Published in February 2008

Communicating With Decision-Makers (Part 1)
By David Lee Jr., Phd

Breaking down titles, roles and responsibilities.

Successful house of worship business hinges on communicating effectively with key decision-makers. Today, a house of worship’s decision-making team has more members than in past eras. There are many new ministries and job titles that we should understand in order to conduct good business. So, in Part 1 of this series, we will focus, in general terms, on the Protestant Christian faith. We will point out some of the new decision-makers, their titles, their roles and how they impact church business.

Historically, Protestant church business has been conducted by the “pastor” with guidance from a church board. In many Protestant churches, this model is still in operation. In the 1980s and 1990s, we needed only to find out who the pastor was and make our pitch to him (or her, in a few cases). Today, “pastor” no longer adequately describes the church leader. Rarely does one pastor work with adults, youth and children. In medium- and large-size churches, the creation of multiple ministry departments has led to adding specialized ministers. In large churches, and across numerous denominations, this list of new titles can be long. So, we will limit our discussion to people who most likely will be part of the decision-making club that selects vendors to provide media designs and communication technologies to their church.

My short list includes the senior pastor, executive pastor, music pastor and the media pastor. Senior pastor is the title most used to define the highest human authority in a church. Be careful not to confuse the senior pastor with the “senior’s pastor,” one who ministers specifically to senior citizens. The vote of the senior pastor often largely influences other members of the decision-making team. The senior pastor most likely does not have much, if any, technical expertise, and usually votes for a product that was recommended by staff or a trusted vendor.

The executive pastor is charged with overseeing the complex management of church money in a busy church setting. Because the executive pastor controls the purse strings (for better or, sometimes, worse), he/she has a potent voice in the decision-making club. The executive pastor usually looks at value before vendor, and wants to know, “Will the cost provide an observable return?” (i.e., will expensive electronic drums lower the overall stage volume?).

The music pastor currently plays a leading role in the decision-making process regarding new gear. His vote often is supported by the senior pastor. The music pastor often is responsible for everything that occurs during a church service: music, musicians, singers, choir, quality and volume of the live sound, lighting and, in most cases, the information that is projected onto large screens. In many churches, the music pastor is also referred to as the “worship leader.” This term can be confusing and is used in various ways, depending on denomination. The music pastor typically initiates the primary consultations with systems integrators, narrows down the proposals, and then presents the finalists to members of the decision-making team. Keep in mind that the music pastor is an artist, not a technician. Nonetheless, he understands the need to have quality gear and professional operators. Therefore, a music pastor is most apt to recommend a vendor that he feels is trustworthy and has his best interest in mind.

Larger churches are hiring a media pastor to oversee the growing number of communication technologies that are being used in worship settings. The media pastor is emerging as the go-to person for determining the technologies that can best address the church’s communication needs. In ideal cases, the media pastor forms a relationship with the music pastor so that, together, they can ensure that the lights, sound, video and so on appropriately enhance the church service. An experienced media pastor maintains an objective approach when evaluating equipment types, brands, price, value, ease of use and vendor competency. The value of the media pastor’s role is still on the rise.
Patterns suggest that, soon, media pastors will play a featured decision-making role in the majority of medium- to large-size churches.

The safest way to address these pastors is to refer to them as Reverend Jones or Pastor Jones. “Reverend Jones” is a formal salutation, whereas “Pastor Jones” is more familiar but most used. I suggest that you research to learn if the individuals have Doctor, PhD, ThD, EdD, Dmin. or other types of salutations associated with their name/identity. If so, refer to them as “Dr. Jones” or “Sir.”

They can then tell you how they prefer to be addressed (in my case, please call me David, and please call me in time for dinner).

This short list can help you navigate the ever-changing landscape in local church settings. But, this is not definitive. Tell me what you think about my list, tell me who is on yours or tell me or ask me anything regarding house of worship business. I believe that 2008 will be great for you and our industry!



David Lee Jr., PhD, CEO of Lee Communication Inc., Orlando FL, is a licensed minister and has more than 25 years of experience as a systems integrator. He is a member of Sound & Communications’ Technical Council. Send comments to dlee@testa.com.
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