October 18, 2023

7 Roles Your Senior Leadership Team Can’t Delegate – Episode 318 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

7 roles your senior leadership team can't delegate

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Developing an Effective Senior Leadership Team (Part 3)

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In the first episode of our series, we made the case that the capacity of this team will determine the potential impact of your ministry. Then, in last week’s episode, we defined who should (and shouldn’t) be a part of this key team.

I believe that the effectiveness of the senior leadership team really does impact every aspect of the ministry—that’s why we’re so diligent about trying to help pastors and churches get this right. 


This week, we’re going to dive even more in-depth into the roles of the senior leadership team and offer tips and strategies for how the senior pastor can empower the leaders on the team to do this important work.

We’ll walk through:

  • The seven key roles of the senior leadership team
  • Six strategies for empowering your SLT leaders
  • Reflection questions for senior pastors
The senior leadership team is ultimately responsible for identifying the strategies that will be used to accomplish the vision. They fill the gap between vision and execution. [episode 318] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet It does no good to continue “doing church” without knowing whether or not what you’re doing is helping people take their next steps toward Christ. [episode 318] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet If the senior pastor has to make all the decisions and come up with all the new ideas, that’s an indication of micromanagement rather than empowerment. [episode 318] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Leaders can get addicted to the urgent because the challenge is right in front of us—and there’s immediate gratification when we fix it. It takes discipline to stay focused on the vision. [episode 318] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet

This Episode Is Sponsored by Ministry Brands:

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You may think you know Ministry Brands, the parent company of industry-leading brands such as ShelbyNext, FellowshipOne, and easyTithe. But wait until you hear about their brand new flagship solution, Ministry Brands Amplify: a cutting-edge all-in-one Church Ops solution helping empower healthy churches, connect, engage, and grow their Ministry while boosting member engagement, allowing church staff and volunteers to focus on their calling.

Empower your Ministry today with this all-in-one Giving, People, Streaming, App Builder, and Website solution.  Learn more at ministrybrands.com/unstuckgroup.

Other Episodes in This Series:

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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. When a senior leadership team shares responsibility and ownership for their collective role rather than their individual interests, it leads to a healthier overall ministry. And for the team to shoulder those obligations together, they have to first be clear on what they can’t delegate to any other team. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our series on church senior leadership teams and how you, too, can take the lid off of your church. If you’re brand new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, stop before you listen and go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the episode show notes. When you do each week, you’ll get an email with our Leader Conversation Guide, access to our podcast resource archive and some bonus resources you won’t find anywhere else. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s a word from Tony.

Tony (00:58):

You may think you know Ministry Brands, the parent company of industry-leading brands such as Shelby Next, Fellowship One and easyTithe, but wait until you hear about their brand new flagship solution. It’s called Ministry Brands Amplify, and it’s a cutting-edge, all-in-one church ops solution, which is helping empower healthy churches to connect, engage and grow their ministry while boosting member engagement. And that’s allowing church staff and volunteers to really focus on their calling. Empower your ministry today with this all-in-one giving, people, streaming, app builder and website solution. Learn more at ministrybrands.com/unstuckgroup.

Amy (01:47):

Well, welcome to all of our listeners. And, Tony, good to see you. It’s definitely turning winter in Minnesota. We, I, I might actually blow to the state of Wisconsin today. It’s so windy, but it’s probably not like that in Atlanta. But you actually weren’t in Atlanta this past week. You actually did a staffing and structure engagement if I remember right.

Tony (02:06):

Yeah. I felt like I was trying to bring out my inner Amy Anderson because, Amy, I know you and there were several others on our team that do quite a few of the staffing and structures. And people may not know this, but I think it’s one of the uniquenesses about The Unstuck Process. We help churches figure out future vision and future strategy, but then, we also help them take a look at their structure to make sure that they have the right people and the right roles focused on the right things to actually move that vision and move their strategy forward. And so I had the opportunity this week to work with a great team, fun group of people, through that staffing and structure process, which a key piece of that is, is kind of taking a look at the wiring of people on the team.

