MAN IN THE SHADOW
Some Guidelines For Pastoral Assistants
by Galen Gregg
At the writing of this sentence I am 33 years old. I have been a part of the Jesus name, one God, Apostolic Church since before I was born. I have been in a position to observe many churches, pastors, and people for several years. I obviously am not old and experienced, on the other hand I am not a novice; I make no claim to being an expert. I write the things that follow from a background of some experience in these areas and from a desire to help others along the way. As you read, please take these writings in the spirit they are meant.
Over the years I have been a part of five different local churches and assisted, in one capacity or another, in four of them. I have been involved in two different Christian schools and much district and sectional work. When an example is used, please do not speculate as to who the individual or where the location, you will probably be wrong.
The content of this booklet has been kept short and to the point, practicality is the intent.
It is my sincere hope that what follows is a blessing to you and to the kingdom of God.
Keep In Mind
It would not take long to establish that the scripture shows a place in the Apostolic Church for what we call assistant pastors. Although the term “assistant pastor” is not scriptural, the position certainly is.
An assistant pastor may be called by many titles; pastoral assistant, assistant to the pastor, associate pastor, deacon, etc. There are also many other positions that definitely assist the pastor; secretary, youth leader, minister of music, musicians, janitor, bus captains, bookkeeper, school principal, just to name a few. All of these have their place and are a help and blessing to God’s kingdom. The term “assistant” might apply to any of the above or several which were not named. Specific jobs and job descriptions fall within the authority of the pastor to delegate as he wishes
The first paid position that the pastor needs is a secretary or administrative assistant to help with the general office work. Any busy pastor will have a “mountain” of paperwork and correspondence to keep up with. A secretary can type letters, answer phones, take notes, make phone calls, or any number of other tasks that will be a tremendous help to the pastor and free his time for more important tasks. After a secretary, the pastor will probably want a full-time male assistant to have the beginning of a church staff.
Although the titles mentioned above are not always referred to, the principles that are discussed in this booklet can be applied to all assistant positions.
Always keep in mind, the pastor of the local assembly is the ultimate authority (under God and His word) in all of these matters. If he differs with anything written herein, listen to him. He is right!
To be a good assistant and work as one should, requires a special spirit and attitude. It can be summed up with this statement.
An assistant must, above all, have the attitude of a servant.
If you are a young man approaching appointment in any position as an assistant and you feel like it is an honor, the purpose of which is that all may see you, pray through until you can get the attitude of a servant. It is understood that all who work together with God become the servant of man. It is easy to see, that although the pastor is in a position of authority, he is a servant to the church. The assistant is doubly a servant, not only must he serve God and the saints, he must please the pastor. His feelings, opinions, wishes, and methods must take second place to his pastor’s. In short, he must learn to play second fiddle. I heard Brother David Gray say, “It takes more grace than one can tell to play the second fiddle well.”
When a soloist sings, it is he that leads, it is he that the audience watches, the music is only a compliment to what he does. The music must follow the lead of the soloist. Remember, however, that the soloist is made to sound much better when the music does its part.
God has chosen to lead his church through individual men. It is not the will of God for leadership to rest in the hands of the church board or a committee. I have, at different times, tried to consider what should be done in a particular situation, only to observe the pastor do something completely different than that which I was thinking. Everything turned out perfect. Why was I not able to understand? Because he was smarter that I? Because he prayed more? Because he is wiser? While all of these were probably true, the real reason is, God speaks to the pastor about direction for His church. No assistant should ever feel that God speaks to him “around” the Pastor. Learn to play second fiddle.
While it is true that the assistant takes second place, the young preacher who is an assistant should not stifle his own personality or style. He must simply learn to suppress his personal opinions and defer to his pastor.
This position of “second fiddle” that I speak of, can sometimes cause a real battle within the heart of a man. One of the hardest things to do is to learn to get the task done his way, like he wants, when you think another way is better. This is not to say that you have no freedom to use your own judgement, simply, there will be many times when you must suppress your own wishes and feelings. You must have the attitude of a servant.
The assistant must understand that he is not the pastor. He must also understand that what authority he might use is not his own, but an extension of the pastor’s that has been allotted him. In time, the assistant will gain the respect of the church, at which time it is easy to feel that you “have arrived.” If, at this point, a man begins to “lord it” over the people, he will only create resentment.
