What Does a Senior Pastor Do?

Senior pastors (who may also have job titles such as Senior Minister, Lead Pastor, or Head Pastor) preach, teach, provide spiritual leadership and often oversee other church staff and a pastoral team which can include an associate pastor, executive pastor, youth pastor, worship pastor, and children’s ministry director. They are focused on spiritual growth in those that they shepherd. They also manage the overall ministry of the congregation. Lead pastors are often found in a larger church.

A successful lead pastor’s strength for all that they do comes from their relationship with God. They habitually practice spiritual disciplines such as prayer, bible study, meditation on God’s words, fasting, worship and others. Their relationships with elders or leaders provide support and accountability.

Here is a list of senior pastor tasks which includes information from the ONET (which is a tool from the US Department of Labor for career exploration and job analysis):

Pray and promote spirituality.

Emphasize Christ-centered, theology sound preaching and teaching of God’s word in a sermon.

Oversee evangelism and mission outreach to the local community and the world.

Along with the church leadership team, set a clear vision for where the church is heading.

As the spiritual leader, identify and train leaders who will help to carry out the vision.

Officiate and facilitate services such as weddings, funerals, nursing home services, visitation, prayer meetings.

Mentor and teach a new pastor.

Encourage and assist a church member to develop leadership skills and become a staff pastor.

Plan or lead Christian education programs.

Lead people to faith in Jesus Christ.

Counsel individuals or groups concerning their spiritual, emotional, or personal needs.

Devise ways in which congregational membership can be expanded.

Visit people in homes, hospitals, or prisons to provide them with comfort and support.

Study and interpret the Bible.

Develop curriculum for discipleship training and church programs.

Train leaders of church, community, or youth groups.

Respond to requests for assistance during emergencies or crises.

Teach and disciple people to help them grow in their faith.

Collaborate with committees or individuals to address financial stewardship or administrative issues pertaining to congregations.

Refer people to community support services, psychologists, or doctors.

Participate in fundraising activities to support congregational activities or facilities.

Perform administrative duties, such as overseeing building management, ordering supplies, contracting for services or repairs, or supervising the work of staff members or volunteers.

Oversee church budget along with church leaders and other staff members.

Through pastoral leadership, establish a prayer ministry team with an evangelical focus.

As needed, provide church discipline along with the pastoral staff and governing board.

While not comprehensive, this list does outline many of the tasks that senior pastors perform. When viewing senior minister jobs on online job boards, such as ChurchJobsOnline.com and PastorJobs.Net, you will find that each lead pastor job description is unique.

What are some of the most important skills and personality traits that a lead pastor should have?

Senior pastors need to have proven skills in leadership, public speaking, counseling, worship planning, and administration. The qualities of senior pastors include being humble, teachable, warm, friendly, persistent, compassionate, resilient, loving, loyal, and honest.

What does the Bible say about the role of a senior pastor?

While the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about senior or lead pastors, it does have lots to say about the role of a pastor and their pastoral ministry. The terms that the Bible uses for pastors are “elder,” “overseers” and “teacher.” Timothy 3:1-13 describes the qualifications of an “elder” or “overseer”. The term “elder” in the Bible refers to overseeing believers, and using the skills of preaching, caring, and exercising authority as needed.

I Peter 5:1-4 states, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” A lead pastor is in a unique position to be a servant leader of a congregation.

How do I know if I am called to be a lead pastor?

Those interested in becoming a lead pastor should have a deep love and knowledge of Scripture. Their prayer life and relationship with God should be strong to be able to hear where God is calling them. They should be gifted in teaching, preaching and leading. These gifts should be acknowledged through feedback from leaders and church members who have observed their gifts.

As you read from the list of tasks, being a senior or lead pastor is not an easy job! Often when providing career counseling for those who are considering being a pastor, we will ask clients if there are any other careers that would be an equal fit to being a pastor. If a client can’t find other work that is at least an equal fit, it can be wise to further test if God is calling them to be a pastor.

Reality testing how well being a pastor would fit a person is crucial. When we worked near a large seminary, the career center director at the seminary would regularly refer students to us who were questioning whether or not they should be a pastor. Many of these students had never reality tested how the tasks of being a pastor would fit them. Many had not conducted informational interviews asking questions such as “What is a typical week like?” and “What do you like and dislike about your work?” to help to reality test how the work would fit them. Other reality testing steps can include shadowing pastors on the job and internships.

To explore whether being a pastor would be a good fit, career assessments can also be very helpful. The CareerFitTest.com that we use with clients identifies the user’s transferable, personal and content skills. It also provides a three-word Holland code that can be linked to different careers.

