In 2016, after I had spent 15 years at the helm of Mosaic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, my colleague Harry Li succeeded me as its senior pastor. Since then, I’ve continued in my role as Directional Leader but with reduced hours, responsibility, and salary. In exchange, I began working increased hours for the Mosaix Global Network as president and CEO, and taking a salary. Indeed, it made sense to do so:
• By reducing my pay at the church, we were able to reduce our budget and repurpose funds to hire additional others more singularly focused on the people and mission of Mosaic.
• By concentrating more of my time and energy on the network it has scaled significantly to meet growing demands for help and services.
• By dividing my attention between two organizations (and now between three, as for a season I’m also serving as the Directional Leader of Woodcrest Chapel in Columbia, Missouri) I entered the realm of Fractional Leadership—unwittingly at the time and now with intentionality.
In concept and practice, fractional leadership is nothing new, —that is, in corporate America it’s nothing new. What I see and sense, however, is it that fractional leadership will soon become standard and accepted practice in the American Church.
According to Ben Wolf, author of the book, Fractional Leadership (: Landing the Executive Talent You Thought Was Out of Reach (Houndstooth Press, 2021), “Fractional Leaders are experienced, C-level (i.e., a company’s most senior) executives who join your leadership team on a part-time basis so you can get the benefit of their guidance and direction to drive results for you without the risk, cost, or ramp-up of a full-time hire.”1 Greg Smith, TechCXO’s Managing Partner for the Product & Technology Practice, suggests that far from a “plan-B,” fractional leadership is “a strategic approach to scaling your business, preserving your equity, and driving superior performance.”2
In short, fractional leadership adds effective, efficient, and experienced capacity to your organization at a much lower cost per hire.
The negative impact of COVID-19 on America’s labor force has similarly affected the American Church. According to Abhinav Chugh of the World Economic Forum, “The Great Resignation is a phenomenon that describes record numbers of people leaving their jobs…Companies now have to navigate the ripple effects of the pandemic and re-evaluate how to [attract and] retain talent.”3 Churches today and tomorrow will need to adjust as well. The Great Resignation has led many pastors to retire early from ministry or outright leave it altogether during the pandemic. Many local churches are now having a hard time finding interested or qualified people to fill the void let alone to fully fund vacant positions due to declining tithes and offerings.
Here are just three of the benefits and features that local churches can realize through the employment of fractional leadership.
1. Fractional Leadership Is Cost- Effective.
Churches can onboard C-level leadership for a fraction of the cost it would otherwise take to employ someone full-time and provide for them benefits. In so doing, churches can better steward financial resources, gain momentum, and better pivot or position for the future.
2. Fractional Leadership Is Strategically Focused.
How many times have you left the church at the end of a day and wondered what it is that you actually accomplished? As pastors, sure, spending time relationally with co-workers and congregants is essential. Often, though, we are pulled daily into meetings or conversations that not are not urgent nor otherwise the best use of our time, passion, and gifting. In contrast, Smith writes, “If you are working with a company for just a couple of hours per day (as a fractional leader) you are forced to ruthlessly prioritize only the very most important items on your list” and similarly relationships.
3. Fractional Leadership Delivers Immediate Results
By virtue of their experiential knowledge, proven credibility, and past success, fractional leaders are able to work smart not hard, avoid mistakes, inspire confidence, ensure alignment, solve problems, create wins, and immediately impact an organization. Not otherwise driven by title, position or ego, fractional leaders thrive on doing what they do best, strengthening others around them, addressing docile acquiescence, and helping the organization build capacity and gain momentum.
The fact is, fractional leaders are already at work and increasingly the American Church is embracing the concept. Consider the following examples of churches and leaders so engaged today:
• An associate pastor is serving one church as the C-level leader of its sports outreach program and another as the Executive Director of its nonprofit.
• A C-level leader is currently directing the Creative Arts team at one church and serving as the worship pastor in another church.
• A senior pastor is leading two separate churches simultaneously, not so much in order to pay the bills or otherwise having been appointed to do so, but because he is willing and able to do so with passion and excellence … as a fractional leader.
Of course, much more should be considered before hiring a fractional leader. At the moment, what’s important to recognize is that fractional leadership is quickly becoming a viable option for churches struggling to fill vacancies, whether these vacancies are due to financial limitations or a lack of candidates that who are available, interested or qualified.
Join Mark together with more than 100 speakers and 1,200 ministry leaders at Mosaix’ 5th National Conference, November 8–10, 2022, in Dallas, Texas.