I recall a particular instance where an assistant began to think he was “Brother Pastor.” He could not understand why no one wanted to work with him. He had trouble with people being rude to him, and he became frustrated. Remember, work inside of the authority of your pastor. You must keep the attitude of a servant.
The assistant cannot be sensitive or easily offended. If you are new to leadership, prepare for criticism. If you are an “old hand” you know what I mean. Criticizing leadership, while not correct, is as natural as a cow eating grass. Learn to expect it. Criticism is not always bad; you must learn to sift out what is unfair. Use the things that are said as a tool to improve yourself, but do not let it discourage or intimidate you.
Several years ago, in one particular church where I was assistant pastor, I had a most educational experience. Every time I took the pulpit to speak, a particular individual would get up and walk out. I sensed this person did not like me (what tremendous perspicuity), so I began to analyze the reasons. I found that there were several areas I needed to work on. Although, this person had the wrong spirit they really did me a service with their criticism.
The best criticism you will receive will be from those who don’t like you, they can be most objective. Do not be sensitive or easily offended, do not be discouraged or intimidated by criticism. At the same time, do not become callous and hard-hearted. Keep the attitude of servant.
While on the subject of sensitivity, I should touch on your relationship with your pastor. An assistant should not be the type of person that the pastor has to “pet”, or “tiptoe around.” If he barks an order instead of asking sweetly, do not let it bother you. If he neglects to say “Good morning,” think nothing of it. Be a blessing, not one who must be blessed. Have the attitude of a servant.
What I have said should not be interpreted as an injunction to be weak, palsied, or to walk around with your head down. Keep a good positive outlook. Walk around with your chin up. Speak in a straight-forward manner. The assistant should not feel like he is a “wimp.” Be strong, be authoritative when necessary, but remember to keep the correct underlying attitude. The attitude of a servant.
I Timothy 4:12 “. . . be thou an example…”
A carpenter works on his job five days a week, eight hours a day. He can then put his hammer, saw, level and nails away and don other clothes. He may become a surfer, a hobo, a cowboy, or he may dress up in a tuxedo and go out on the town. On Monday he will go back to his tool chest and his hammer, saw, level, and nails are still there, and in good shape. This will not happen with a preacher.
The man who fills the position of assistant pastor will enhance or hinder his ministry by his prayer, his reputation, the way he conducts business, his family, how he handles money, and even how he dresses. Your manner of life has a tremendous effect on whether you are effective. The assistant who always has financial woes is esteemed as a man who cannot be trusted to handle the church’s money wisely. The man whose children are unruly and disrespectful will never be respected as a wise leader. If a leader cannot keep his word or is consistently late, he will be seen as being sloppy and unreliable. Last but greatest of all, if a man does not pray he will have no source from which to draw so that others may be blessed through his ministry. Your manner of life does effect your work and ministry.
Every aspect of your personal life has to have the touch of prayer upon it. The Bible says, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Apply this scripture to your spiritual, social, mental, and even financial life. It is my opinion that any leader in the church should begin their day with prayer; it should be a habit. Part of that prayer should be about self and your own personal growth. Ask the Holy Ghost to show you areas to improve, ask God to help you grow, do not become stagnant. It should be cautioned, at this point, that these prayers should not become a “give-me” time, or “do-for me” time. Pray from a desire to become a better tool for God to use. I will have more to say about prayer in later pages.
It is absolutely essential that an assistant have “a good reputation.” Whole books have been written about this subject, but it remains in the hands of the individual to take appropriate action. It takes a long time to build a good reputation, and it can be lost in a moment. I am not going to address this subject any further at this point. I strongly recommend a deep personal study of I Timothy 3:1-l3 and Titus l:5-9. In addition, a daily reading and meditation of Proverbs goes a long way toward learning to build a reputation and growing in wisdom.
In the midst of the busy schedule you will have, do not neglect yourself and your family. It is possible to “burn out.” This should be guarded against however, do not use “burn out” as an excuse to cover laziness or inefficiency. Some people fall into the bad habit of constantly expressing, to all who will listen, the extent of their exhaustion. This is not an expression of how much they get done or how hard they work, it is a desire to be esteemed as a martyr. Take care of yourself and you will be more efficient. I firmly believe that more can be accomplished by a person who takes a day off occasionally, and tries to get proper sleep, than by the one who works day and night, 7 days a week. Notice, I said tries. There will be times when you get little or no rest. (If you are called upon to do so, do it!) The ideal arrangement is to get 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night (do not try to tell me how little sleep you need, I am not impressed). Take a day, occasionally, for rest and relaxation. It is counter-productive to work so much and so long that you become weary and your mind clouded. You will be far more effective if you take care of yourself.
