(Recently, I published a blog post on the Role of the Vestry or Church Board here. This is its companion piece on the role of the Rector or Sr. Pastor.)
Over the years, I have been through many different periods of growth and development as the Rector and Sr. Pastor of Christ Church. I have made mistakes along the way; I’ve had some blessed moments too. Many of both. And fortunately, for all but a few years, I have had a great relationship with our Vestry. We have developed a good working relationship; one of advice, counsel, wisdom, and consent. Along with my blog a few days ago in which I described the five roles of the Vestry, here are five things I take responsibility for in the leadership of this parish. Perhaps they will help others who lead congregations.
The Role of the Rector
1. Lead the Vision
The Rector’s primary task is to articulate, preach, teach, interpret, uphold, exemplify, shape, and develop the stated vision of the parish so that it (the Vision) becomes THE focal point for the congregation. This is what visionary leadership means. (Warning: When leaders say they love to ‘vision-casting’, beware! That is the easy part. What is hard is ‘vision-leading‘.) When the Rector ‘leads the vision’, he continually explains and expounds how God has (in ages past), is currently, and can use his people for the work of the Gospel. (This is why a Vision needs to be biblical and Gospel-centered.)
2. Hire/Call/Build the Staff
The Vestry has only one agent to work with: the Rector. The Rector, though, has dozens of employees, staff and helpers, paid and unpaid, to help lead the vision of the parish. The Vestry should never oversee staff or volunteers at any level. That is the role of the Rector. The Rector calls specific people to come along side him (paid of unpaid; clergy or lay) to develop program or take administrative responsibilities; to do the work of leading the vision. When the Vestry is called upon to support the Rector, this is what they are called to support: the Rector’s plan to lead the vision. And the Rector ‘leads the vision’ through the staff and laity, paid and volunteer, of the church.
3. Provide for the People
This wonderful word…PROVIDE…is the most important word in the Rector’s position description. He is to provide for the congregation: pastoral care, inspirational and hope-filled worship services, gospel-centered programming, biblical teaching and preaching, clear communications, coherent administrative practices, biblical leadership, pastoral offices, marriage preparation ministry, community engagement, compassion ministry to the local areas, prayerful counsel, and many, many other things. His goal should be to see that these things (and more) are done with biblical integrity and a seriousness of calling. This is important work and needs to be done by passionate and trained people. It is a big job.
4. Develop Stewardship
It is the Rector’s role to raise the financial resources needed to carry out the vision of the parish through its values, staff, and program. The Vestry can’t do it, but they should help and assist. The buck stops…or rather starts…with the Rector. Helping the congregation understand the biblical use of money, articulating a theology of stewardship, and challenging people to give in general and specific people to give in particular is one of the most difficult things a Rector has to do. But it must be done by the Rector. There is no one else.
5. Maintain Spiritual Accountability
Oddly enough, the Rector is not really a member of the church he leads. He is a member of his diocese and should be accountable to the bishop for the health and strength of his parish as well as his own personal and spiritual life. The Vestry can always provide the Rector with an annual evaluation, but most people on the Vestry will never know how the Rector is really doing. This is an area of personal integrity and the Rector must take responsibility, with counsel from the Bishop and other colleagues, to maintain personal spiritual vibrancy. If the wardens have the trust of the Rector, they can act as listeners and prayer support for this. But the Rector must be self-aware enough to know when he needs to seek outside help; and he must be humble enough to receive the advise and suggestions from trusted advisors.
Obviously, it goes without saying that I have had to have these roles at Christ Church. They would probably look differently in a different context. But these are the things I think about when I remember my 31 years of leadership as Rector.
This post first appeared at LeaderWorks.
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.