Leading From The Second Chair

One of the greatest opportunities God can give a person is the call to full-time ministry.  I’m grateful to have served the local church over 46 years, 33 years as the Executive Pastor, leading ministry from “the second chair”.  

Serving from “the second chair” gave me opportunities to connect with every minister, employee and church member.  Serving in this role is not for the faint of heart. It has its moments. Like playing that “hot corner” position of third base, you must always be alert, ready for anything and know your teammates are ready to help you. I would not trade it for anything.  

Executive Pastors lead from that second chair because they are the first and primary aid to the Senior Pastor.  Building a good relationship of trust, friendship, prayer support, etc., is a must.  Knowing his heartbeat, goals and objectives, mission and vision for the church is essential.  You fill the gap between vision and reality, always thinking “how are we going to get there” with a positive attitude and a solution in mind.  This gives the Senior Pastor freedom to focus on vision, preaching, prayer, and shepherding.

I found myself wearing many different hats and a constantly changing schedule.  I loved that! 

As an Administrator – you ensure that the engine runs smoothly and at full capacity.

As a Catalyst – you envision and empower new ministries, helping light the fires that challenge people to volunteer and get involved in ministry.  Being a strong Catalyst frees the Senior Pastor to cast vision and confidently move on knowing his vision will be executed well. Trusting the Executive Pastor to implement vision, often includes challenging and reinvigorating ministries and many times – CHANGE!

As a Mentor – you sometimes serve as chief of staff, supervising staff and evaluating job descriptions, mentoring and exhorting staff members as deemed necessary. The Mentor is critical to hiring, developing and sometimes transitioning staff and often runs staff meetings and retreats. 

As a Minister – you conduct weddings & funerals, counsel and disciple members, teach a class or small group. You may often fill the pulpit when the Senior Pastor is away. The Senior Pastors I worked with got “short changed” on this one because I was not at my best in the pulpit! You always see the Senior Pastor as the spiritual leader, communicate with him about church ministry and often serve by “taking things off the Senior Pastor’s plate.” Unfortunately, Executive Pastors sometimes have their time fully consumed with meetings and details, and direct ministry can feel distant. 

As an Overseer – this is one of my favorites – if as Administrator you manage then as Overseer you lead.  Once the Administrator ensures the engine is running at full capacity, the Overseer makes sure the car is moving in the right direction. This means attending lots of meetings. Your help may often be needed in guarding and advising on the Senior Pastor’s schedule. A key aspect of the Overseer is implementing church policies and coordinating ministries. The Senior Pastor is at his best delegating responsibility so be ready to follow up once he has passed things off. The key is to confidently “lead from the second chair”, always following and pointing to the Senior Pastor.

If God calls you to be an Executive Pastor, RUN toward it and enjoy serving. If He doesn’t call you to this particular position…RUN, but in the opposite direction!

Written by Bob Gladney – Retired Executive Pastor