In addition to proper rest, diet and physical condition have much to do with your ability to function properly. The young minister should not allow himself to become fat or sloppy. A little discipline in amounts and type of food eaten, together with a simple exercise program will take care of that area. Do not ignore this. Your Physical appearance and health will make a big difference in your effectiveness.
Money. If you like money and want plenty of it you are in the wrong business. God will take care of you, it is not the will of God for you to go without what you need.
If you are a full-time assistant, do not expect a big salary. Learn to live within your means. If you are a good steward and use the principles of giving, you will do fine. Do not run-up credit accounts and take out a lot of loans. Use discipline. If you burden yourself with bills and financial worries you will throttle your ability to minister.
I know a man who has been a full-time assistant in a couple of churches, for several years. He left a good secular job to be full-time in the ministry. At first, he and his family had to do without many things and had a difficult time. He was faithful to God, the pastors he worked with, and the churches he served. In time, God took care of him. He now drives a nice car, lives in a nice house, and is able to provide well for his family. All of this happened, not because he made a lot of money, but, because of stewardship, discipline and faithfulness to God. If it falls your lot to sacrifice. Do it. In time God will take care of you. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
To those who are married; do not neglect your family. There will be times that you have to be so busy that you hardly have time to eat and sleep. When such is necessary, give it all you’ve got. However, in the midst of such times, do not forget your family. When your wife says, “I might as well be a widow,” and your children say, “Aw dad, we never see you any more,” it is time to take a time out. I know of situations where the minister’s family became bitter because the work of God took dad completely from them. Do not let that happen to you. Pay attention to your family. It does not take a lot of time to give consistent attention to your children. Take a few minutes to look them in the eye, ask them how things are going, listen to what they say. It is a good idea to have one night a week set aside specifically as family night. Spend that time with them. Take them out after church for a hamburger. Every month or two go for a drive, on a picnic, go somewhere. Father, take your son with you sometimes; he needs to learn how to be a man. The list can go on and on. The man that makes a conscious effort to take care of his family will find a way.
I feel compelled to add a word of caution here. Balance is the key. While attempting to care for his family, a man, if he is not careful, may help them too much. You should not find yourself constantly running errands for your wife, you do not have time. Keep a good balance.
Work on your image. I know about an assistant in a particular church who goes to the office in the morning, in poor condition. He walks in, hair mussed, shoes scuffed, suit wrinkled, shirt dirty, tie askew, and shirt tail hanging out. He is very intelligent, he prays, he loves God, he has a good attitude, he is helpful, he works hard, but his image destroys any concept of respect that people might have for him.
Your image is very important. I know nothing takes the place of prayer, fasting, and the study of the word, but you can negate that effectiveness with a poor image. You are meeting the public, you are working with people; they will respond to you much better if you are clean, neat, and well dressed.
While you may not be able to buy a lot of expensive clothes, you should buy good quality. In the long run you are better off to buy good quality clothing, it will last longer and look much better. Watch for sales. You do not have to spend a lot of money.
Good grooming starts with cleanliness. You are never too busy to shower and shave. Nothing will hurt your image more than a three day’s growth of beard and body odor. Pay attention to yourself! Next, a neat haircut is in order; (I said neat! Do not try to be a prima donna!) Your clothes should be pressed and neat, shirt cuffs clean, tie straight, shirt tucked in, shoes shined, etc. Buy yourself a full length mirror and examine yourself each morning before you leave the house.
Remember that you represent God and your local church. When you hand someone your card and tell them, “I am an assistant pastor at First Pentecostal Church,” they should have a good impression of you. If they feel good about you, then they feel good about the church. You will, in time, build a reputation with those you deal with. In addition, you will have more confidence in yourself. As you walk down the hospital hall, you will be mistaken for a doctor. When you walk into a business you will be greeted promptly and respectfully. Work on your image, a good one will make you far more effective in the kingdom of God. Work on developing a lifestyle, a modus operandi that will be pleasing to God and build a good reputation.
