Senior Leadership Teams: 7 Questions to Identify Who Should be on the Team


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When considering who should be on the senior leadership team, many times we try to answer the wrong questions. Sometimes we ask, “What positions should be represented on the team?” In church world, we may think the “Pastor” or “Director” title or people with certain positions automatically qualify. That’s not always the case.

Sometimes we ask, “Who has been around for the longest?” Tenure does not necessarily equate with the profile of the person you want serving on this team. In fact, I’d argue that if you’re stuck and fresh perspective is one of your needs, sometimes the newest person may be who should be on the team.

It’s not about positional leadership or length of ministry. It’s not necessarily the people at the very top of your current organizational structure. However, once you identify the right people for your situation, you should build your structure around your senior leadership team. In other words, every person and every ministry needs to be connected to one person on your senior leadership team.

With that preface, here are seven questions to help you identify who should be on your senior leadership team. This assumes, of course, people have already met the qualifications of leadership defined by Scripture.

  1. Do they have the leadership gift? This is the key question that shapes everything else. If they aren’t a leader, they shouldn’t be on this team. You also need to consider leadership capacity. We know from Scripture that there are leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands. For this team, you ultimately need leaders of hundreds and thousands.
  2. Are they a big-picture thinker? In other words, this person always prioritizes the church’s health over what’s happening in their specific ministry area. They are more concerned with alignment to the overall goals rather than defending their turf. They won’t let their passion for a specific ministry get in the way of making decisions that help the entire church take a step forward.
  3. Is this person a strategic thinker? You need people who can think beyond the daily details. There are places for managers on your team. You need people who can take the game plan and make it happen. Your senior team, though, isn’t the place for managers. Find people who think about the future and then can strategically propose how to get from here to there.
  4. Can they build teams? In ministry, this is primarily about building and equipping teams of volunteers. As the church grows, you also need people who can develop staff teams. These are the folks who have demonstrated they can identify and empower other leaders. If their instinct is, “I need to do this myself,” you have the wrong person.
  5. Do they share the vision and values of your organization? This is no team for someone who perceives they need to provide checks and balances. Maybe they pride themselves on being the “devil’s advocate” in your organization. The devil already has an advocate — you don’t need one on your senior leadership team. Every leader at this level needs to be 100 percent on board with the church’s vision and values.
  6. Does this person help us reflect the diversity of our ministry? Sometimes we falsely assume every leader is wired up just like us. That’s absolutely not true. Leadership comes in a variety of shapes and sizes based on someone’s gift mix, background, personality and experiences. Consider using the “Leading From Your Strengths” profile to help you identify how different strengths are the foundation for different leaders.
  7. Is this person a lifelong learner? Ideally, you’ll identify people who will grow with your organization. It does no good to have someone who has all the answers, because tomorrow the questions will be different. You need people who embrace leadership development for themselves and their teams.

By the way, especially for smaller or newer churches, you don’t necessarily need to be paid staff to be on the senior leadership team. For lay people, though, they still need to be fully engaged in ministry and serving in a leadership capacity. If a volunteer leader can’t invest the time to do that, you may need to move them into more of an advisory capacity or just pull them in on specific projects.

The other thing to remember is that this team needs to change over time. As the church grows, your senior leadership team may need to change. It would be highly unusual for the same team to remain in place year after year. With that in mind, you may want to every 18 to 24 months ask yourself do we have the right people on the team?

Based on your experience, what questions would you add? Join the conversation by sharing your comment.

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