The Senior Leader’s “Reports” and “Cabinet”

The_Senior_Leader’s  Download
Thoughts on who and how many should report to the president or CEO of a ministry or senior pastor of a church. Based on 43 years of experience, reading, coaching others, and trends


1. Every organization should have a reporting flowchart that shows towhom everyone reports, and all directions flow upward to the senior (and no one else, except for possible dotted lines for communication).

2. Most who study this say that four is the maximum of reports a senior should handle, if there is to be adequate communication, accountability, and direction.

3. All of us who have sinful natures or even just normal personal drives need to report clearly to someone, and to have “company” standards on what that looks like.

4. Goals, vision, mood (the ministry’s DNA) must be common to all.

The Problem With a Leader Having Too Many Reports

1. Necessary one-on-one meetings take too much of his time. This will hurt vision and dreaming time, study time, and building into the main influencers. (Not to mention family and personal time.)

2. Some of the associate pastor or vice-presidents or directors will not get the encouragement, correction, aligning of their areas, andsharpening time they need. In most cases they will not say this, and may even enjoy having more independence.

3. Other leaders who could help with this and have strong input will go undeveloped in that ministry, and get off too easy.

The Possibility of Effect of This on “Leadership Team”

1. Instead of being strong vision-sharing and big problem-solving, leadership teams can be monopolized by questions or assignments or alignment of the different departments.

2. Some can sit there as “lone rangers” who have not had individual input to anyone before the meeting; and therefore they can feel dominated by the more vocal or senior people.

“Leadership team” refers to the direct reports to the senior leader, usually senior associates or senior vice-presidents. “Cabinet” or pastoral meetings are those of the main leaders or vice-presidents or department heads – usually up to nine or ten at the most. Staff meetings are for all employees and should be at regular intervals, and mostly for communication, appreciation, and joy.

Who Reports to the President or Senior Pastor

1. Anyone he or she chooses. A few times I have placed someone on a leadership team (executive team, though that term can sound cold) just because of their creativity or because I knew they would be on a “fast track” and I wanted to have them report to me and/or influence our leadership.

2. Usually the three main areas should be represented by a strong leader-manager (senior associate, senior vice president):

MINISTRIES OR EDUCATION (often given to an executive pastor-type in a church, or provost-type in a school) The leader of this area must clearly have strong influence with the senior, and usually is seen as the number 2 person in the organization.

OPERATIONS, including administration and finance (This person surely needs to be on the main leadership team, as all ministries of a church or school involve finances and operations.)

WORSHIP in a church (The senior pastor must be directly tied, and this area is clearly huge for the ministry.)

ADVANCEMENT (recruitment, “sales”) in a school (The president knows how much this influences the future.)

“ANOTHER” — This is where the senior can add someone on this leadership team just because of their raw talent or vision, or because of their special influence. Often this should be a female on an all-male team, because of their perspective.


a. Every department or ministry in the church or school reports to someone on the leadership team or cabinet. Otherwise the senior is the “point person” for that area as well as all the other areas that simply go with the CEO office.

b. When that department or ministry is reporting or being advised, it is always through this “chain of command.”

c. Only the senior leader (pastor, president) reports to the main policy board. When senior associates or vice-presidents file reports with the board independently, the fog begins.

d. Most organizations find that true or strong reporting means meeting eye-to-eye no less every two weeks, and a short “paper report” every week or two (one that includes things to go over in the personal meeting, areas of possible controversy, report on DNA things expected of every staff member, and record of vacations or sick days or changes in their “master schedule,” previously approved by their senior).

e. One cannot underestimate the importance of teamwork, theneed to have “tears and cheers” at team meetings, and the need to pray together and to play together once in a while.

f. While main leadership team meetings are important, occasional “huddles” of all the staff are important – at least every month or two. We found these important: eating a simple meal (on company time), brief worship and prayer times, and thanks and communication from the senior.

g. Everyone on either a main leadership team (total of four or five) or a “cabinet” team (nine or ten) agrees that “we walk out of here with one opinion or conclusion.” They can argue with grace in the meeting, but all support the directed conclusion (whether there was a vote or a senior directive) and do not tell who argued otherwise or that there was even debate. Crucial, except in politics, and it is not working very well there.

h. Both leadership team meetings and cabinet-type meetings need an agenda, and a good regular time to meet. And a good place to meet!