Amy (02:53):


Tony (02:53):

And highlighting some of the uniquenesses that God puts in each of us. And the value of that uniqueness coming together on a church staff team is pretty remarkable. And it was just fun to walk, to walk through that with the team and see some of the fun differences, even among just, there were 12 leaders from the staff team. So big, pretty big church but 12 leaders and just helping them see some of the differences on the team and the value of those differences when they come together actually make the team stronger, and I think it really does help the church move its mission forward. So that was a fun process.

Amy (03:33):

Yeah. I was also doing a staffing and structure this week, and, you know, at the end of the time, I was talking with the lead pastor, and he’s like, “I feel like I need to do a better job.” But I said to him, I mean, he’s a great leader, but pastors don’t get trained in this stuff. You know, it’s not part, they just, they plant a church or they take over the lead pastor role. And they start teaching God’s word. They wanna see people transformed, and their, as their organization grows, it’s just they don’t have the training. And how do we pause once in a while and kinda restructure, reorganize ourselves so we can take the next hill? Because structure changes, you know, with size of church anyways.

Tony (04:11):

That’s right.

Amy (04:12):

I could talk about staffing and structure all day, but we are in our senior leadership team series, and in the first episode, Tony, we outlined the importance of both having a senior leadership team and selecting the right people to serve on it. Then, in last week’s episode, we offered seven defining questions to help teams find the right leaders for the team. And then tell me where we’re headed today then, Tony, for this, this third episode.

Tony (04:37):

Yeah, so this, this is a fun topic for me, and I think it’s so critical because the, the effectiveness of the senior leadership team really does impact every aspect of the ministry. And so that’s why we’re so diligent about trying to help pastors and churches get this right. But, today, we’re going to dive even more depth into the role of the senior leadership team and outline seven key responsibilities that this team must do, meaning they, these responsibilities can’t be delegated to anybody else on the team or any other team within the ministry. And then, we’re gonna offer six tips and strategies for how the senior pastor can empower the leaders on the senior leadership team to do this important work.

Amy (05:25):

All right. Well, get your pens and pencils out unless you also get our show notes because that’s 13 things you’re gonna share with us today in the next 25 minutes or so. A lot to cover. But let’s just dive right in then. And let’s start with those seven key responsibilities of the senior leadership team.

Tony (05:42):

That’s right. So, for the organization to be healthy, for the ministry to be healthy, these are the seven roles of a senior leadership team that can’t be delegated. And what makes a great senior leadership team is when everyone on the team shares responsibility and ownership for these roles. So, the first role is modeling team-based ministry from the top of the organization. And it gets very difficult to challenge other staff and volunteer leaders to build and develop teams in the church if it’s not being modeled from the very top. So, this, this is one of those roles, responsibilities that the senior leadership team can’t delegate. And more importantly, that team needs to model what healthy team-based ministry looks like. And that includes, by the way, both healthy conflict and unwavering unity. You, you have to have both. And we’re gonna unpack that in just a moment.

Amy (06:36):

Yeah. Because we mentioned in the first episode of the series that we believe in team-based ministry because it’s what Jesus practiced from the very beginning. And when it comes to our organizations, we can preach that all day long, but it’s how we model it that sends the real message.

Tony (06:52):

That’s right. Role number two is identifying and implementing the strategy for accomplishing the vision. Actually, you and I, Amy, were just having a conversation about this because I think many times senior pastors think, “Well, we have a clear vision, and I’m casting that vision on a regular basis. That’s it.” No, that’s the first step. The next step is to actually have an action plan for implementing the vision and seeing that vision through. So this, of course, does assume a clear vision for the church has previously been established. So, while we’ve talked in the past about the senior pastor being the primary vision caster, the senior leadership team as a whole is ultimately responsible for identifying the strategies that will be used to accomplish that vision. They’re gonna fill the gap between vision and execution. And, Amy, I know you love all things staffing and structure as we just talked about. So, you’ll like this next one; the next responsibility is leading the staff and volunteers. And every person, whether in a staff or volunteer role, needs to be connected through your organizational structure back to someone on the senior leadership team.

Amy (08:06):

Yeah, Tony, that’s something we were just discussing in a recent staffing and structure webinar. There shouldn’t be any staff members, any volunteers or ministries floating out there without leadership and direction connected back to the vision. And it’s for two reasons. You know, first, we wanna prevent silos and division within the organization, but secondly, because every ministry or program in your church should by nature be connected to the overarching vision of the church and therefore connected to the senior leadership team.