I know two men, very close to the same age, from the same area, with similar educational backgrounds, who ended up in vastly different situations. The first man took a position and did fine for the first year or two. After two years, things began to go downhill. He no longer was respected as before. His operation began to come apart, and finally it ended with a sad collapse. The second man found only success. He always had something fresh and new. He is respected as a man of wisdom, perception, and good judgement. The only difference between the styles of these two men, that I was able to see, is that the first man spent a lot of time working on his house, working at hobbies. Always working. The other man is observed studying, reading. Always well informed. The first man became stagnant. The second man always worked at putting something in so that he had something new to give. You can never expect to give out anything if you never take anything in. Do not become stagnant. It is extremely important that the young man who is an assistant pastor always seeks to improve his mind.
First and foremost, no book or course of study can take the place of reading and studying the Bible. It must, more than any other book, be read, studied, and consumed voraciously on a constant, consistent basis. Daily reading and meditation is very important. Any reading or study done outside the Bible should be done inside the guideline and direction of God’s word. After the Bible, it is my firm opinion that a minister must have several courses of reading and study. There used to be a day when men were proud of their ignorant, backwoods ways. While we do not need pride and the “wisdom of men” we do need to be informed and able to
operate knowledgeably in today’s fast changing world. A daily reading of the local newspaper will keep you informed of what is happening in your city, state, and world. I would caution that 10-20 minutes is plenty of time to read the paper. You do not have time to read the sports page and every human interest article on every page. Be careful, some fall into the trap of a long leisurely reading of the morning’s paper over coffee. Discipline yourself to a few minutes. Next, a good weekly news magazine such as “Time” or “Newsweek” will help you to relate to our society. (Not accept, just understand and relate). It may be your wish to subscribe to some other publications, as they will help you to keep your thinking stimulated and fresh. I would also recommend a good business publication, as part of your work will be related to administration, and it pays to be informed. After these publications, you will have interests inside religious type publications, and perhaps some outside material. I know you will be on a tight budget, so you may try some used book stores. The library is also provided free by our government, take advantage of it. I have enjoyed, over the years, biographies and history books, that have also been helpful to my ministry.
Keep in mind that most of what you read will be written by sinners who do not know God. Study your Bible first and most of all, the other items can find second place. Above all, do not allow your mind to become stagnant, keep it fresh and sharp.
Your Relationship with God
It must be remembered by any person who works at a church, whether they are full-time or not, that the church is not just a corporation or business. While many operations of the church must be run in a business-like manner and there is much to be learned from the business world, the church is a work of the Spirit. There will be business to attend to, money to be handled, buildings to work on, but the focus of your work is not profit. It is people, it is souls. The businessman has no need of anything even remotely religious, but you and I are fools if we think we can be about the father’s business without the touch of God. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” I know of only one way to have the touch of God. It is by prayer.
A wise man said, “No prayer, no power. Little prayer, little power. Much prayer, much power.” A truer statement has never been made. As an assistant you must have the touch of God every day. If you do not pray, your attitude will be wrong. If you do not pray, you will make the wrong decision. If you do not pray, you will be inefficient Although you are working for the pastor, you are ultimately working for God, and you cannot work for Him unless you have a relationship with him. There can be no relationship without prayer. I would recommend some good books that provoke a man to prayer. There are several books written by E.M. Bounds, which are excellent. There is also a compilation of parts of these books, edited by Leonard Ravenhill. These can be a real help in inspiration to prayer. There is no substitute for prayer. Your relationship with God necessitates a time of self examination, a time of allowing God to speak to you. The clay is of no use to the potter if it cannot be molded to his wishes. You will never reach a place with God where you are perfected to the point that He no longer has to shape you. You and I, as servants of God must ever hear the voice of God. There are three main ways in which God may speak to us. Prayer, reading and meditating in His word, and being preached to. The third category, that is, the spoken word, can be very helpful. In addition to regular attendance to church, I heartily recommend a regular program of listening to tapes. Let God speak to you about yourself. That special time when you talk to God and those times when he speaks to you should be very precious. I like to come to the church early in the day, while it is still dark, no one else is there. It is a time when we meet together, my Lord and I. Whenever, wherever, your meeting may be,keep your relationship with God fresh and new.
