The View is Different
For the first several years in ministry, I served in what Bonem & Patterson would call "Second Chair" roles, as a volunteer, part-time, and finally full-time. If you're not familiar with the term, Second Chair leader is "a person in a subordinate role whose influence with others adds value throughout the organization." Second Chair leaders are expected to have the influence of leadership without necessarily holding the position of leadership. So as a Second Chair, you have a "Deep & Wide" influence, deep in your own particular ministry area, but wide as you serve the church/organization as a whole.
But for the last year and a half, I've served in a First Chair role as a Senior Pastor. And I gotta tell you, the view is different from here.
1. The "Weight of Glory" Every Sunday - Each week when I stand in the pulpit, nearly 200 people are expecting God to say something through me. I can't have an "off Sunday" and it not affect people. There's a weight behind the urgency of preaching--convictionally and compassionately, informing and transforming, and the need for speaking clearly, not popularly.
2. The Responsibility to Staff - As a Second Chair, the most important thing was when I knew my First Chair was in my corner. Sadly it didn't always happen that way. But as a First Chair now, I see the responsibility to my team. There's a burden for them professionally, to absorb and protect them from the stings of criticism, to go to bat for them when I need to, and to help encourage their faithfulness. But there's also personal burden, to pray for them, to listen, to invest in their families.
3. The Burden of Knowing - Some of the most blissful time in ministry was as a volunteer. I didn't know anything and I was blissfully naive for it. But as a First Chair, there's knowing. There's knowing whose marriages are hanging by a thread, whose families are dealing with crises, who's not happy with the vision of the church, knowing and more knowing.
4. The Burden of Responsibility - Along with the Burden of Knowing is the Burden of Responsibility. Even though I'm tone deaf, there's a responsibility for the Music Ministry. I'm a guy but I'm responsible for the Women's Ministry. No matter what happens in the life cycle of the church, as a First Chair I feel a burden of responsibility for the successes.
5. The Freedom to Dream - It's hard to be subordinate as a Second Chair, especially when it doesn't feel like there's a vision or direction. But as a First Chair, I've got the freedom to dream, to cast vision, to put out there a blueprint of what God's calling us to. And what's amazing is that people want me to dream. They want me to cast vision. And there's freedom in finding what God would have for us as a Church.
6. The Never-Ending Humbling - God uses our experiences often to remind us our need to be chiseled. We need our pride chiseled. We need our humility brought out. And that happens often when we see God at work. It's easy for us to point the finger to ourselves and think we had something to do with it. But then we see 1 Corinthians 3 and we're reminded that we're nothing, God does the work. More often our successes are less because of what we do and more because we're out of the way.
7. The Surprising Power of Presence - I'll never forget the time when I was a youth pastor wanting to make a hospital visit only to be told they wanted the "real pastor" to see them. That stung. But I've learned how amazing that presence factor is. How flattered people are that "the pastor called me." And I have to sit back and be amazed because I'm just some guy, and for some reason in God's kindness that presence means something. As First Chair leaders, our presence can be calming, can be unifying, can be the voice of reason when the cops get called at a funeral (that happened!), and can simply be an extension of God's grace in the midst of chaos.
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Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.