behaviors are going to shape your culture. And that’s why you need to get this right, and you need to get it in writing. We dove a bit deeper into how to define culture back in episode 208. So I encourage you, can you believe 208 episodes?

Amy (17:29):

No, I was just thinking the same thing.

Tony (17:33):

So I encourage you to go back and listen to that episode if you haven’t made it past this step yet of naming and defining your culture. And, Amy, you work with a lot of churches and senior pastors on this topic. Maybe you can kind of walk us through what the next steps are once the culture has been defined.

Amy (17:52):

I sure can do that. But really quick, when you said episode 208, that sounded like a lot until I realized that was 102 episodes ago. Anyways, yes. You asked me if I could walk through what the next steps are once you’ve actually defined your culture. So a couple things come to mind. You know, first, being a culture champion really means modeling the behaviors you wanna define for your church. So that’s the first next step. Model it, right? So because of your influence as senior pastor, when you model culture, that’s how you shape culture. And you also need to ensure key leaders reflect those behaviors. Because if they don’t, then the rest of the team won’t either. And if the rest of the team doesn’t reflect those behaviors, the church won’t adopt the culture. So model it, you know, all the leaders, especially lead pastor. And then once you’ve defined culture and you’ve actively engaged in modeling it, so it’s becoming sticky with your staff and congregants, now, it’s time to teach it. And, of course, teaching, Tony, goes back to vision. You need to keep those cultural behaviors in front of the team by talking about them. As a senior pastor, you need to talk about, preach about and regularly share culture with the team. And you know, I, I often recommend senior pastors leverage their all-team meeting once a month to call out culture bearers and to celebrate people who are walking that out.

Tony (19:13):

Yeah. In fact, I really think doing that, bringing, bringing these values and these culture-shaping behaviors to your staff meetings, it’s so important with vision casting to bring that back to the staff meetings in order to remind yourselves who you are as a, as a team and, and the mission that you’re on. So that’s, that’s good stuff, Amy.

Amy (19:36):

Yeah. And then, next, you have to coach the behaviors. And I find one of the best ways to coach your culture is to celebrate people living out your values. There’s this old management principle, right? “What gets noticed gets repeated.” So when you see someone doing something right and you acknowledge it and you celebrate it, it communicates to everybody, you know, “People like us do things like this.” And I think it encourages everybody to embrace those values.

Tony (20:00):

That’s that’s good. I love that phrase, too. “What gets noticed gets repeated.” I would also add that our culture is equally defined by the behaviors we don’t tolerate. And you, you cannot tolerate behavior outside of the culture you’re working to create.

Amy (20:17):

Right? Exactly. In fact, I just told a pastor that this past month. When we talk about the things we value but don’t actually live them out, that’s what we call an aspirational culture, right—when we come up with these behaviors and then we don’t live them out. And the problem with aspirational culture is that no one trusts a church that doesn’t live by the values that they espouse. So when people drift from your values, for example, maybe they agree honesty and sincerity are good, but they’re almost never honest or sincere. Now, you have a coaching opportunity. You have to take action because if you don’t, you won’t have an authentic culture. So I often tell people, you get what you tolerate, and, and hopefully, that motivates them to go, “Well, I’m tolerating something I shouldn’t be and move in for a coaching opportunity there.”

Tony (21:04):

Or you, if they’re not honest or sincere, you could encourage them to run for office. Right?

Amy (21:11):

There it is. There it is. I thought at first you were gonna say fire them but.

Tony (21:17):

You know, Amy. Yeah, well, you should do that, too. On the other hand, when each person on your team embraces and lives out the shared set of essential behaviors you’ve defined, you’ve modeled, you’ve taught them, you’ve coached them, the team will begin to reflect those behaviors. And that’s when ministry becomes a lot of fun because people wanna be a part of that culture. So there are two payoffs. When you see this kind of authentic culture get established in your team, number one, everyone is going to begin to pull in the same direction. When your staff has clear, shared identity, things get done, and there’s increased unity, which leads to increased productivity. And I think every senior pastor listening would agree that’s something that they could use more of.

Amy (22:03):


Tony (22:03):

And then, secondly, there’s just increased clarity about who fits on the team and who doesn’t. So when you’re hiring, it’s not enough to look at: can this person do the job? It’s vital that everyone on a, on the staff is also a good fit, both in terms of chemistry and the team’s culture. And having a clearly defined culture helps you read someone’s fit so that you know even before they join the team: Is, is this going to work or not? But what helps even more is when your entire team has embraced and lives out those cultural behaviors. When your culture is alive, people, people can tell whether a candidate is a good fit for the church, and finding a good fit is absolutely essential if you want to maintain or grow your church’s ministry impact.

Amy (22:54):

Yeah. Culture can be a helpful lens to look through when you’re adding to your team. You know, it’s often that kind of intangible piece that comes into play when a candidate seems right on paper, but something just feels off. You know, I think we do make outside hires once in a while, and it’s always risky when you don’t know someone. But if you don’t have your culture defined, I think it increases that risk tremendously. Because we know how to assess care, competency. We know how to assess chemistry. We know how to assess character, but if we don’t have our culture defined, we don’t have anything to compare it against. And obviously, we could talk about this all day, and we’re running out of time. But I wanna provide just two more quick pieces of advice for senior pastors who are taking on the challenge of being their culture champion. First, culture is not static. You can’t just set it and forget it. So one of your crucial responsibilities as your church’s culture champion is to periodically evaluate the state of your culture. And then second, your church’s culture influences your effectiveness as a leader, the quality and efficiency of the ministry work performed by your team and the effectiveness and growth potential of your church. So don’t let cultural issues slide. There, I think, there’s just too much at stake.

Tony (24:09):

That’s good, Amy. I love that. It’s a good place to leave it. I’m also wondering, after today’s conversation, what do you think we’re gonna be talking about 100 episodes from now?

Amy (24:22):

Probably the same stuff.

Tony (24:24):

Probably, probably.

Amy (24:27):

All right. Well, we’ll leave it there for today, Tony, but are there any final thoughts you wanna share as we wrap up today’s conversation and this series?

Tony (24:34):

Well, one of the primary roles the senior pastor can’t delegate that we discussed in last week’s episode is being the primary vision caster. And if you’re listening on August 23rd, the day that this episode releases, it’s not too late to register and join us for our webinar tomorrow. The webinar’s on How to Sharpen Your Vision Casting Skills. And we’re going to be having a conversation that will get you re-energized to clarify your church’s vision and learn how to successfully rally your congregation around it. So if that sounds valuable to you, register now to secure your spot at the link in your show notes, and we hope to see you live tomorrow.

Sean (25:13):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Like Tony mentioned, if you’d like to register to join us on our upcoming webinar on sharpening your vision casting skills, you can do that by following 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 brand new episode. So 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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