How to Tell a Campus Pastor from a Church Planter

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I recently accepted the role as Director of Mission Harvest at Harvest Bible Chapel here in the Chicagoland area. One of my responsibilities is coordinating recruitment, selection and training for pastors who want to be equipped to plant churches at our training center. So after years of working in the trenches of multisite — on church staff teams and consulting, as well as recruiting and hiring Campus Pastors — I am now in the trenches of church planting.

The candidates selected to be trained as Church Planting Pastors will be distinctively different from those I have recruited and helped hire in the past as Campus Pastors.

If you lead a multisite church and you’re trying to identify future Campus Pastors, you need to understand these differences or you may end up planting a church by accident. Likewise, if your mission is church planting, you will better set up new plants to succeed if you get this role right.

Here are several of the most distinctive traits of both groups:

Vision for the Future

  • Campus Pastors

    They have vision for the future, for sure, but they are more energized about executing tactics and custom fitting the overall church vision to their local campus and less concerned about dreaming up the vision. Campus Pastors run hard and take a shared vision and use it as a tool to build the kingdom.

  • Church Planters

    This group has a NEED to be the creator of the vision. They are entrepreneurs and get frustrated when trying to execute someone else’s vision. They see the church before there is a church. These people cast a vision to people in a living room, challenging them to contribute financially and physically to a church that hasn’t even been birthed yet.

Here is what I have observed: Give an end goal to a great Campus Pastor and they will run hard to accomplish the goal on time and with excellence.

Give an end goal to a Church Planter and he will throw it right back at you. A Church Planter doesn’t want to be given an end goal. They must have the freedom to dream and shape the goal.

Teaching/Preaching Expectations

  • Campus Pastors

    They must be excellent communicators. They need to be the visible and articulate leader of the local campus, the shepherd, the one who translates the overall vision to the local campus, and the one who creates systems and processes to help people apply and grow from what they have learned in the weekend teachings.

  • Church Planters

    They are compelled to teach; it’s a burning desire deep inside. They can only imagine a future for themselves in the church where they have the privilege to preach God’s word every weekend with intentionally. They will do most of the other functions that I mentioned for Campus Pastors but they will see weekend teaching as their most important function and will start to empower others to do much of the day-to-day work of the church.

Most people won’t come right out and say they expect to teach every weekend, even if that’s their bent. So, I like to ask a candidate an open-ended question, “How do you categorize your desire to teach at weekend services?”

It falls somewhere in the continuum of “can do” or  “need to do,” and that difference creates a strong distinctive.  

The similarities between Campus Pastors and Church Planters converge in many areas, such as leadership, influence and team building. Both groups need to be strong and clear in these areas, but the distinction in how they expect to execute those roles are enough to set up a leader to succeed or fail depending on the position given.

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About Author

Tammy Kelley

Tammy has over 20 years of ministry experience serving in key leadership roles at Ginghamsburg Church, Willow Creek Community Church, Vanderbloemen Search Group, and in her current role at Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicagoland area. Holding an executive MBA and practical church experience, Tammy brings a good blend of business and staffing strategy to the team.

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  1. […] How to Tell a Campus Pastor from a Church Planter –Tammy Kelley If you lead a multisite church and you’re trying to identify future Campus Pastors, you need to understand these differences or you may end up planting a church by accident. Likewise, if your mission is church planting, you will better set up new plants to succeed if you get this role right. […]