The relationship of a pastor to the Missions Team depends somewhat upon the role of the pastor and the size of the church. The Senior Pastor of a small to medium sized church may be much more involved and hands-on, while delegating authority and responsibility to qualified and committed lay leaders. He should be well-informed about the missionaries and direction without micro-managing the function of the MT. It is healthy for the Senior Pastor to communicate at least annually to the missionaries about the big picture issues and direction of the church. He will want to know and understand (and comply with) the missions policies. Too many churches have gotten into big trouble because the Senior Pastor “gave his word” or “made promises” outside of the policy and agreement of the MT. The Senior Pastor should seek to be teachable and informed about missions, missions strategy, and church missions administration through the Missions Team.
In a larger church, there is no question that the Senior Pastor needs to delegate responsibility, authority, and day-to-day management of missions issues to others. Usually this involves a subordinate staff member, but may be directly relating to the MT leadership.
Other staff pastors or staff ministry leaders need to coordinate missions-related issues with the MT and in alignment with accepted policy. e.g. – The Youth Pastor does not create a Short Term Missions trip or project apart from the guidance, help, and authority of the MT.
The Missions Pastor (or Missions Director) is at least the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of missions ministry of the church. He may also be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), depending on how the organization is structured.
Let’s unpack what this means. Usually the Missions Pastor is hired to facilitate the day-to-day operations and administration of the missions functions of the church. This COO function is essential. Even if the church does not have a hired staff member doing this role, there is a layperson or other staff person responsible for this function. The operation of a growing world missions ministry requires a tremendous amount of communication, administration, personal interaction and relationships, delegation, and organizational management. “You can’t run an international organization on one meeting per month.” A full-orbed function as Missions Pastor also requires a certain amount of spiritual leadership, interpersonal counseling and mentoring, fund development and accounting, candidate training, prayer leadership, etc. Done well, the Missions Pastor role becomes a model and influence on every other ministry of the church — toward a heart for outreach, effectiveness, and discipling/equipping of workers.
Whether or not the Missions Pastor also functions as the CEO over missions ministries is another question. It largely depends on the local churches organizational ethos and ministry philosophy. Of course, whichever way it goes, all are under the ultimate leadership of the local church elder or decision making leadership board.
If leadership and control of ministries is vested in lay-leaders, then the Missions Team will be the “boss” of the Missions Pastor. This makes the Missions Team Chairperson/Leader the de facto boss. i.e. – The Missions Pastor, in this scenario, reports to the Missions Team. While a member of the Missions Team, the Missions Pastor reports to, makes policy suggestions, makes recommendations, etc. to the Missions Team; but he is subject to the decision and direction of the Missions Team. The MP may have a lot of influence in decision making and policy; he will suggest or nominate MT members; but the decision lies with the Missions Team. There are great advantages to this arrangement. It can work very well when there is good relationship and communication between the major players.
If leadership and control of ministries is vested in staff positions, then the Missions Pastor will be the Chairman of the Missions Team. He will be the “boss” and the MT is his team to delegate action and make things happen. While the MT may function more as a Board of Advisors, in this case, there can still be a lot of mutually and ownership among all parties. The danger is, if the MT does not have enough backbone or develop enough experience and discernment, the MT can be a “yes-man,” rubber stamp body. If for whatever reason the Missions Pastor is not balanced, wise, well-equipped, or well-informed, he can lead the whole church body down a tangent that is not helpful. On the other hand, if the MP is balanced, wise, equipped, and informed, and has good communication and relationship with “his” Team, this arrangement can be very efficient and productive.
Most often, regardless of which direction the actual organizational chart leans, there is some middle ground practice which best suits the personalities and skills or those involved. Trust is built over time. Leaders, Missions Team members, staff, and laypersons will be satisfied with the arrangement. However, it is healthy to ask the original questions again, from time to time: Who is in charge?, Who makes the decisions?, Who is responsible to execute the decisions?, How can we tell if we’re doing the best job?