Why “Lead Pastor” Has Replaced “Senior Pastor”

Over the last generation we've seen this shift in terms. Here are four reasons it's not just semantics.

What is a lead pastor?

And what does a lead pastor do?

For several generations, the equivalent phrase among many American congregations was senior pastor. So, why did that change?

Perhaps you think it’s an unnecessary distinction. It’s all semantics, right?

Here are four reasons:

1. To Avoid Confusion With Seniors’ Ministry

The term senior pastor can be confusing when many local churches have a seniors’ ministry, and that group has a director who could be called the seniors’ pastor.

2. Because We Don’t Refer To Staff As Junior Pastors

The average Sunday morning congregation across America is a small church with 65 people in attendance. Reality has shown me that most of these do not have the structure for many pastors. Also, the term senior pastor seems to indicate that there are junior pastors on staff.

3. It Fits Solo Pastors, Too

Many congregations have less than the average number I’ve mentioned. So, the term senior pastor appears to be a tad overkill in such cases. In fact, the senior pastor is often the solo pastor.

4. It Describes Our Calling Better

I prefer the term lead pastor because it reminds us to take action regardless of congregational size.

As the lead pastor, you must be an active servant of Jesus Christ and His followers, even if you are the solo pastor. And in a congregation where the structure is growing and staffed sufficiently, you are responsible for actively serving your fellow pastors and church staff as the lead pastor.

What’s In A Name?

Whether you use the term senior, solo, or lead pastor, or if you’re one of the many called, gifted, and essential staff pastors that serve with little recognition, I see you. I appreciate you. And I’m writing to you too.

God knows, and so do I, that we couldn’t do His work without you.

This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared on The William Strickland Blog. See more about the author, below.

(Photo by John Beans | Flickr)


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