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How God Would Hire a CEO

When houses of worship need an “executive pastor,” they often call David Lyons of Lewisville-based MinisterSearch.
illustration by Peter Horvath

Call it the apostle peter principle. great preachers bring in thousands of souls to turn ordinary churches into megachurches, but few of those preachers possess the business savvy to run the multimillion-dollar operations that spring up around them.

So, some churches turn to a higher authority: David Lyons of MinisterSearch, a Lewisville recruiting firm that finds senior-level staffers for places like Lakewood Church in Houston (the home of Joel Osteen) or helps relocate pastors leaving places like Saddleback Church in California (home of the famed pastor Rick Warren).

Locally, Lyons has worked with dozens of big churches like Grace Community Church and St. Andrew United Methodist, both in Plano.

“There was a time when the senior pastor ran the whole show,” says Lyons. “But now large churches hire ‘executive pastors’ to focus on the staffing, budgeting, and facilities management.” About half come with corporate experience on their résumés; some have MBAs as well as masters of divinity.

An executive pastor frees up the senior pastor to preach and cast the congregational vision. “Typically, a person who is wired to preach is not wired to run an organization,” says Lyons, who was a corporate IT recruiter before founding MinisterSearch in 2000.  

Traditionalists may argue that pastors should be called, not recruited. But Lyons says he spends hours getting to know a church, helping leaders figure out what’s really needed from the new hire. He also relies on prayer in the process.

In the past, churches assembled search committees and placed want ads in seminary publications. But the best candidates often already have jobs, Lyons says, so MinisterSearch maintains a database of proven “talent”—church leaders who’d consider a move if the right offer came along.

“We can find candidates that churches would not find on their own,” Lyons says.

As they say in the business: That’ll preach.