Your work will fall into two categories. The first, we will call spiritual, that is preaching, teaching, counseling, and praying. The second, we will call secular. That is, the business part of your job. A man that I worked for many years ago taught me a very valuable lesson. He said, “Always remember, the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” Two of the most indispensable tools you will use are a pen and a small pad of paper. The assistant pastor may or may not carry a wallet, comb, and keys, but he must always carry a pen and paper.
I recommend always having three lists; things to do, things to talk to the pastor about and things to talk to God about. If you don’t write it down, you will forget. If you do, you will never forget. As you go through your day there will be things you see that need to be done; the pastor will mention things to you, thoughts will come to mind. Write them down. It is a good idea to start your workday (after praying) by sitting down and formulating your “to do” list. Get organized. A few minutes of careful scheduling can save hours of time. If, during your day, you find yourself going to the same area of town twice, you are probably not organized well enough. You will most likely use the telephone quite often in the course of your day. Learn to develop good telephone habits. Be pleasant without being phoney. Show an interest in people, don’t just push through the business in a cold-hearted manner. Identify yourself so the person knows who they are talking to. When leaving a message for someone, give as much information as you are able without being too lengthy. If you do, you will get better response. As you work with the pastor, realize that you are there to help him, not take up his time. When you talk with him about business take out your list and you can quickly cover all questions. You will not take up his time and you will not forget to ask all necessary questions. Remember that you are there to free his time for more important matters; do not use up his time.
The longer you work with a man, the more you will understand what he expects of you and to what extent. As you begin to feel more comfortable with your boundaries you should begin to “protect” the pastor. There are some things that the pastor wants to handle all by himself, there are others he doesn’t even want to know about. Unfortunately, in every church there are some people who need constant attention. These people can burden the pastor and use up all his time. In time you can learn to protect him by talking to them yourself, or simply by taking a message. I have often taken a telephone call with a conversation such as this. “This is Brother Gregg, Brother Pastor is busy right now, is there something I can do for you?” If it is personal or private they can feel free to say no. If it is a simple, relatively unimportant matter (and it sometimes is) you can write down a message and give it to him later.
One of the biggest parts of your job is to protect your pastor’s time. Take his car to the car wash, take his suits to the cleaners, perform his odd jobs, run his errands. Take on yourself the more mundane work and free his hands to pastor the church – this is your work. If part of your responsibility is praying for the sick then get in the habit of carrying a small bottle of oil. When you go to the hospital, call ahead. The individual may have already been discharged. Find out what room they are in while on the phone, it will save time. Hospital visits don’t need to be lengthy. Find out how they are, pray for them, talk a few minutes, and leave. Most of the time people in the hospital don’t want a lot of visitors. When you pray, you do not have to whisper, but be respectful of others around, do not shout. When it comes to the work that you will do in spiritual areas, there are two things to be remembered. One, prayer is part of our work. Two, you must be careful to harmonize with the pastor.
Everyday, without fail, you must bring your “things to talk to God about” list to prayer. In the course of your labor you will attempt to help many people, but you will find in many cases that there is nothing you can do personally except pray. You become an intercessor. Because you care, you pray. Then you will find as you pray that you begin to care more.
This is a spiritual work, it cannot be done using carnal tools.Computers, typewriters, cars, and telephones can only do a small part of the work. Prayer is part of your job. Prayer is effective, prayer changes things. You must pray. It is extremely important that the assistant is in harmony with the pastor. In any counseling you may do, be it a word of encouragement, or a lengthy conversation, be mindful of agreeing with the pastor. The preaching and teaching you do must not disagree with anything he teaches, it must enhance his ministry. If the church needs rebuking it is not your place to do it You are not the pastor. He will handle those things.
All of this is not to say that you will not have your own opinions. I have worked with more than one man that I disagreed with on some things. They were minor areas and caused no conflict, but I never openly disagreed with them. I never talked, preached, or taught in those areas. I respected his position. He is the pastor. You will probably assist in direction of services. Learn to do a good job. You should be able to lead songs and start choruses. If you cannot, work on doing so. The purpose of the service leader is to encourage worship. I have found that if the service leaders sincerely and enthusiastically enters into worship the congregation will follow.