Tony (08:37):

That’s right, Amy. And that leads me to the next role of the senior leadership team, which is keeping everyone aligned and focused on the vision, strategy and execution priorities. In the early days of a church plant, this is just much easier because there are very few people initially, and the church plants stay very focused out of necessity. It’s all they can afford to do. They have limited time and limited financial resources and limited people resources. But, as the church grows, the senior leadership team will have to work hard to keep everyone focused on the church’s overall vision and ministry strategy.

Amy (09:14):

Yeah, that alignment piece, Tony, I think is so important. And I’ll offer this just as a quick side note. This dedication to your mission and vision means God may someday call someone into your church to launch a great ministry that’s not part of the church’s vision and strategy. That may be their personal mission but not the church’s mission. And when that happens, what I encourage leaders to do is cheer them on. You know, the church doesn’t have to be the catalyst for every person’s personal calling mission. Right? But the church can cheer ’em on as they go do what God has called ’em to do, meaning we can encourage the individual but also protect the church’s mission.

Tony (09:52):

Yeah. Amy, in fact, I was just connect, one of the church I was just connected with was talking about a, a couple folks within the church that came forward and said, “We have this idea for a ministry that we think would be so beneficial to people in our church.” And the leadership of the church agreed, “Yes, this would be beneficial, but there’s something that’s God, God is doing in you. There’s a calling that he’s placed in your life that if you didn’t pursue this beyond the walls of our church, you would actually not be fulfilling that specific calling that God has given you.” So even though it was a great ministry idea and, and something that would’ve helped people in the church, the fact is there was such a significant calling that God had placed on these people’s lives that the best thing that the church leadership could do was to encourage them to consider how could they take this ministry beyond the walls of the church. And because of that, that particular ministry now is just flourishing.

Amy (10:53):

Yeah. I have a few examples, too, but I think you made that point. Let’s, let’s keep going on. What’s number five on this list?

Tony (10:59):

Yeah. So, misalignment on the team may be considered an internal threat to the health of the church. And that’s actually the next role of the senior leadership team, which is considering and responding to the opportunities and threats that might impact the overall health of the church. And many times, these do come from outside the church. And because of that, the senior leadership team needs to keep its eyes on the environment where ministry is taking place. It’s, it’s kind of similar to engaging missions in a foreign country. We need to be aware of our surroundings to maximize the opportunities for change in our strategies. And I truly believe this is what will distinguish the churches that last and make an impact for generations. Churches that are willing to adapt their strategies to reach their changing communities are going to have a lot more health than those that are not willing to change. And now, I’m not talking about changing our theology or watering down the gospel. What I’m talking about is churches who choose to prioritize the heart of their mission over the methods that they’re engaging, the routines that they’re in, the preferences that they have. We need to prioritize the mission that we’re about over the methods we’re using to move the mission forward.

Amy (12:17):

And, Tony, I think I would add if someone on your senior leadership team is not willing to prioritize the mission of the church over their own personal methods, their own personal ministry or preferences, they are going to become a lid to what God can accomplish through the church.

Tony (12:31):

Absolutely. Alright. The next role of the senior leadership team is facilitating communications with other staff, other volunteers and then through the entire church. So, once the church grows beyond, gosh, just two people, everyone won’t be included in every conversation that shapes every decision for the ministry. And that said, every healthy organization needs good communication that flows from the top to the rest of the ministry to the rest of the organization as needed. And of course, since the rest of the staff and the volunteers can’t be involved in every conversation, in every decision, they have to be willing to trust their leadership. The final role of the senior leadership team is monitoring key metrics and making sure the ministry is moving in a healthy direction.

Amy (13:21):

There it is. You saved the best for last, didn’t you? Metrics and data, your favorite.

