I just read a great article entitled How to Serve Your Pastor Well by Jamie Brown. I encourage you to read his article for yourself (after finishing this one of course). Jamie writes from the perspective of a Worship Leader but most of his points are relevant to all ministry positions within the church. His article resonated with me because, like Jamie, I am approaching 10 years of full time ministry in the second chair position.
Almost immediately after graduating from Bible College I stepped into the position of Assistant Pastor. Several years as a full time evangelist followed, which is still a second chair position with its own specialized set of challenges. Currently, I am privileged to serve as Assistant Pastor to my father (Dr. Talmadge French). Nearly 10 years in the second chair has given me a perspective that may be helpful to my fellow second chair colleagues, and perhaps for senior pastors to consider as well.
1. Count it an honor to serve your Pastor. Now I know that in some church paradigms the role of Assistant or Associate Pastor is little more than a title with no meaning, but thankfully this sad paradigm is shifting. Pastor’s desperately need faithful ministers who will stand beside them and hold their arms up in battle (Exodus 17:10-13). However, if you view your role as nothing more than a stepping stone to a greater position, or as a launching pad for your personal (yet unappreciated) ministry than you are not serving your Pastor; you are serving your own selfish ambitions. You may think that your motivations are sufficiently hidden but usually they are far more visible than you imagine, not only to your pastor, but also to the congregation that you are serving. There is nothing more rewarding than ministering without hidden agendas. Remember, it is God who exalts us according to His perfect timing (1 Peter 5:6).
Many capable ministries never reach their full potential because they refuse to see the value of the second chair position. As a church grows and flourishes in healthy, God-given revival the need for dedicated support ministries becomes more and more vital. To serve in the capacity of pastoral support ministry is an honorable and highly commendable calling. If you closely examine any thriving, revival church you will find not only a dynamic Pastor, but a dynamic support ministry as well. God uses unity to propel revival not a maverick mentality.
2. Remain fiercely loyal at all times. Loyalty is becoming extinct in our fast moving culture. Our grandparents drove the same Ford or GMC their whole lives, many of them lived in the same towns that they grew up in, attended the same church that they were saved in, lived and died under the same pastoral ministry, and drank the same brand of coffee every morning. Fast forward to my generation; we’re moving from church to church, from city to city, from fad to fad, constantly moving to the next big thing, or the next big idea, and yet it never seems to occur to us that we have embraced a culture of disloyalty. This is not how God intended the Church to operate, while fierce independence may be admirable in the dog-eat-dog world of corporate leadership, in ministry, loyalty and faithfulness are absolute necessities. If you can’t be loyal in the second chair position than you can never expect loyalty from others when you find yourself in the first chair position.
3. Be a dependable shield and a worthy confidant. One of the most admirable roles that you can fill as the second man is to shield your Pastor from harm. Anticipate possible problems and internal factions, and do everything in your power to shield your Pastor from attacks. Guard your words and your integrity. If your Pastor confides in you be sure to keep that confidence or you will lose a level of trust that you can never fully regain.
Inevitably you will notice that your Pastor has weaknesses and flaws. Except in extreme instances where sin is involved, it is your role to pick up the slack in these areas. If you study the Apostles you will notice that although they were greatly used of God they had personality flaws that often needed to be put in the hands of God. Your Pastor is no less human and he deserves your fidelity. If you strengthen his weak areas he will return the favor when you are lacking.
4. Avoid flattery that produces unhealthy pride in your heart. Often the second man will receive adulation from those who seek to undermine the Pastor. I once had a man try to convince me that I should be pastoring the church that I was serving in at the time. Needless to say, I shut that conversation down in a hurry. He wanted to use me as weapon against his own Pastor. Shame on any second man who allows himself to be used as a pawn in the hands of rebellious saints. Sometimes the second chair position feels unappreciated and we become vulnerable to the enticements of flattery. The book of Jude warns of those who employ flattery in order to manipulate others for their own selfish desires (Jude 1:16). Learn to distinguish the difference between healthy complements and manipulative flattery.
5. Don’t be naïve. Sometimes saints are simply refreshed by the variety of hearing a new voice. This doesn’t mean that they don’t love their Pastor’s preaching, and it certainly shouldn’t cause you to feel superior. Evangelists and all other support ministries must take care not to allow compliments to go to our heads. Sometimes people are just being kind (they aren’t going to tell you that you did a second class job). Accept compliments carefully and gracefully.
