Manpower: People are selected and placed in positions that fit their gifts, passions and callings and that align with the church’s objectives and culture

Should Specialists Or Generalists Sit At The Church Staff Leadership Table?

One of the most impactful decisions a church will make is determining who sits at the staff leadership table. In broad terms, church staff are either specialists or generalists. Specialist’s job descriptions call for them to focus on a single area of ministry. Specialist examples include age group ministries such as preschool, children and students. Generalists, on the other hand, have broad oversight of a number of staff and ministries. Generalists are most likely to hold positions such as Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Executive Pastor, or Campus Pastor.

Who sits at the church staff leadership table is determined by the size of the church and the structure of the church staff. Typically, the smaller the church, the more ministry specialists are involved in global decision making. The larger the church, the more generalists make up a Senior Leadership Team.

Specialists and generalists typically bring different perspectives to the table, and each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of having specialists and generalists involved in global decision making.

Specialist Strengths

  1. Bring a runway level view of the church and the various ministries to decision making.
  2. Are more likely to provide relevant and representative feedback from the membership.
  3. Represent the perspectives of individual ministries.
  4. Are the best-informed advocates for their areas of ministry.
  5. Understand best the impact of global decisions on individual ministries.

Specialist Weaknesses

  1. Can be myopic and fail to see or understand the big picture.
  2. May fail to be inclusive of other ministries in their thought processes.
  3. Their involvement results in longer meetings that tend to get off point.
  4. Larger meetings are usually more difficult to facilitate.
  5. Their engagement may slow down the decision-making process.
  6. Their involvement can cause turf wars.
  7. Discussions can get mired in the details and challenges of implementation.

Generalist Strengths

  1. Smaller and more focused meetings.
  2. Shorter meetings and agendas.
  3. Quicker and more nimble decision making.
  4. Focused more on vision, direction and the big picture.
  5. Focused more on strategic goals and objectives rather than tactics.

Generalist Weaknesses

  1. Can fail to understand the challenges in implementation of ideas and initiatives.
  2. Often fail to receive broad and representative input from ministries and the congregation.
  3. May not represent well the positions, needs and contributions of individual ministries.
  4. May not fully understand the impact of their decisions on staff specialists.
  5. May fail to effectively communicate decisions down line.

Of course, there are exceptions to the above examples, but they make the point that specialists and generalists have different perspectives, most often because of the nature of their job duties. That is why hearing from a variety of perspectives usually leads to better decisions, better morale and more inclusive buy-in. So, even the largest of churches would benefit by creating decision making processes that allow for input from specialists who don’t have a seat at the Senior Leadership table.

Posted on September 13, 2022

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5