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Senior Pastor or Lead Pastor?
By Marvin Wray

I  have been at my current church for 14 years now. When I came I took the title of “Senior Pastor.” Now my card and our bulletins list me as “Lead Pastor.” What’s the difference? Why did I change?

I have come to the time in my life when I carry the title of ‘Senior’ in other ways. I have a “Senior Pass” to all of the National Parks. I get “Senior Discounts” at many stores and for entrance to many events. Some of my “loving” members suggested that the title of “Senior Pastor” simply indicated the proper age declaration of the staff!
Perhaps we’re just dealing with semantics here. Technically it doesn’t really matter too much what I call myself. What really matters is how I function. However, how I see myself does matter both to me and to my members…and maybe it will matter even more to my prospective members.
The title of “Senior Pastor” speaks to me of the one who is in charge. The buck stops here. You may be on the team, but I am the Senior and that can only mean that you are the Junior! Again, it’s only a word and how I carry out my ministry will speak the loudest, but let’s get off to the best start.
I do not want to be seen as the one in highest authority. I prefer my job title to define more clearly how I view my ministry rather than my rank. I personally like the title of “Lead Pastor” much better. When I think of leading I see my task as setting a course or direction. I cast a vision for the overall mission of our unique church family to our unique community.
When Roy Ice came on board he took the title of “Executive Pastor,” and it was a much better descriptive title than “Associate Pastor.” He did not come on to assist me with my work. He came to use his gifts to do his own work. Clearly he was the one to go to with questions or suggestions regarding the workings of the church and much of its ministry. I was not threatened with that reality. I was thrilled and relieved with it!  I’ll never forget his words to me as we discussed what our ministry together might look like in advance of his coming. He said, “If you will do most of the preaching and take care of the visitation and hospital and nursing home ministry and deal with the family emergencies that arise, I will take care of all the details of the running of the church and I’ll make you look good.”  The best part is, he did it!
I was freed to be the Lead Pastor and set out a path for spiritual growth and stability. My preaching improved dramatically and my ability to find the emotional energy to deal with the large number of critical needs in the lives of our members was renewed.
Lastly, the title of “Senior Pastor” seems to indicate a staff of two or more. However, the title of “Lead Pastor” indicates a calling and a description that can apply to any pastor whether he or she has just one church or a district of multiple groups.
This issue is not a battlefield to die on. But, it may be a launching pad to grow from.
Marvin Wray is lead pastor for the Napa Community Seventh-day Adventist Church