The Holland code is based on John Holland’s theory which divides all of work into six categories: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. Most people have two or three of these personality and interest categories that are of much higher interest than the other categories. In addition, jobs are classified by these categories. Your top interest categories will allow you to identify the occupations that correspond best with your skills, interests and personality.

For a senior or lead pastor, the Holland code typically would be SEA or Social, Enterprising and Conventional. Here are definitions of these three groups:

The SOCIAL occupational personality type is concerned with people and their welfare. Social types make friends easily and tend to have well-developed communication skills. They enjoy working with groups or individuals, using empathy and an ability to identify and solve problems, and tend to be high achievers and good leaders.

The Social personality type has an interest in helping other people one-on-one or groups of people. They want to help people by using empathy and by using their ability to identify and solve social welfare problems.

Sample careers: education, ministry, social welfare, counseling, customer service

Sample volunteer activities: teaching classes at church or a nonprofit organization; hosting a neighborhood Bible study; serving in a lay counseling ministry; participating in medical ministry; facilitating small group or social activities. In general, they enjoy activities that allow them to inform, train, develop, encourage, cure, educate or in some other way help people in a direct way.

Problem Solving: They like to approach and deal with problems through understanding feelings and the use of empathy. They also tend to like a flexible approach to solving problems.

Working Environment:

They like working environments that are supportive, collaborative, helping oriented, collaborative and changing.

The keyword for this group is Helper.

The ENTERPRISING personality enjoys persuading or influencing others usually in a business context. They may also have entrepreneurial and political interest. They enjoy working directly with people one-on-one or in groups. Their emphasis in working with people is to persuade them on ideas, products or services and/or leading or managing people. They are goal-oriented in producing results. They tend to have a high level of energy, are goal-oriented and focus on producing results

Sample career areas: sales, management, leadership, legal, political, and self-employment

Some of the activities they enjoy include: selling/purchasing; convincing/persuading others; giving speeches and presentations; discussing business; developing publicity materials for church or nonprofit organization; raising funds for church or nonprofit; leading a church board or committee

Problem Solving: They like to solve problems with leadership, delegation and decision-making skills.

Working Environment: They like working environments that are business-oriented, entrepreneurial, competitive and focused on profits.

The keyword for this group is Persuader. Senior pastors need to be able to effectively persuade, influence and manage those that they shepherd and lead as well as the community around them.

The ARTISTIC occupational personality types are the most creative of all the types and tend to focus on self-expression through various forms/mediums: images, materials, music, words, movement, as well as systems and programs. They are able to see possibilities in various settings and are not afraid to experiment with their ideas. They like variety and tend to feel cramped in structured situations.

The artistic personality has a high interest in being creative using physical, verbal or human materials often within the areas of music, art and writing. Overall, this area involves people who like to be creative seeing possibilities in various settings. They are not afraid to try new ideas and they like variety.

Sample career areas: music, art, writing, and drama

Sample volunteer activities: using drama or music in worship or evangelism; writing press releases, articles, curriculum for church or nonprofit organization; using arts and crafts as outreach event; conducting camp to develop artistic abilities of youth; composing and writing music; decorating a home or office; playing a musical instrument; creating artwork

Problem Solving: They like to solve problems independently using their intuition and creativity.

Working Environment: They like working environments that are unstructured, flexible, artistic and that allow for self-expression.

The keyword for this group is Creative. Senior pastors who are naturally creative are going to be able to more effectively preach, teach and lead.

If you would like to assess your Holland code and also identify your top transferable, personal and content skills, we recommend completing the Career Fit Test.

Beyond assessments like the Career Fit Test, it is important to ask for honest feedback from trusted friends, family, mentors and your local church pastor as to whether you would be a good fit for a lead pastor job. Perhaps there may be other church staff jobs that fit your design. Church jobs could include

 How do I become a senior or lead pastor?

To become a senior pastor may require being in other pastor roles first where your skills and abilities can be developed. Some roles that can lead to becoming a senior pastor include being an associate pastor, a teaching pastor or a youth pastor.

For different denominations and churches (i.e., Baptist church, Presbyterian church, or Community church) there may be strict guidelines that must be followed. For many denominations, this will require going to seminary to obtain a Masters of Divinity (MDiv). Seminaries train and ordain pastors in preaching, leading, teaching and administering a church. About 67% of pastors have a master’s degree, so if a person wants to be competitive for many pastor jobs it can be very wise to get a seminary degree. There are also churches and denominations that do not require a master’s degree but may be looking for candidates that have a bachelor’s degree or a Bible college degree. It is important to contact denomination headquarters and/or churches to learn more about what is required to become a pastor.