Experience is the best teacher. The assistant needs to learn to worship with one eye on the pastor. You are there to help him. If he needs help, be alert to help him. If he wants a chorus, be ready. I observed one pastor who absolutely could not sing. He had a certain little motion that meant, “sing a chorus.” Those who worked with him kept a microphone close by and quickly responded. You are there to help him. Make him look good. Be alert to what he needs. You are his assistant.
Your Relationship With Your Pastor
Several years ago a very wise man taught me a little saying. “A good understanding makes for long time friends.” Very Plain and frequent communication is needed between the assistant and his pastor. The assistant must understand what is expected of him. It is a good idea to have a written contractual agreement and, as much as is possible, a job description. If you, as an assistant, do not understand exactly what is expects of you, ask. It is not the pastor’s fault, it is yours.
I believe that a full-time assistant should talk to the pastor at least once a day. It should take no longer than 3 or 4 minutes to fill him in on anything he should know. (Use your list.) The pastor should never be kept in the dark. There are some things he does not need to be bothered with, but if there is the least doubt, mention it and if he wants know more he can ask. You are another set of eyes and ears for the pastor. No one in the church should tell me anything that they do not want the pastor to know. I work for him, I am an extension of him. I am his eyes and ears, and if I think he should know I will tell him.
If you are gathering information for him, type it clearly so he can use it readily. If he needs names, addresses, or phone numbers with the info, have them ready.
When you report to the pastor do it briefly and concisely. Remember, you are there to help him use his time better, not take it up. You must be loyal to your pastor. One time I returned to visit a church of which I had been a member in the past. After service, as I was leaving, someone cornered me to tell of a problem they were having in the church. I suppose they thought their secret was safe with me, but there are no secrets I want to keep from the pastor. As soon as they finished talking, I went straight to the pastor and told him. The situation was an on-going problem that he needed to know about. You must be loyal to your pastor.
Everyone should be afraid to say anything bad about your pastor in front of you. Not because you will tell him (you should not repeat unkind remarks to him) but because you will defend him. Stand by him, be loyal. If for some reason you cannot be loyal, it is time to resign. To the people of the congregation that you serve, it should always appear that you totally agree with the pastor. You should be the first to say amen when he preaches. In doing so, you can have a great impact on the services. If the people see you respond they are apt to follow your lead, get behind the pastor when he preaches. Never, under any circumstances, should you disagree publicly with the man you work with. There will be times you offer your input and give your opinion, but do it very carefully and in the right spirit.
Once a month you should go to the man you work with and specifically ask him if everything is alright. Ask if there is anything you need to do differently. Do not wait for him to tell you, go to him and ask. This will keep good communication lines open and give him the opportunity to talk with you about the way he feels. If, in the process of this meeting, you are told to change something, do it. Do not sulk. Do not pout. Do not have hurt feelings. We do not have time to let our feelings get in the way of the work of God. Make the change or changes necessary, then get on with it! You must pray for your pastor. He has a great responsibility; he needs prayer. In praying for your pastor, two things can be accomplished. First, God will respond to your prayer and bless him. Second, let God speak to you about anything you need to do for him. Sometimes the pastor will hesitate to ask someone to do things for him; let God speak to you in this area. He is the man of God, you are his servant. Hold up his hands.
The assistant must learn to be very ethical in his relationships with other ministers. If you are invited to preach, make sure it’s alright with your pastor. You should have a good understanding with the man you work with as to how outside preaching invitations will be handled. The pastor may want all invitations to go through him. If this is the case, respond to invitations with a request that they “talk to Brother Pastor first” Your pastor may have an agreement that you can accept invitations to preach, if so, fine, however you must remember to notify him as soon as possible. You should not tell him what you are going to do but ask him if it’S Okay with him. Remember, you are working with him and for him, he is the pastor and you must defer to his wishes. Never, under any circumstances should a man speak negatively about his pastor to another minister. If you have a problem with something he is doing, talk to him. If it can’t be talked about, keep your mouth shut. Lastly, always remember that he is pastor. You must defer to him. God does not speak to you about the church without speaking to the pastor. Never forget your place.
Your Relationship With Others
There are two ways in which a man may be put in the position of Assistant pastor. First, a man may be asked to move into the city specifically to assume the position. Second, he may be promoted to the position from his home congregation. The former is by far the easiest situation. The latter is more difficult so I will address it first. When a man is raised from a young age in a particular assembly, or he comes into the church from the world, there is only one element that can cause him to gain respect in the eyes of the people. That element is time.