Tony (13:27):

That’s right. And it’s no surprise to anyone listening that I’m passionate about this point, but I’m not passionate about numbers for the sake of numbers. I’m passionate about tracking data and metrics because it does no good to continue doing church without knowing whether or not what we’re doing is helping people take their next steps towards Christ. It’s because of that you need a reality check. I mean, is the church actually healthy? Are people actually taking next steps? Are you reaching new people? And as the church grows, you’re going to need more than just intuition and feelings to measure the health of your vision and your strategy. And, Amy, you and I have both worked with churches where the lead pastor or staff felt like their reality was a lot different than it actually was. And I’ve been with churches, as an example, who emphasized that serving was a strong core value in their church, but then when we looked at the numbers, the numbers showed that their volunteer engagement was well below average.

Amy (14:29):

Yeah. I’ve definitely been in rooms like that. And you know, Tony, it often comes as a, as a shock to the staff. In other words, you can’t always trust your gut. And if we wanna be good stewards of our time and resources as leaders of the church, it’s in our best interest to know what’s really working and what really isn’t working. Well, Tony, anything else to say on those roles before we move into our next conversation?

Tony (14:53):

Yeah, I would just ask lead pastors listening, “How is your team doing in each of these areas?” It might be helpful for you to take just 15 minutes in your next leadership team meeting to have some honest discussion about how your team is working in each of those seven roles. And just ask the team the question, “How are we doing a number one? How are we doing in number two?” Just to make sure you’re actually focusing on those things that your team really cannot delegate.

Amy (15:19):

Yeah. And you could do it The Unstuck Way. Mark each of them, you know, red, like, no, we aren’t doing that. Yellow, some good, some bad. And green, maybe not perfect, but that’s, you know, we’re living that one out. And just keep that and update it may, maybe a couple times a year just to revisit it and keep in front of the team.

Tony (15:37):

I love that idea.

Amy (15:38):

So that’s really good, Tony. Alright. You said that you also wanted to cover some tips and strategies for how senior pastors can empower the leaders on their senior leadership team to do all this important work that you just said. Is that right?

Tony (15:50):

That’s right, Amy. So, say you have your team assembled, and everyone is clear on those seven roles that need to be accomplished. The next opportunity is to create a culture that empowers these leaders because it does no good to invite leaders to be a part of your team if you’re not actually going to release some of the reigns and let them lead. In fact, not letting leaders lead is a surefire way to ensure that those leaders will soon leave your church. So, with that, I wanted to offer some empowering strategies to help leaders leverage their gifts and maximize the potential of your ministry. First, you need to agree on the vision and values and then let your leaders make decisions. If the, if every decision is rising to the top, meaning every decision is going to the senior and lead pastor, then not only will is that a sign of, of micromanagement rather than an empowerment, people will stop bringing you new ideas. So, because of that, the objective is to push decision-making to the front lines of the ministry. But you can only do this if you’ve already clarified your vision. You’ve clarified your values. You’ve implemented systems and strategies that facilitate next steps. Once you do that, though, you can free both staff and volunteers to engage ministry without always having to ask for permission.

Amy (17:16):

You know, Tony, I’ve had a conversation with the last three churches I’ve served around this topic, but I approached it just a little bit different way ’cause I do think it can feel scary for senior pastors to let go of some of those decision-making rights. But when you’re talking about core ministry strategies, you actually don’t wanna fully empower your leaders to make those decisions. The senior leadership team actually is the decision-making team on core ministry strategies, and I’ll give you an example. I was just working with a church, and they have an age-based ministry under an age-based pastor. And, you know, this leader wants to accomplish the goals. And they started kind of, I don’t know, having a lot of decision rights and was adding more and more programming to this age-based ministry, which, you know, that doesn’t just affect that team. It affects the central support resources. It affects worship and programming all of these things. And just had to pull it back to go, no, the senior leadership team, you want those leaders to bring ideas, be dreaming about their ministry, be pitching things. But at the end of the day, the senior leadership team, because again, everyone on staff and all the volunteers report up through there, they are to take off their functional hat, bring their best wisdom for the church but help that leader think it through. And then there needs to be a decision can that leader execute on the idea. So I think sometimes when we’re over-empowered, we start to lose that alignment. We, how we keep alignment is by keeping the senior leadership team the decision makers on ministry strategies. So, again, it can feel scary to release decision-making, but when you have that safeguard in there, then you’re gonna be more apt to securely empower those decisions once they’ve been made and let that leader run and carry it forward.

