I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of church staffs in the past thirty years of ministry, and there are dozens of different types of church leadership structures. Some have deacons, others have elders, and some churches have both.
Some churches, regardless of their structure, have a Senior or Lead Pastor who makes pretty much all the decisions. Other churches believe in a “plurality of leadership,” or will have a “first among equals” philosophy of leadership.
Regardless of the specific type of leadership structure or church polity, when a church is around 500 or more in size (measured by regular attendance), I believe it is time to develop a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) from your church staff.
By definition, a SLT is a gathering of 3 to 7 leaders who meet with the Lead Pastor or Executive Pastor and help set direction.
Other equivalent names used by some churches are Directional Leadership Team, Senior Management Team, or Pastors Management Team.
This is the group that will discuss sermon series at a high level, determine what outreach will be happening at Easter, or decide whether the church will continue to run the summer VBS program, etc.
This is not a nuts and bolts group—they don’t spent much time working on details of how—but rather stay up at the why level, determining the purpose and parameters of new initiatives.
If your church staff doesn’t currently have a Senior Leadership Team, here are 8 reasons why I believe you need one:
- It forces you to raise up high-capacity leaders. You will be looking for the brightest and best up-and-comer leaders from your church staff to bring on the SLT.
- Rather than bottlenecking decisions through one leader, it brings in additional leaders to help shoulder the load.
- It keeps your church from making spontaneous or stupid decisions. If a leader can’t convince the other people on the SLT that it is a good direction, it’s probably not an activity where you should invest time or money.
- Decisions will be better because they will be made in a broader context with more information.
- It will give your congregation and the rest of your church staff more confidence in the leaders of the church—so not so much is wrapped up in one individual.
- It increases good communication among the staff and volunteers. Every key leader will have the most important information and can help disseminate that to his or her teams.
- It provides an already-established counsel of advisors when tragedy or scandal hits the church.
- Churches that have a unified SLT are growing almost twice as fast as those that do not.
Last month I consulted with two different churches, and one of our topics of discussion was around developing a Senior Leadership Team. You may need some help working on systems, assessing your staff to determine who would be best on your SLT, or rebuilding your organizational structure—but I promise you that once you begin operating with an SLT, you will never go back.
How will your church begin to build a Senior Leadership Team?