Literal Pastor Titles

The other day I got the giggles thinking about the absurdity of the titles people get at multi-staff churches. Sure, these titles describe a role. But it also says something about what the other pastors don’t have to do because that person is on staff.

Literal Pastor Titles: What They Really Mean…

Let’s start with the youth pastor. First, “youth” is an antiquated word. What is “youth” anymore anyway? With enough plastic surgery we all know baby boomers who are holding onto their youth and no “youth” I know refers to themselves that way. In short, a youth pastor usually runs the church programs that minister to middle and high school students. We just call them that because that’s what we call them.

That’s opposed to the senior pastor. The senior pastor is the opposite of the youth pastor organizationally. That role is senior… not even the senior citizens refer to themselves as seniors… and the senior pastor usually avoids senior citizens like an annual prostate check, anyway. But having a senior pastor and a youth pastor on staff is clear enough, one works with old people and the other young. The senior pastor ministers to adults and the youth pastor ministers to teenagers. Simple enough.

Let’s not forget the children’s pastor. Ask any youth pastor worth his weight in Doug Field’s books and they’ll crinkle their noses if you ask them, “Do you oversee kid’s ministry, too?” No youth pastor wants to do that. Even those who do won’t admit to it until they lose their job and quickly add it to their LinkedIn profile. Most will quickly tell you… “I oversee someone who does that.” (Does that is code for: germs, diapers, and VBS)  And the senior pastor? It’s implied that the children’s pastor is the weird person on staff. An adult who ministers to children? Pfft… so not what a senior pastor would do. It’s not like Jesus himself would allow a mere child to hear the great words of a senior pastor.  The senior pastor’s ministry to children should be limited to the occasional appearance in a dunk tank at VBS or a thinly veiled corrective message for the adults called the “Children’s sermon.”

In the past few years we’ve seen the emergence of a new role, the family pastor. Functionally, the family pastor role is for youth pastors who hit their mid-40s, can’t recover from all-nighters, are too worried about breaking something to skateboard with high schoolers, and have no patience to deal with middle school girl drama anymore. Plus, they are too old to pull off looking good in the latest youth pastor fashion statement at last years youth ministry conference. (Instead they dress like the Steve Jobs of Family PastorsReggie Joiner.) So the family pastor kind of oversees the children and youth pastor because the senior pastor certainly wants to distance oneself from those kinds of people. I mean, no one else on staff really wants to minister to “the whole family” these days. I mean that’s kinda big.

A lot of churches have a small groups pastor. No one on staff knows that this person does. But as long as 20%-30% of people in the church are in small groups at a time, no one asks any questions. I’m pretty sure that the small groups pastor at most churches is actually the person who whacks people who get out of line. “You know Jenny, we asked you to lead a small group last year but you never called us back. Something about helping in the nursery. You know we all have to make sacrifices… you know that, right Jenny? This church is a family. You understand me?” But let’s face it. The main reason that a church has a small groups pastor is so that none of the pastors have to actually be in a small group.

The worship pastor. Let’s just agree that the senior pastor probably shouldn’t try to both lead the congregation in worship and preach, unless James Brown is your senior pastor, then yes, let him lead worship! I mean, c’mon… the senior pastor has to write a sermon that ministers to all the people who don’t get ministered to in kid’s ministry, youth ministry, at a family ministry event, or in a small group… that’s threading the needle each week. So the church needs a full-time person to lead 4-5 songs per week in services. After all, this is the pastor who worships the Lord. No one else worships… just this person. If anyone else on staff is caught daring to lead worship without this person, the worship pastor calls the Worship Pastor union steward. And no one wants that to happen. (Unless worship needs leading in kid’s ministry, youth ministry, or at a special event… because, ew.)

All hail the executive pastor. This is how you justify an MBA on your staff to try to keep tabs on all these non-senior pastors, I suppose. There are two archetypes for an executive pastor. A. The business leader’s next career. B. The leadership guru. Who else will forward the team Seth Godin blog posts, TEDx videos, or daily devotionals from John Maxwell? But let’s be clear– the executive pastor doesn’t minister to families, small groups, kids, lead worship, or preach. The executive pastor ministers by holding meetings, meetings the senior pastor doesn’t have to go to.

Thanks for indulging my strange sense of humor. In reality, my hope for the church is that whoever is called to pastor at your church, as a staff person or layperson, is treated as an equal minister of the Gospel regardless of their role, experience, or specialty. Yes, I do find these roles somewhat absurd. But what’s life without some absurdity? 






5 responses to “Literal Pastor Titles”

  1. Mike Avatar

    It’s also interesting how special circumstances like having 2 X-chromosomes or not having a Bible College degree can result in being a “director” of said ministry instead of a “pastor”.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      The flip side is also true. I have boy parts, graduated from a bible college… and any time I’ve looked for a church job I’ve had no problemo getting churches who want to call me a pastor on staff after a couple phone calls and a couple face-to-face meetings. I can think of at least 3 times when a search committee has called me out of the blue… no interview, no nothing… and said, “We’re big fans of your blog. We think you’d be a great senior pastor to lead our church.” Um, kinda flattering. But do you really want to work for a church who hires a person because they like you blog? Yeah, that’s a short term move!

  2. I Want to Keep my job Avatar
    I Want to Keep my job

    This is awesome!!!! I am an about-to-be-ordained “Director of Christian Education.” But who I am really a youth pastor who hates diapers, could do without VBS, but REALLY needed a full time job. School age kids are growing on me BUT I will NOT change diapers.
    Ps. Because of the previous comment, I need to let you know that I am also female.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      I love this comment. All of it!

  3. James Hauptman Avatar

    Shared this at staff meeting today; you NAILED IT!

    -30 year old “Family Ministry Pastor” who avoids all-nighters and diapers at all cost!

Leave a Reply