Tony (19:07):

That’s absolutely right, Amy. And it leads to the next point, which is this, that we need to hold leaders responsible for the outcomes rather than dictating how they execute. So, as long as the execution fits within the framework of our vision, our values, our strategies, leaders should have the freedom when it comes to the path from here to there. So if you can’t trust them with actually executing on the strategy, executing tasks, then you have the wrong leaders. And on the other hand, the expectations do need to be quite clear. So what’s the win? There should be no confusion over the expected outcomes. Another strategy I would recommend is to invite conflict privately but demand unity publicly. Let me say that again. In order to help empower these leaders, you need to invite conflict privately but demand unity publicly. It’s impossible to have unanimous agreement on every decision. In fact, if you’re waiting for that, very likely your, your church is going to miss, miss the opportunities and step back from necessary change that’s required for you to move your mission forward. There will be rare instances, in fact, when leaders have to make tough calls and the majority in the people in the room think it’s the wrong decision. But you know what? That’s leadership. That’s, that’s what healthy leadership does.

Amy (20:39):

Yeah and we talk about how important it is to establish and clarify decision rights in advance of opening up the conversation. And sometimes, the goal is not a consensus. At the same time, though, you have to create an environment where pushback or alternatives are welcomed. But again, at the end of that decision, unity is expected when you leave that room.

Tony (21:00):

Amy, my next piece of advice is to give leaders ownership and accountability. Managers wait for orders and then go make it happen. Leaders, on the other hand, grow frustrated over time just taking orders. Leaders want a voice in setting the goals and establishing the strategy, and they want real responsibility for building the team and setting direction.

Amy (21:22):

Yeah, definitely. And to be clear, of course, managers sometimes get a bad name. No, we need great managers, and we need great leaders if we’re gonna have healthy organizations. But you have to make sure you know the difference and act accordingly. And at the same time, everyone needs clear expectations and accountability.

Tony (21:40):

Very much agree with that. My final two strategies relate to managing your time as a leadership team and how to do this together. So, first, you wanna determine what the team needs to process together and what you need to monitor together. And what I mean by that is, what you want to avoid is a situation where every decision does have to rise to the top of the organization. Your agenda should be action-oriented. There should be an honest assessment of current numbers and trends as an example. Your meeting should be relatively short and full of engaging conversation where everyone participates. If everyone isn’t needed in the conversation, that’s an indication that you should be processing that decision in a smaller group of people in a sidebar conversation instead. Alongside that, my final piece of advice is to invest time in the future rather than the urgent. What’s the strategy for accomplishing our vision? Are you working as a team to move that ministry toward the vision? Analyze your meeting agendas in your notes from recent months, and, and just ask yourself, “Have we invested more time moving forward or putting out fires?” Leaders can get addicted to the urgent. They get addicted to problems because the challenge is right in front of them. And, honestly, there’s immediate gratification when you fix that problem. So it’s gonna take discipline to make sure that we’re not focusing on what’s most urgent but rather we’re focusing on the future. Where are we going in the future?

Amy (23:16):

Tony, I think you’d actually be surprised how many times when I, when I described these senior leadership team meetings, they’re like, you mean we don’t process the weekend there? We don’t, you know, get to the details of the upcoming weekend. And I’m like, Nope. Nope. That’s a programming meeting that is not where your senior leadership team should be focused. So if that’s you, listeners, that’s a different meeting.

Tony (23:40):


Amy (23:40):

Well, all that, Tony, great wisdom. And like we said before, it really goes back to wanting to be good stewards of the time and gifts of those who are on that senior leadership team. So, any final thoughts as we wrap up today’s conversation?

Tony (23:54):

Yeah, I’ll leave the senior pastors who are listening today with this. Good leaders will leave your organization if they aren’t empowered to make decisions and lead. And that means you get to decide who stays and who leaves. I hope you take some time based on today’s conversation to review these strategies and just reflect on that. Are you embracing an approach that empowers leaders to be who God created them to be? Or is your approach actually pushing them away?

Sean (24:24):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align their vision, strategy, team and action. In everything we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. If there’s any way we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at The Unstuck Group. 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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