During my first year of full time ministry, a family invited me to their house for dinner. Everything seemed kosher until dessert was served; suddenly I found myself dodging personal questions about our mutual Pastor. This seemed highly inappropriate and I told them so with as much kindness as I could muster. Many young ministers naively divulge privileged information in an effort to demonstrate their insider status. This is a terrible ethical precedent to set for your ministry and life in general. Appearing “in-the-know” isn’t nearly as important as being a man of integrity.
6. Avoid second guessing your Pastor. There are going to be times when you feel as though something should be handled differently. You might even feel as though you could have done something better or smoother. Once more, you might even be right, but it’s unhealthy to dwell on those emotions. Submission is only submission when you are in disagreement. God honors us when we yield ourselves to spiritual authority (Hebrews 13:17; Romans 13:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Ephesians 4:11). However, many times a Pastor makes decisions and judgments based on information and facts that we are not privy too. If we are walking in true humility we must be willing to acknowledge that we may not always know what is best. After all, a Pastor is the God called watchmen on the wall (Isaiah 62:6; Ezekiel 3:17-19), and this vantage point gives him spiritual insight that we simply do not have.
7. Don’t be high maintenance. I’m taking this one directly from Jamie’s article (mentioned above), along with a few additions of my own. Your Pastor is bombarded with high maintenance people on a daily basis and he certainly doesn’t need his close leadership adding to that chaos. Remember your role is that of supporter and if you are constantly adding to your Pastor’s stress level than you are failing in that mission. This is not to say that you can’t turn to him for advice and guidance but do so with care and moderation. Learn to be respectful of his time, his privacy, his family, and his work load. I guarantee that if you learn the value of this particular piece of advice your pastor will love you for it.
8. Respect, value, and be considerate of the needs of the family. I have already alluded to this point, but it is extremely important that the second man is respectful of the needs of the Pastor’s family. Many Pastor’s kids and Pastor’s wives suffer the indignity of waiting on their father or spouse to finish lengthy conversations that were dishonestly presented as only needing “a moment of your time.” A considerate leader is sensitive to these things and learns to use the appropriate timing to make important connections. If your Pastor’s family begins to resent your constant interruptions and intrusions than you will eventually find yourself feeling cut off and disconnected. Work to identify the proper times to make lengthy connections and your Pastor and his family will love you for it.
9. Avoid telling your Pastor how other Pastor’s do things. Every Pastor has their own style and way of doing things. Most Pastors have their own biblical perspective of how the Church should operate. It took me a few years to realize as the second man that my Pastor did not appreciate my constant little reminders of how so and so Pastor did this or that. In a sense you are telling him that you respect this other Pastors way of doing things more than his way of doing things. Furthermore, every church, city, and culture is vastly different. What works in one context doesn’t necessarily work in another.
10. Follow through and finish what you start. If you begin a project see it through to the end. Nothing is more frustrating to leadership than watching another project get placed on the backburner. If you make a commitment follow through, otherwise it will be very hard for your Pastor to entrust you with greater responsibilities. Along this same vein of thinking, try not to despise the small, unpleasant, or seemingly unimportant duties. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
11. Don’t be a copycat. This is not to say that you shouldn’t emulate your Pastor’s leadership or take on any of his characteristics, however, it’s ok to be you. Your church doesn’t need identical twins, identical preachers, and identical leaders. In fact, the differences are often refreshing for a congregation. Variety is the spice of life, and your unique qualities will endear you to others. Copycats become disingenuous and plastic over time.
12. Have fun. Ministry is serious business, and we ministers have a tendency to take ourselves too seriously. This might seem counterintuitive but you should cultivate a fun and friendly demeanor. There is a time and a place for extreme seriousness, but no one wants to work closely with an individual who doesn’t understand the value of laughter. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength (Psalm 28:7).
13. Know your role and what is expected of you. You will circumvent all kinds of frustration by simply understanding what is expected of you. Many Pastors are hesitant to tell you everything that they expect from you on a regular basis (maybe we’ll cover these reasons in a later post). Dig deep and learn your parameters.
14. Be spiritually sensitive. It should go without saying that we must be spiritually healthy. Pray for your family, your church, and your Pastor. Pray and pray some more. Let’s lay aside our over inflated ideas of dignity and worship God with all of our might. Guard your heart, guard your mind, and never stop growing in the Lord.
Related articles: Consistency – 16 Keys To Great Leadership, Right, Righteous, and Self-Righteous Judgements (Knowing The Difference), 5 Mistakes Every Worship Leader Makes, You Cannot Be A Church Leader If… (Part 1), You Cannot Be A Church Leader If… (Part 2), 3 Revival Killers, What To Do After The Storm, 7 Ways To Help Your Youth Group Backslide, Ministry Pitfalls, Been Hurt By A Pastor? (8 Reasons You Should Stop Talking About It)