The topic of this blog post is ministry teams, which is different from multi-staff ministry. I learned this key difference from Pastor Christiansen at Webster Gardens Lutheran Church. He expressed that in team ministry everyone is working together! In team ministry a well-defined mission and vision statement is key. In a church with multiple staff and more than one pastor, the mission statement and vision statement is what brings every department, every ministry into alignment with one another. Every ministry department has the same goal, the same objective. If one ministry within the church hits a home-run, the youth ministry for example, then every ministry hits a home-run, because every ministry has shared alignment and buy-in to every ministry’s success, because everyone is on the same team with the same standard of what it means to hit a home-run. Pastor Christiansen explained that in multi-staff ministry everyone is playing a different game; a home-run for youth ministries wouldn’t be a home-run for senior ministries. Another fascinating element to Christiansen’s explanation is that he said some churches will have two pastors who take turns giving the sermons, take turns doing the funerals, take turns doing, well — everything. He said this is also a sign of multi-staff ministry. One has the label of senior pastor, but they both essentially have the same job. In team ministry, the pastors have different roles on the team – their jobs are vastly different, which is how it is on sports teams. The pitcher is not the catcher.
From Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson’s book, Leading from the Second Chair, two paradoxes of being an associate pastor stood out to me. They are the seeming contradictions of being both a leader and a subordinate at the same time and being called to have a narrow, specifically focused ministry while also being involved in the breadth of all the ministries in the church. Concerning the paradox of being a subordinate-leader, I found the section on testing my subordination to be the most helpful and eye-opening. As a teacher, when administration made decisions that had a direct negative impact on my role and ability to meet my teaching goals, I would typically openly disagree and directly challenge their decision, or I’d simply continue with my job, frustrated and angry, which of course would impact my teaching ability. I rarely could stay involved without confrontation or without being eaten up with bitterness. I also did not do a good job of hiding my feelings and thoughts even when not speaking.
All of these struggles I have in subordination could stem from my ESTP personality (which has been defined as a “laws don’t apply to me” personality), my Eagle-Disc personality, and political leadership style, but after reading Leading from the Second Chair, and from hearing Pastor King speak on his relationship of being Pastor Christiansen’s second chair, I have walked away much more comfortable being a second chair pastor (if that is where God will place me) knowing how my strengths can be utilized in this position of leadership, while having a better understanding of what to do with my weaknesses.
For instance, I work well in an environment where my strengths are recognized and my opinion is respected and held in high value. I also do well when I’m given freedom to rule, lead, and reign in my assigned job task with little to no interference from my administrators, as long as I keep meeting or exceeding my administrator’s set target marks for my job. As an associate pastor, I’ll be given the opportunity to excel and be respected for my expertise in a particular focus of ministry, while at the same time have the opportunity to have influence across the entire breadth of the church’s ministry. I’ve also noticed that my previous administrators would come to me for input and guidance on certain key decisions that they knew I’d be able to provide valuable input as well as being recruited a few times to be a source of influence for getting other teachers on board with big changes they had decided to make or to serve as a helper in the transition. Looking back, I can see how poisonous I was when the executive decision didn’t go as I had wanted. Now, I see the value of letting some decisions go and never speaking ill publicly of such decisions and just take the lumps, knowing that the lead chair takes the brunt of all the hits for the team when the team misses the mark or fails.