Role of the Assistant Pastor

Improving His Mind

It is extremely important for a pastoral assistant to always 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, a minister needs several courses of reading and study. While we do not need pride and the wisdom of the world, we do need to be informed and to operate knowledgeably in today’s fast-changing world.

Reading the local newspaper will keep a person informed of what is happening in his city, state, and world. Down to twenty minutes is plenty of time to spend reading the newspaper. A person does not have time to devour the sports section and every human interest article in the newspaper. Some fall into the trap of a long, leisurely reading of the morning’s paper, but a preacher needs to discipline himself to spend only a few minutes.

Next, a good weekly news magazine such as U.S. News and World Report and Newsweek helps a person to understand society and the meaning of events. Other publications may also help keep a person’s thinking stimulated and fresh. For example, a good business publication can be helpful in areas of church administration. Some religious publications make us aware of the events and views of other organizations.

An assistant is usually on a tight budget, so he may shop at used bookstores. The library is also a free source for reading, so a preacher should take advantage of it. Over the years various secular books, such as biographies and histories, have been helpful to ministers.

Since much of what a person reads will be written by sinners who do not know God, he must study the Bible first and let the other items find second place. Above all, he must not allow his mind to become stagnant; it must be fresh and sharp.

His Relationship with God

The church is not just a corporation or business. While many operations of the church are run in a businesslike 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 the assistant’s work is not to make profit. It is to serve people. The businessman may feel no need of anything even remotely religious, but we are fools if we think we can be about the Father’s business without the anointing of God. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1) And the way to have the touch of God is by prayer.

A wise man said, “No prayer, no power. Little prayer, little power. Much prayer, much power.” An assistant must have the touch of God every day. If he does not pray, his attitude will become wrong. If he does not pray, he will make wrong decisions. If he does not pray, he will be inefficient in administration, teaching, and preaching. Although he is working for the pastor, he is ultimately working for God, and he cannot work for Him unless he has a relationship with Him. There can be no relationship without prayer.

There are some good books that provoke a man to prayer, including those by E. M. Bounds, Leonard Ravenhill, and our own Denzil Holman. These books can be a real help in inspiration to prayer.

Our relationship with God necessitates a time of self-examination, a time of allowing God to speak to us. The clay is of no use to the potter if it cannot be molded to his wishes. We will never reach a place where we no longer need God to shape us. As servants of God, we must ever hear the voice of God, and there are three main ways through which God may speak to us: prayer, reading and meditating of His Word, and preaching. 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 sermon tapes.

That special time when we talk to God and He speaks to us should be very precious. I like to come to the church early in the day, while it is still dark, and no one else is there- It is a time when my Lord and I meet together. Regardless of when and where a person meets with God, it is important to keep one’s relationship with God fresh and new.

His Work

An assistant’s work falls into two categories. The first is preaching, teaching, counseling, and praying. The second is administration.

A man whom 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 a person will use are a pen and small pad of paper. The assistant pastor may or may not carry a wallet, comb, and keys, but he must always carry pen and paper.

I recommend having three lists: things to do, things to talk to the pastor about, and things to talk to God about.

If we do not write things down, we forget. As we go through our day, we will see things that need to be done, the pastor will mention things, and thoughts will come to the mind. Each one needs to be written down.

It is a good idea to start the work day (after praying) by sitting down and formulating a “to do” list. A few minutes of careful scheduling can save hours of time. If during the day we find ourselves going to the same area of town twice, we are probably not organized well enough.

An assistant will most likely use the telephone quite often in the course of his day, so he should develop good telephone habits. He should be pleasant without being phony. He need to show an interest in people, rather than rush through the conversation in a coldhearted manner. He should always clearly identify himself so that the other person knows who he is. When leaving a message for someone, he should give as much information as he is able without being lengthy. In this way he will get a better response.

As the assistant works with the pastor, he should realize that he is there to help him, not to take up the pastor’s time- When he talks with the pastor about business, he should have a list so that he can quickly cover all questions and subjects. He is there to free the pastor’s time for more important matters.

The longer an assistant works with a pastor, the more he will understand what is expected of him and the extent of delegated authority and responsibility. When the assistant is comfortable with his boundaries, he should then “protect” the pastor. Some things the pastor will want to handle all by himself; other things he does not want to know about. Unfortunately, in every church some people demand constant attention. These people can burden the pastor and use up all his time- In time, an assistant can find ways to protect the pastor, such as talking to attention-starved people or simply taking a message. He can also assume responsibility of more mundane work to free the pastor’s hands for other church matters.

If the pastor delegates to the assistant the responsibility to pray for the sick, then he should carry a small bottle of oil. When he is to visit people in the hospital, he should call ahead. The patient may have been discharged. He can also find out the patient’s room number while he is on the phone.

Hospital visits do not need to be lengthy. He should ask how the patient is, pray for him, talk a few minutes, and then leave- Most of the time patients in the hospital do not need or want a lot of visitors in the room. When we pray, we do not have to whisper, but neither do we have to shout. It is a Christian rule to be respectful of others-patients, visitors, and hospital workers.

Every day an assistant should cover his list of things to talk to God about when he prays. In the course of his labor, he will attempt to help many people, but in many cases there is nothing he can do personally except to pray. So he becomes an intercessor. Because we care, we pray. And as we pray, we will begin to care more.

Our work is spiritual; 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 our job. Prayer is effective; prayer changes things. We must pray as part of our work.

It is extremely important for the assistant to be in harmony with the pastor. In any counseling he may do, be it a word of encouragement or a lengthy conversation, he must be mindful of agreeing with the pastor. The preaching and teaching he does must not disagree with anything the pastor teaches; it must support his ministry. If the church needs rebuking, it is a task for the
pastor, not the assistant.

This is not to say that an assistant will not have his own opinions. I have worked with more than one man with whom I disagreed on some matters. 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 the position taken by the pastor.

Since an assistant will probably assist in the direction of services, he should learn to do a good job. He should be able to lead songs and start choruses. If he cannot, he can work on this area. The purpose of the service leader is to encourage worship. If he sincerely and enthusiastically enters into worship, the congregation will follow. Experience is the best teacher.

The assistant needs to worship with one eye on the pastor. If the pastor needs help, the assistant should be ready to help him. One pastor could not sing, but he had a certain little motion that meant, “Sing a chorus” Those who worked with him kept a microphone close by and responded quickly. The assistant is there to help the pastor, to make him look good, and to be alert to what he needs. 0

The above was published in Forward, April-June, 1991, pp. 8,9.