A Good Assistant Pastor Is Hard to Find
Good assistant pastors are hard to find. I don’t say this because I am one. I say this merely from observation and as the hearer of too many horror stories.
WHAT MAKES A “GOOD” ASSISTANT PASTOR?
A good assistant pastor must be marked by the same things as any other pastor. He must possess a love for God, his Word, and his people. He needs to be strong and winsome, a teacher yet teachable, a man of prayer and action. Yet, he also must possess additional qualities. He is not only called to serve the congregation, but also the senior pastor. Whatever his “job description” may be, he must understand that he is assisting. This is essential. Here are some things a good assistant pastor is marked by, traits that, Lord willing, I will strive to acquire more and more of in my life and ministry.
1. A good assistant pastor is unflinchingly loyal, but not enamored.
A good assistant pastor never sets himself up as a perennial rival to the senior pastor. His loyalty is never in question. There are those in every congregation looking for breaches in this vital relationship, and they will gossip about it, feed it, and angle for it. Some will sweetly whisper ego-boosting temptations, “You would’ve handled that better” or “If only you were preaching more” or “I could see you as the senior pastor of this church someday.”
A good assistant pastor will have nothing to do with such machinations. He’ll refrain at all times from speaking ill of the senior pastor. Gossip, innuendo, and complaints find no listening ear with him because everyone knows he is the senior pastor’s man. But even as he is to be loyal, so, too, is it essential that he is not enamored. He is the senior pastor’s right-hand man, never his worshipper. He is a co-laborer, not a sycophant—and he ultimately labors for the Lord and his glory.
2. A good assistant pastor is a listening friend, but one who speaks winsomely.
A good assistant pastor will pursue a dynamic, self-sacrificing, and encouraging relationship with the senior pastor. Often, the senior pastorate is a lonely and demanding position, so many men occupying it craves a reliable friend. Though they may not take family vacations or watch sporting events together, the senior pastor has reason to count his assistant pastor as a trusted friend.
In a good assistant, the senior pastor will find a kind and listening ear, a co-laborer who gives him the benefit of the doubt, and an encourager who willingly hears his struggles but never uses them against him. He provides refreshment, ease in conversation, and a support in times of trouble. He’s a listening friend. Yet, he will speak the hard word when necessary—always with humility and almost always behind closed doors. He will be willing and courageous enough to do so. The senior pastor should welcome this, recognizing his need for it because no matter how gifted he may be, he is still mere man—one who needs the wise counsel, gentle correction, and firm rebuke from a friend.
3. A good assistant pastor faithfully follows and successfully leads.
A good assistant pastor will know his role is one of support and following. He does not lead the church and is perfectly satisfied implementing another’s vision. He willingly receives direction. He will not grumble, chafe, or rebel, and when entrusted with tasks or areas of ministry, constant supervision is unneeded because the job will get done.
This requires not only the knowledge, but the ability to lead. Others willingly follow him. If congregants are not willing to follow an assistant pastor, then his assistance to the senior pastor and the church is limited. The senior pastor requires relief, but no relief comes when his assistant will not or cannot step in the gap.
4. A good assistant pastor operates behind the scenes, and willingly shields the senior pastor.
A good assistant pastor does not require the limelight. Humility marks him as he happily labors for the glory of God behind the scenes. He knows and embraces the fact that much of his ministry will go unrecognized. It is not as visible as the weekly preaching, the administering of the sacraments, or even leading the elder meetings—and he’s fine with that. In truth, he rejoices at the senior pastor’s ministry “success” and recognition. It delights him.
And yet, even as he operates behind the scenes, he willingly shields his senior pastor from unnecessary conflict and difficulty. At times, he will thrust himself to the forefront in an effort to spare the senior pastor and protect his pulpit ministry. And when he does so, he does not play the martyr, but rather the gentle and caring under-shepherd.
A good assistant pastor can be one of the greatest blessings a local church enjoys, or it can be one of its greatest struggles. He possesses the ability to support or divide, build or tear down, encourage or discourage. He can be a help or a detriment, a drain on the energies of the church and the senior pastor or one of their greatest refreshments. If you are a good one, keep at it. If you are looking for one, choose carefully. And if you have one, thank him.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared at The Christward Collective.