We hope you are experiencing great grace in this season we find ourselves in. We are praying for you daily and “asking that you may be filled with knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10, NRSV).
We are writing to share an update about the refinement of the role of co-pastor. Though we have had this appointment available for quite some time, we have not given a clear description of the intent. We believe in shared leadership and see it clearly portrayed in Scripture. In Ephesians 4, Paul gives us a wonderful model of the varied gifts given to equip the church. We would like to share some work that was done by our National Church Committee some time ago and that our board of directors has approved to endorse the role of co-pastor.
Included in this article is a video explaining the heart of this direction and an outline that gives the distinctions between a co-pastor and an assisting minister. The intent is to provide you and your church council with resources to help you identify and honor the gifts of the leaders on your team and hopefully provide helpful descriptions as you consider their contribution and compensation.
There are specific ways that you will see this used by your Foursquare teams who support you. As we move forward, your district and credentialing teams will begin aligning future requests for co-pastor appointments with the resources outlined. We wanted to inform you and invite you into this understanding before you encounter it.
- If you currently have a co-pastor serving as outlined in the document but who is not appointed as such, please contact your district administrator so the appointment to co-pastor can be made.
- If you have a co-pastor appointed who does not fit the description but rather serves in the role of an assisting minister, you may change their appointment if you wish, but there is no requirement to do so. Existing appointments may remain as is. Making a change in appointments from co-pastor to assisting minister does not in any way devalue the contribution the minister has made to the church; it is just the opportunity to more clearly define the intent of the co-pastor appointment.
If you have any questions, your district is prepared to serve you as we partner together toward more and growing leaders together on mission.
All senior pastors and co-pastors should take time to review this 3-minute video and possibly take action to realign roles in their church with their church council and district office.
Distinctions Between Roles
- A co-pastor shares an equal distribution of responsibility and congregational leadership authority alongside the senior pastor.
- A co-pastor shares decision-making processes with the senior pastor.
- A co-pastor, together with the senior pastor, shares oversight of congregational decisions. A co-pastor collaborates with church councils. The senior pastor serves as the chairperson of the council.
- A co-pastor's salary and benefits are complementary to the senior pastor.
- Assisting ministers generally serve as an assistant pastor overseeing youth, children, visitation, administration or worship ministries, or hold another ministry title assigned by the senior pastor. Assisting ministers report to and serve under the authority of the senior pastor.
- All major plans, programs and policies under the guidance of an assisting pastor should be discussed with the senior pastor and should not be implemented without his or her approval.
- Assisting ministers may meet with the council and serve the congregation ︎under the senior pastor’s leadership.
- Assisting ministers often receive smaller salaries than the senior pastor, and sometimes they serve without compensation.
Co-Pastor Appointment Frequently Asked Questions
- Why are we clarifying the role of co-pastor at this time? We are aware that we have not provided clear guidelines for what a co-pastor appointment entails and want to provide a new shared framework of understanding. The board of directors asked the National Church Committee some time ago to endorse and clearly define the role of co-pastor so we can provide a clear and precise definition of the role and guide our practices in making these appointments in the future.
- When does this definition become effective? The definition becomes effective as of the date of this communication and impacts all co-pastor appointments that become effective in the future.
- If a pastor is appointed as a co-pastor but should be appointed as an assisting minister, am I required to make a change? While a change can be made to align the appointment with the definition, it is not required. The updated co-pastor information addresses how the co-pastor appointment will be defined going forward.
- How might this information affect me? There are two key points of interaction: a licensing applicant who is being licensed with the intended appointment of co-pastor, or an already credentialed minister who is transitioning into a co-pastor role. At either of these points, the district or credentialing team will engage with the senior pastor to ask questions ensuring the alignment of the role before continuing with processing the request. Our hope is that providing this information before you encounter the request will help eliminate confusion and support you as you engage.
- Does moving a minister’s appointment from co-pastor to assisting minister convey a devaluing of the role? The minister, regardless of title, is a valued member of the ministerial team. The change in the title doesn’t convey a lesser contribution by the minister. Instead, the change in appointment conveys that the minister is moving to an assisting minister role because they are not fulfilling the functions of the new definition of co-pastor.
- What is the definition of commensurate pay for a co-pastor? The minister, regardless of title, is a valued member of the ministerial team. The change in the title doesn’t convey a lesser contribution by the minister. Instead, the change in appointment conveys the co-pastor and senior pastor share equal responsibility and equitable compensation. Equitable compensation does not necessarily mean equal. If the co-pastor does not serve full time, but instead part time, the pay should be commensurate with the senior pastor’s salary based on part-time hours.
- Who appoints the co-pastor? Just as the senior pastor is appointed by the board at the district’s recommendation, the co-pastor role is also appointed by the board at the district’s recommendation. Removal is handled the same way.
- Senior pastors are required to be baptized with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues to have the appointment of senior pastor. Is this a requirement of co-pastors as well? The title of senior pastor is for governance purposes, but both are spiritual leaders of the church and therefore both must be baptized with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
- Is there any criteria to use in the appointment of one as the senior pastor and one as the co-pastor? The senior pastor is recognized according to our bylaws with governance responsibilities. Therefore, it is wise to consider the individuals' unique giftings and which is best suited for this governance role.
- How does the appointment of senior and co-pastor affect the governance role regarding church council meetings? Our bylaws require the individual holding the appointment as senior pastor is the chair of the council and retains the vote. While this means the person named as senior pastor is recognized as the legal representation, the co-pastor participates in the discussion of the church council meetings as co-spiritual leader. The co-pastor and senior pastor share equal responsibility ecclesiastically, missionally, theologically, spiritually, etc. The bylaws require that one be recognized as senior pastor for governance reasons.
- In the absence of the senior pastor, may the co-pastor run the church council meeting? While the senior pastor and co-pastor are co-spiritual leaders, the senior pastor according to our bylaws should be in attendance, run and vote at the church council meetings.
- If a senior pastor transitions out of the church, does the co-pastor automatically become the senior pastor? Likewise, if the co-pastor transitions out of the church, does the senior pastor remain in their role? The co-pastor and senior pastor are assigned to their roles by the district (through the board) with the understanding they function as a team. Therefore, if one (senior pastor or co-pastor) transitions out of the church, the district must be involved in the transition. While the district may decide to transition the co-pastor to the role of senior pastor or retain the senior pastor in their role, this is not automatic.
- If I have a question, where should I direct those? The Foursquare team is available to support you, your church council, and your co-pastors and to assist ministers in defining and clarifying any current roles to serve best or support you. Please reach out to your district office for any questions.