You may have heard that Westside has moved to a shared leadership model with three co-Senior Pastors. More accurately, Westside is formalizing a shared leadership model that has been in effect to some degree for the past seven years. This decision adds Pastor Evan Earwicker and Pastor Ben Fleming as co-Senior Pastors alongside Pastor Steve Mickel.
Yes, we now have three Senior Pastors.
Pastor Steve will continue to function as a “chief among equals” as we build collaborative, team-oriented structures to support the long-term health of Westside Church. Pastor Evan and Pastor Ben have been and will continue to take on expanded responsibilities. The Leadership Team will continue to function with Ben and Evan continuing their roles on that team. Pastor Mike Alexander will continue as Westside’s Executive Pastor. Pastor Rod Kirk, Pastor Suzanne Mickel and Kimberly Alexander will also continue in their roles on the Leadership Team as Pastor of Operations, Outreach Pastor and Director of Discipleship, respectively.
For most Westsiders, this change will cause little noticeable difference in how the church functions, since shared leadership has been in process behind the scenes for several years.
Christ and the New Testament Church modeled shared leadership structures from the outset of the early Church. In Mark 3:13-15, Jesus inaugurated this shared leadership model when he appointed a group of 12 to “preach and have authority” and in Matthew 23, Jesus warned these disciples against taking on lofty titles that would elevate a single leader above the rest (Matthew 23:8-12). In Acts 8, Peter and John ministered in Samaria as a team. Peter would eventually write in 1 Peter 5, that he was a “fellow elder” among many others serving Christ and His church throughout the world. Even Paul shared leadership of the church in Antioch with Barnabas (Acts 11:25-26) and in Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas handed this authority to a group of elders (Acts 14:23). Decisions in the prominent Jerusalem church were not made by a single apostle but shared by a council of elders (Acts 15).
While singular pastoral leadership is common in churches throughout history, the New Testament does not prescribe, prioritize or describe the placement of an individual, elevated Senior Pastor. The New Testament more commonly displays a shared, collaborative approach to leadership and local church structures that involved a broad mix of leadership gifts for healthy and balance (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Paul made it clear that only one singular figure should lead the Church: “Christ, who is the head” (Colossians 1:18). The model of a singular, elevated church leader (bishop, priest, pastor) does not clearly emerge until the 2nd-4th centuries.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will be each Senior Pastor’s role?
Steve—Lead Pastor, primary weekend speaker / vision-caster, Leadership Team member, leadership development, Foursquare Board member.
Evan—Creative Arts Pastor, Leadership Team member, expanded weekend speaking, mentorship and shared lead pastor functions with Steve.
Ben—Generations Pastor, Leadership Team member, expanded weekend speaking, mentorship and shared lead pastor functions with Steve.
Were others considered alongside Evan and Ben?
Ben and Evan play a unique role on Westside’s Staff. Both are part of the Leadership Team and have been involved in every decision Westside has made over the past several years. They also are currently the only pastors on the Leadership Team who both desire and have the experience to be senior pastors and this leadership model enables them to lead at that level in a team environment.
Are women eligible for senior pastoring at Westside?
Yes. While Evan and Ben are currently the only pastors serving on the Leadership Team desiring senior leadership, one of Westside’s long-standing staff values has been the continued development and promotion of all staff members (both men and women) to all levels of leadership, teaching, and influence. We’re proud to be part of a denomination (Foursquare) that was founded by a woman and welcomes women to lead at the highest levels in local churches and the denominational level.
What happens if one of the three senior pastors move on in their career/ministry?
It is possible that others would be added to the senior pastor team and if one of the three leaves Westside, it is presumed that others (men and women) would be considered for those roles. If Pastor Steve leaves, Foursquare would appoint another Lead Pastor to lead this team and Westside.
How is the church structured and how are decisions made?
Westside Church is a member of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (ICFG), a denomination known as Foursquare. Foursquare uses a modified episcopal form of government and polity (The episcopal form of government is a type of church structure and is not tied to the Episcopal Church). In short, Westside is a local congregation that is part of the Foursquare denomination that participates in a blend of individual authority and local autonomy with a healthy system of checks & balances provided by the Northwest District Team and Director, a Sectional Director, Westside’s Church Council and a local Lead Pastor. Westside uses a shared leadership, team-centered model for decision making that leverages trust, candor and healthy team structures to collaborate, discuss, wrestle with and make important decisions. Distinct values ensure this shared leadership structure and approach to decision making does not disintegrate into leadership by consensus, committee or vote.
Will Ben and Evan continue to oversee the Creative Arts and Generations departments?
Yes. Their departmental oversight and current responsibilities are not going away.
Are there any other churches doing this?
Yes. Many organizations including churches have tried variations of shared leadership over the years—some successful, some unsuccessful. When the shared leadership model fails, it is most often due to one or more of the co-leaders ultimately refusing to share decision-making and leadership. Ego and ambition are the kryptonite of shared leadership. This is often why successful shared leadership models are especially rare in the business world.
We have had lengthy, personal conversations with co-Senior Pastors at two large west coast churches with similar values and DNA to that of Westside. Both churches have been successfully using shared leadership models and co-Senior Pastor for years. One of the churches has three to four co-Senior Pastors at any given time and the other has two co-Senior Pastors. These are full co-Senior Pastors (not associate pastors or campus pastors).