What qualities does the ideal Associate Pastor or “2nd Chair” possess? In search of an answer, I have posed that question to several Senior or “First” Chair Pastors. Without hesitation, Senior Pastors declare that loyalty is the most sought after quality. When asked to elaborate, Senior Pastors affirm that they need to know that the Associate Pastor supports his or her vision, goals, objective, and strategies for ministry in their particular context. Senior Pastors fear that absent this quality, “naysayers” in the congregation will badger and bait the Associate Pastor until he or she openly questions the wisdom of the Senior Pastor. In the end, the church will be divided.
The 2nd CHAIR
In a close second, Senior Pastors acknowledge that they desire a trustworthy Associate Pastor. Senior Pastors, especially those who process ideas through conversation, prefer transparency in their relationships with Associate Pastors. They want to be able to share doubts, ask questions, even blow off steam with their Associates. This is especially the case in a congregation with but two pastors. An Associate Pastor who, for one reason or another, capitalizes on the humanness of the Senior Pastor violates that trust.
Third, Senior Pastors desire Associate Pastors who complement them rather than compete with them. The reason here is simple: a local congregation most benefits from the shared ministry of two pastors when the pastors use their gifts in such a way that they compliment each other. When pastors compliment each other, one pastor affirms the gifts another pastor in a particular area and vice versa. Then, each pastor gets out of the way of of the other so that those gifts can be used for the advancement of the Gospel. In this way, the congregation is more likely to experience the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, give no cause for concern. The best “2nd chair” is clearly the one who works hard and gets the job done. When a congregation decides to invest in shared ministry, they do so with expectation of the unimagined blessings of the Lord. While realizing the pastor is not a superman or superwoman, they still hope for effective and impactful ministry for each member of the pastoral staff. Hence, the ministry is no place for sloth or complacency.
Fifth, recognize that every healthy and dynamic relationship requires rules. They work like oil in an engine; they keep the relationship running smoothly. This reality represents a challenge for Solo Pastors who have recently become Associate Pastors. Solo Pastors pretty much work at their own pace and do their own thing. But such an approach does not work when ministry is shared by two or more pastors. In order to derive maximum benefit from the shared ministry, pastors need to share time and space. Towards that end, they establish mutually agreed upon rules. These rules are not ends in themselves, but means to healthy, dynamic relationships.
There are but five qualities that a Senior Pastor might find beneficial in an Associate Pastor. Others?