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Four Top Challenges Facing Campus Pastors

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For the past 15 years, Leadership Network has had a prime place at the table helping large churches experiment and develop their multisite locations. What started as a crazy idea has morphed into a major component of over 5,000 churches across North America. One of those key new leadership roles emerging across each of these churches has been the role of the “campus pastor.”

While this role is not the same across all multisite churches, the men and women who play this role do face some common challenges. Recently, we asked campus pastors, “What are the common challenges you’ve faced in your campus pastor role?” Here are their top 4 answers.

  1. Getting adequate training and development. Most campus pastors’ development pathway to the role has been ministry in a single area of ministry. Many cut their teeth in young adult, children’s or youth ministry. Some others in adult ministry. It’s a big jump to move from thinking about a single stream to now thinking, planning and executing across multiple streams of ministry. There’s significant pressure on the campus pastor to deliver excellence on Sunday morning, with all its component parts as well as overseeing staff and volunteers delivering on individual ministry streams. Campus pastors we talked with indicated that getting enough development once they assume the campus pastor role is the top challenge they face in being able to do their job well.
  2. Communication with central support and other Campus Pastors in their church. Many multisite churches have multiple ministry champions including children, youth, worship, tech, small groups, etc., that are watching over the campus pastor helping ensure they’re executing programs effectively. With the scrutiny and multiple voices, it’s not surprising that campus pastors indicate communication with the central support team is a key challenge. In addition there’s the difficulty of getting key information from central support so church wide decisions can be executed well at a local campus. As well, communicating with the other campus locations is difficult within a complex framework. Campus pastors can easily feel isolated and a lack of support from their fellow campus pastors given the distinct challenges of each campus in terms of size, geography, and unique ministry contexts (especially where there are cultural and language differences).
  3. Clarifying boundaries of authority and decision making. A key element for campus pastors is figuring on where their authority lies in contextualizing their campus. How much freedom does the campus pastor have to be creative, respond to unique ministry opportunities, develop local priorities, and say “no” to the central support leadership? This tightrope of authority and responsibility is listed, again, as one of the top challenges facing Campus pastors.
  4. Leading and developing volunteer leaders. It’s easy for campus pastors to default to a simple execution mode of ministry. There are a million things to think about, manage, and problem solve around. Sunday comes along with an alarming frequency. A Campus pastor can easily slip into a “doing mode” and miss the key role they play in envisioning and developing their key volunteers. As a result, campus pastors discover that if they haven’t established a leadership development pipeline and process, they may run short of leaders for existing ministry, or not have enough leaders to develop new ministry opportunities that surface as the campus grows.

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Our role is to foster innovation movements that activate THE CHURCH to greater impact for the Glory of God’s name. What began in 1984 with 20 leaders now serves over 200,000 leaders all over the world. Find out more about Leadership Network and our Mission here.

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