Another way to gain experience that leads toward becoming a lead pastor, is to accept a calling as an interim pastor, or bi-vocational pastor. These are church staff roles that can help develop the needed skills and experiences for a senior pastor position.

What are other pastor jobs to consider?

Very few Christians are called to a senior pastor job. If you are and few people should become pastors. Here are other pastor jobs that may be a good fit:

Women’s Pastor, Men’s Pastor, Counseling Pastor, Children’s Pastor, Administrative Pastor, Building Services Pastor, Children’s Pastor, Foreign Ministries Pastor, Pre-School Pastor, Recreational Pastor, Sports Ministry Pastor, Technologies Pastor, Multi-Media Pastor, Volunteer’s Pastor, Military Pastor/Chaplain, Evangelism Pastor, Outreach Pastor, Student Pastor, Family Ministry Pastor, Youth Ministry Pastor, and Assimilation Pastor.

This article can help you to explore the pastor job that best matches a person’s personality and interests – What Pastor Jobs Best Fit Your Personality?

What are other church jobs to consider?

There are many Christians who believe that a pastor is the highest calling a person could ever have. This is not a biblical truth, instead, God calls His people to be in both secular and ministry positions. If you would love to work in a church ministry position but don’t feel called as a pastor, there are many other options. There are many other employment opportunities and ministry openings that God may be calling Christian men and women into such as student ministry, youth minister, college campus ministry, church secretary/office administrator, executive director, human resource directing, and discipleship teaching.

What is the job outlook for pastors?

If you are a Christian job seeker who is targeting pastor jobs there is good news. In 2019 according to the ONET, there were 243,900 people working as clergy. The ONET reports average growth for pastors with an addition of 24,400 clergy jobs in the next eight years. There will continue to be many opportunities for senior pastor jobs especially when candidates are willing to relocate.

How much money does a senior pastor make?

According to salary.com, “the average Senior Pastor salary in the United States is $98,880 as of February 26, 2021, but the range typically falls between $81,280 and $112,080. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including the size and location of the church, education, and the number of years that has been spent working as a pastor.

Where can I find the right lead pastor job? What are the best websites for senior pastor jobs?

ChurchJobsOnline.com, PastorJobs.Net, ChristianCareerCenter.com, ChurchStaffing.com, ChurchJobs.net, ChurchJobFinder.com and MinistryJobs.com are some of the best sites for finding senior pastor jobs.

Be sure to set up a job alert for each ministry job such as “senior pastor,” “lead pastor” and “head pastor”. This will allow you to passively track openings that come directly into your email.

One resource for finding pastor jobs that is fairly new is Google jobs. Google will show you jobs from many job boards at one time. All you need to do is Google terms such as “senior pastor jobs, or “lead pastor jobs.” Google will then show you jobs related to your search. You can even set up job alerts for your searches.

How can I find other Christian ministry jobs?

If you would like to explore being a staff member at a nonprofit ministry, you can find hundreds of ministry jobs at ChristianJobFair.com. There you can search ministries based on your interests. You can also find ministry jobs at ChristianCareerCenter.com.

What associations and conferences support those seeking a church job?

Pastors need a lot of support and pastoral care to balance the challenges of leading a church. In addition to denomination headquarters, associations can be helpful for learning more about senior pastor jobs, and qualifications. Many associations also have conferences that are great for connecting with other pastors, networking, refreshing yourself, and gathering resources that help pastors to succeed. Associations can be found by Googling the name of the denomination that is of interest plus the word “association.” You can do the same with conferences. Here are a few examples of conferences.

That Church Conference

Creative Church Culture (C3) Conference

Christian Leadership Alliance Outcomes Conference

Church Leaders Conference 

Leadercast Live

Global Leadership Summit 

Gateway Conference

Exponential Conference

North Coast Training – Sticky Teams


Being a senior pastor is a unique position and calling that only a few people are qualified to do. If you are exploring this calling or ministry job, be sure to use the tools and resources described in this article. It is much better to discover that you are not called to this area of work, than later as you are in a pastor position that is not a fit for your gifts and motivations.

If being a senior pastor is a fit for how God has designed you, there will likely be other pastor roles that will provide you with the skills and experience needed for ultimately becoming a senior or lead pastor. Some of those positions could include an associate pastor, youth pastor, children’s ministry director, worship pastor, assistant pastor,

If being a senior pastor is a good fit, be sure to surround yourself with loyal leaders and mentors who can provide you with the support that you need in leading a church.


© Article copyright by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, ChristianCareerCenter.comChurchJobsOnline.comChristianJobFair.comCareerFitTest.com and LiveYourCalling.com.