This is a follow-up to my very first blog post on this site, 5 Things Your Number Two Needs From You, where I encouraged lead pastors and other leaders to make sure that they are being intentional with how they lead the leaders under them. If you’re in a place of leadership, I would encourage you to check that out. This post is for those of you who are in a position of leadership, but you’re not the one driving the proverbial ministry bus. As I stated in my first post, I’ve spent the majority of my life serving in “second place” roles, where I am not the primary leader. Realistically, even the most powerful leader still has someone that they report to, be it an executive board, a committee, or of course, to God Himself. We know that every good and perfect gift comes from God and our duty as His followers is to steward those gifts in a way that best honors Him and promotes God’s Kingdom, not our own. Serving Christ in any capacity is an amazing gift.
For those of us leading from second place, here’s four tips to help use that gift well.
1. BE FAITHFUL WHERE YOU ARE.
A surprising (or maybe not?) amount of youth and associate pastors have been on the receiving end of this question: “So, do you think you’ll ever be a real pastor?” No wonder these pastors are often frustrated. Sure, some of them may move on to become lead pastors, but there is a hurtful implication that the job many of us do day in and day out is somehow less valuable because we are not the primary leader. Whether you feel that you are destined to become a “real pastor” some day or not, God has called you to your current position, in your current congregation, for a reason. Be faithful where you are, not stretching for the next big thing. Prove that you can be faithful with a little, and God may give you the opportunity to prove you can be faithful with much. The key is to be faithful, no matter how much or how little you feel like you have. Can you truthfully say along with Paul, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”? (Philippians 4:11). If not, work on your heart and work on being faithful where you are.
2. YOU’RE NOT IN CHARGE, BUT YOU STILL HAVE INFLUENCE.
Just because you don’t carry the title of lead pastor doesn’t mean that people are not looking to you as a leader. Realistically, none of us is in complete control of our lives or circumstances; that’s a position that only God Himself can fill. So first of all, take great comfort in that. Like it or not though, people are watching what you say, what you do, and how you do and say those things. As the great philosopher, Ben Parker (AKA Spiderman’s uncle) said, “with great power comes great responsibility,” or as Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Use every moment to point people towards Jesus Christ, whether you are at the top or the bottom of the Totem Pole (side note: did you know that the bottom place is the most prestigious location on the Totem Pole?) Do not miss an opportunity to show others the Gospel of Jesus Christ; both with your actions and your words.
3. CELEBRATE IN PUBLIC. CRITIQUE IN PRIVATE.
You’re not going to agree with every decision that’s made within your church or organization, and you’re probably not going to agree with everything that your lead pastor or supervisor does or says. That’s good! If you were an identical clone of your supervisor, one of you would not be necessary. But make sure that you are celebrating their successes in public and only critiquing in private. Pitting yourself against anyone else on staff is only going to cause division within the Church. So when you do disagree, do so in private. Submission means putting your own desires and will under someone else’s. First, we must all submit to Christ, but we must also submit to the authorities that are in place over us, for their position is from God (Romans 13:1). If you cannot bring yourself to excitedly celebrate a person or decision, follow Thumper’s rule: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” It’s more important to preserve unity in the body of Christ than for everyone to know that you were right. That being said, if you have expressed your opinions in private, your leadership team will already know where you stood, and you will earn their respect; yes, for “being right,” but more importantly for being respectful and a valuable team member.
4. YOU’RE AT THE TABLE FOR A REASON. SHARE YOUR OPINION.
Finally, remember that you are in your position for a reason, both from God’s standpoint, and from your congregation’s view. They hired you, not somebody else, because they believed that you could do this job. If you’re invited into a meeting, onto a committee, or to be an elder, you belong there, so speak up. I have often sat quietly through a meeting feeling as if I did not belong there, but the truth is if you are at a meeting or on a staff, it’s for a reason. Your opinion matters. By nature, you bring a different perspective than anybody else at that table, and you represent a different aspect of your congregation than anyone else, so it is imperative that you speak for those who may not otherwise have a voice at the table. Keep the above tips in mind as you share your opinion, though, and be respectful of the authority that God has placed above you.