Recently I sat down with some of our staff and went over what it looks like to lead from the second chair. Throughout my time in ministry I have had multiple conversations with Student Ministers, Children’s Ministers, Associate Pastors, and other second chair leaders in the church who were frustrated with their Lead Pastor. While I understand their frustration at times, this is also a very dangerous place. Few things undermine the growth and health of a church more than strife between second chair leaders and their Pastor. There are ways to lead from the second chair to bring effective change to any organization, and it’s not by self-promotion or self-deprecation. It’s by respectful and intentional leadership. Here are some principles to remember if you’re one of the people supporting the first chair leader.
DREAM WITHIN A DREAM
Great leaders inspire others. They dream. However, as a second chair leader you must dream within THE dream. The dream the Lord has placed in the heart of the Lead Pastor is the dream from which your dream must be born. Now, there are dreams for your ministry and dreams for your life and those are much different. I’m talking about your dream for the ministry you currently lead as a second chair leader. Our mission at Living Hope is to make disciples of Christ by launching new churches with childcare centers in them. We challenge our people to know God, grow in community, and go and make disciples. We celebrate gospel conversations, baptisms, accountable discipleship relationships, hours on mission, families invested in our mission, and the amount of money they’ve invested. So, the job of our student ministry, children’s ministry, lifegroups ministry, and so on and so forth is to make disciples and promote gospel conversations, baptisms, and serving on mission in Clarksville and around the world. The job of every ministry is to get people to know God, grow in community, and go and make disciples. Also, we are launching two new churches with childcare centers in them over the next 5 years, so all we do is centered around that multiplying vision. So, every ministry owns this dream and focuses their strategic effort on it.
SOLVE PROBLEMS DON’T CREATE THEM
Every organization has a “realist”. You know, that person who says it’s his job to shed light on reality for everyone else. Realist is just another name for pessimist, and nobody likes or follows a pessimist. One of my pet peeves concerning staff members is when they bring up things that need to be fixed in a staff meeting without offering any solutions. This is a huge no-no as a second chair leader. Noticing a problem doesn’t make you valuable to the team, fixing it does. When you see a problem take time to chew on it. Think on it and pray over it. How can it be improved and how can you assist in that improvement? Now, if details in someone else’s ministry are what need to be fixed then you may want to simply leave that alone, but if it’s part of the big picture of the church or organization then think through a solution. Once you’ve come up with it bring it to the table with respect and humility. You can present it by saying something like, “I have some thoughts on how we might be able to do such and such better. Would it be okay if I shared those thoughts?” You could also say, “You know, we’ve been discussing this topic lately and I went and did some research on that. Do you mind if I share what I found?” This shows initiative, respect, and a desire to see the team as a whole succeed. The worst thing you can do is say, “Well, I’ll tell you what the problem is…” while offering no solution.
RESPOND DON’T REACT
Unfavorable circumstances are going to come your way as a second chair leader. There are inevitably going to be things in the heart of the head leader that you didn’t see coming. He or she is going to make an abrupt change every now and again. The first chair leader is going to recruit one of your best leaders to do work for the projects, events, or programs he or she leads. Resources have to be trimmed from time to time. When unfavorable circumstances come your way don’t get up in arms over them. Take a deep breath, say a little prayer, then digest it. It shows great emotional maturity when you receive discouraging news and remain calm. Reactionary leadership is impulsive, emotional, and unintentional. It is born out of disappointment and/or disagreement, and any decisions made from a negative point of view will be detrimental both to you and the team. Think it over. Consider the big picture. Pray about it. Then adjust. Good first chair leaders will certainly know they threw you a curve. You may not be able to hit a homerun on the curve, but you can adjust and get a solid base hit if you’ll respond with self-control and not react in emotion or disappointment.
FINISH WORK BEFORE YOU PRESENT IT
Never come before your superiors with incomplete work and ask them to complete it with you or for you. Sometimes in an effort to look busy young or inexperienced leaders will bring up unfinished projects, events, or programs in a meeting. As a second chair leader remember that you prove your value through completing tasks, finishing work, setting and accomplishing goals, and reproducing leaders under you not by creating more work for your co-workers or superiors. If you need or desire assistance on a project, system, or process merely make it a point of communication that you would like to connect with your supervisors and get their input. Otherwise, do the hard work of recruiting leaders, generating material, communicating changes, rallying the troops, and whatever else it takes to do the job well. Once you have the pieces in place then present the finished product in a meeting. Keep in mind, if your superiors have to ask you about a project and where you’re at before you have finished it you may have waited too late to get started on it or are doing too little organizationally for it to succeed. If the first chair leader is thinking on it before you are that’s probably an indication you need to get started on it earlier next time.
REMEMBER YOUR ROLE
Every organization is like a football team. There is a quarterback and there are offensive players. There is a defensive captain and there are defensive players. The quarterback receives the play from the coach and brings it to the team. Same goes for the defensive captain and the defense. In the Church Jesus is the Coach calling the plays and the Lead Pastor is the quarterback. His job is to get with the Coach, bring the play to the huddle, and get everybody in position to score a touchdown for the sake of the gospel. Now, as important as the quarterback is the rest of the offense is also important. If the receivers don’t run the right routes then passes will be incomplete. If the running backs don’t run the right play then the offense will sputter. If the offensive line doesn’t protect the quarterback then the ball will never get thrown downfield. Each player has his role, and the same is true in any organization. Just because you’re not the Lead Pastor doesn’t mean you’re unimportant. There is no one else on this team who can do what you do, you are extremely important! You are the only anointed and called leader to lead the ministry you serve. You prove your value in the little things not the big things. Big responsibility is the reward of faithfulness in the little stuff, so do it right.
I hope this helps. I still remember those days serving as a student minister and the lessons I learned through that time were invaluable. I am forever grateful to the mentors in my life who taught me how to lead and for the experiences, both positive and painful, that helped shape my life and ministry. As a second chair leader, embrace your role and grow. Learn and gain wisdom. As you do the Lord will continue to increase your territory and give you more and more opportunity to impact the nations for Christ.