Category: Article

The Second Chair Leader

Article Written By: Jeff Young, Executive Pastor at Champion Forest Church in Houston, TX

More and more these days, Ministers of Discipleship are being asked to wear multiple hats. Instead of focusing solely on discipleship/evangelism and equipping people, some are responsible for coordinating the entire ministry of their church. While the title given to this position varies from church to church, as do the responsibilities of a “second chair leader”, there are some components that are “non-negotiables” for those serving in this capacity.

What is meant by “The Second Chair”?

The person serving in this role is responsible for taking the vision of the Senior Pastor and Church and translating it into reality. This person’s influence and broad-based skill set adds value throughout the organization, not just to one team.

What are the chief components of a “Second Chair Leader” for effectiveness?

  1. Loyalty to the Senior Pastor and to the organization: when it comes to vision, direction and strategy, the staff and membership need to see you as one with the Senior Pastor.
  2. Relationship builder: due to time demands, multiple teams and multiple staff members, you must be able to build positive, trust-based relationships to ensure that implementation and growth occurs.
  3. Humility: while this is always a desirable trait, the Second Chair leader must demonstrate not only a willingness to work through others and see them get credit but be committed to working through others.
  4. Big picture thinking: you must have the ability to see the larger picture of how education ministry fits with the Church’s strategy and not just think education ministry first. In other words, while one’s heart may beat most passionately for discipleship and equipping, in this seat, it must beat passionately for the whole scope of the ministry.

What are some tips for effectiveness as the “Second Chair Leader”?

  1. Communication is everything: know when the right time to discuss issues is and what the right way to discuss them is. With my Pastor, I try to “live inside his head”, i.e., to understand the rhythms of his week.
  2. Be patient: building trust takes time; demonstrating commitment, a “what-ever-it-takes” attitude and loyalty will earn trust.
  3. Keep short accounts: relational capitol must remain high between you and the Senior Pastor.

Mike Bonham, in Leading from the Second Chair, mentions three paradoxes that explain the complexity of this position. The paradox multiples when you realize you must be proficient at both sides of the “and”.

  • Creative thinker & detailed implementer: one must effectively untangle messes and remember one decision can ripple through the entire ministry.
  • Subordinate & leader: you have to lead like the Pastor doesn’t exist but knowing full well that he does.
  • Contentment & dreaming: obviously as a Christ-follower God has given each of us dreams and yet in this role you have to hitch your wagon to someone else’s dream. It’s your responsibility to get on the same page that he is on.

At times, the Second Chair is a lonely seat. Venting is problematic because you must remain loyal to your Pastor; therefore talking to subordinates and members is off-limits. It can be a thankless seat in that no one will acknowledge how hard the work is because they don’t (and can’t) understand what it feels like to be responsible for the entire ministry.

Ultimately, remember to ask, “God where are you working in this and what do you want to teach me?” Remember that you are performing for an audience of one. In Christ’s eyes, leading, equipping and serving His bride is the most important job in the world…no matter the seat.

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