The saints have seen him fail. They have seen his mistakes. Perhaps some knew him as a little boy. Any of these circumstances will cause them to “look down” on him. Time and faithfulness are the only things that will gain their respect. Be kind, thoughtful, helpful, have a good spirit,work hard, and be patient. In time, things will unfold. A young man, that I am acquainted with, became frustrated shortly after becoming assistant pastor because the people still called him by his first name. He thought they should call him Brother “last name”. Respect cannot be demanded, it must be earned.
When a man moves into a city specifically to assume the position of assistant the people usually do not know him. He should be friendly, personable, make a point to learn names, do all he can to put the people at ease. Walk softly and easy until you become acquainted, then you can let things unfold from there. The assistant pastor may have to sever some intimate friendships. While a man must not feel that he is better than anyone else he must realize that it is different now for him. It is my opinion that a full time assistant should not cultivate friendships among the saints. There are too many ways in which he may be misunderstood. Be friendly to everyone and cultivate friendships with other ministers.
It is a good idea, a young man especially, for an assistant to work at having several good friends who are ministers. You will have a good relationship, even socially, with your pastor, however you need to work at having some other minister friends. Choose men to be your friends who are progressive, forward moving, godly, and prayerful.
It seems that there is a preconceived approach to thinking when it comes to the assistant pastor. It is as follows; An assistant pastor is a young boy whose ministry has not developed fully as yet and in time he will mature to the place that he will pastor a church on his own. This mode of thought has hindered the work of God. Some young men have pushed too hard to arrive at the perceived level of maturity only to wreck their ministry and sometimes a church in the process. Others, who should never pastor, have attempted to make the will of God fit their wishes or ambitions. It is time we understood that there is a God-ordained position of assistant pastor that needs to be filled by qualified, wise, understanding, mature, men. I am acquainted with a man, who has a tremendous dedication and zeal for the work of God. When he was very young he attended a church where several young men his age felt they were called to preach. When this man made no attempt to be licensed or showed no ambition to pastor or evangelize he was questioned by many church members (they needed to keep their nose in their own business instead of where it didn’t belong).
This young, very wise man went to his pastor and said, “I don’t feel the call of God to do anything but be a part of this church. I will be faithful and do my part here.” Was he afraid? No. Did he lack ability? No. Consequent years have shown that he has tremendous ability. Did he lack pulpit ability? No. Many pastors I know cannot preach as well as he. Did he lack wisdom? No. Many times he has shown good judgement in difficult situations. This young man in a very wise way understood that his place was simply to be an assistant. He has been a continual blessing and tremendous help over the years. He has been a far more effective soulwinner than he could ever have been as a pastor. Young men, you must find the will of God for your life. “Make your calling sure.” If your calling is to start a church, do it. If God calls you to evangelize, do it. If God calls you to assist, do it. An assistant pastor is not a second-rate, limited ability, immature minister who ranks somewhere below all others. He is a man who has found his calling and fills a position that cries for qualified men. There have been men who went to a city to start a church who not only failed but “ruined the city” for any chance that a church might be started. In many cases it has taken a long time for the stigma of that failure to be overcome in that city. “Make your calling sure.”
I have observed, for many years, a man who is no longer young, who fills a position as assistant pastor. The pastor that he works with is a tremendously respected man that is esteemed as a minister of tremendous success. Careful observation shows much of his success is due to the fact he has a second man who is effective and efficient, a man he can trust who frees his hands that he may have time to pray, seek God, find spiritual direction. Success would never be achieved as it has without that second man. If you ask him when he is “going out on his own” he will reply “I’m just doing the will of God. He has made his calling sure. This man is not dumb or foolish or immature, he has found a place in God.
In some cases the assistant is a young man who is learning and growing. He will someday leave the church where he is to enter another ministry. In other cases the assistant will be a mature and wise man who is filling a much needed ministry in a very effective way. Assistant pastors should not be perceived as a second-rate, immature man but as a man fulfilling a worthy ministry. If the position of assistant pastor is for you a growing time that will pass, when you move on, make your calling sure. If the position of assistant pastor is for you an arrival. Make your calling sure.
(The above information was published by TRUTH TABERNACLE)
Christian Information Network