It is easy when you’re not the Senior Pastor to harp on the Senior Pastor.
Associate Pastors, I’ve heard us, we sure can be hyper critical sometimes of our senior leaders. We don’t sit in their chair and don’t fully understand the complexities of all the plates they are keeping spinning.
Volunteers – we too can become mighty critical of the key leaders around us and above us.

I’ve got a little challenge that could make a big difference for all of us and for our churches.
Pick a day and time at least once a week where you’ll intentionally do something to bless and encourage your Senior Leader or your Key Leader. Let it be a habit and attitude that grows. Seriously – do it now – what day, what time, each week will you do one thing to bless your Senior Pastor/Leader?

The relationship between leaders is so important, and we’ve all seen it, how easily tension and poison can sneak in. Someway, somehow that tension always leaks into the church culture or wider work culture.

Are you in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 22nd chair?
We have an opportunity, a responsibility, to uniquely bless and encourage our first chair leaders from our chair.

Second chair does not mean second class. It just means we’ve each been gifted and entrusted with different areas of responsibility and ministry. One of those responsibilities is to encourage, serve and bless the first chair leader. (Yes, this is a two-way street and first chair leaders have a responsibility for how they treat us, but that’s a blog post for another day.)

Here are some things to do to show love to your Senior Pastor or Key Leader:

  • Pray for them and with them, not just for their ministry but also for them as a person, as a child of God.
  • Serve them in little ways and it will make the big ways come more naturally. Clean the snow off their car (you can tell it’s February right now), clean-up after the end of their meeting, give them a gift card for books, offer to do last minute things on Sunday morning, buy them a Starbucks (Sorry for those of you who don’t live close to one, guess you’ll have to buy them a Tim Horton’s or make them a coffee from your house.)
  • Talk to them not about them. Tell them one-on-one when you are struggling with something – a decision made, something they said or did, something you’re confused about, something that hurt you, a question you are wrestling with…
  • Over communicate with them what is happening (the joys and struggles) in your area of ministry, until they say “enough already”. Use their communication style – Do they prefer text, a weekly email, you popping into their office, a scheduled time? Talk their language – What do they want to celebrate?
  • Give them regular genuine encouragement – send a note at the end of your week genuinely encouraging them and thanking them for how they led that week – where you especially saw Jesus through them or saw evidence of the vision coming to fruition through their efforts. We spend time at our weekly team meeting writing celebrations on post-it notes. Our celebration are where we saw evidence of the vision happening that week. Nothing blesses my heart more than hearing my team share these things!
  • Write them a letter, yup old school, thanking them for including you in the ministry, believing in you, giving you a place at the table, investing in you.
  • Spend time privately thanking God for the good qualities and gifts that person brings to the ministry/team.
  • Ask them for specific feedback. Invite them to help you, ask “What’s one thing I could have done to make that even better?”
  • Do something just to bless them (and their family) – Give her/him a movie night out, tickets to hockey game, gift certificate for dinner out, free babysitting night for their kids…
  • Give them the gift of listening – Remember they are a real person, listen for their dreams and fears behind what’s going on in the ministry.
  • Spend some quality time together – go to a conference together, go for a road trip to a ministry event, go out to lunch together, go for a walk together…and you treat (walking together is definitely the cheaper option)
  • Help them to see and know they are not an island, you are a team, you have their back, you are in this together. Communicate again and again you believe in the vision you are working towards together.
  • Quote him/her on social media and encourage engagement and application from the latest sermon/blog/workshop.
  • Help them protect their Sabbath, if it looks like a crazy week for them, ask if there is anything you can do to help.
  • Clean out the cupboard or room that is the churches giant “junk” drawer. Just don’t do it if it’s your Senior Pastor’s office, they might not appreciate that one.
  • Ask really good, helpful questions in meetings. Questions that draw the best out of everyone, including your leader. Rather than telling what should be done, be the person that invites a deeper level of discussion and teamwork.
  • Say sorry – when you mess up, fess up. Rather than trying to hide it from your Senior Pastor or rationalize it, own it and say sorry quickly. Ministry is messy, we are all still learning. Senior Pastor’s appreciate this and want to be included early in the misstep.

It takes intentionality, the drift of our hearts when we get busy in ministry is towards isolation, working harder at tasks and ignoring people. It takes intentionally to make sure you are consistently blessing the people around you, particularly the leaders over you.

I’m discovering that the working-relationship status of Associates with their Senior Leader can be “it’s complicated.”
One of the workshops I do is called “Leading from the 2nd Chair.” If this is an area where you would like to chat more I’d love to take you out for coffee or meet over Skype. Actually, anyone from the CBAC team would like to walk with you through navigating this most important leadership relationship.

Two excellent books on this topic are “Leading from the Second Chair” By Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson and “The Work of the Associate Pastor” By Alan Rudnick

We ultimately all report to Jesus. Jesus cares how we are loving our neighbours, including our neighbours we work most closely with day-in and day-out in our churches or workplaces.

Love thy neighbour. Love thy Senior Pastor/Leader.

Your Senior Pastor is your neighbour – How are you loving him/her? How are you intentionally showing her/him love?


An example of a misstep…

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