We associates are part of a team, and in my estimation the best team members help teammates up when they are down. They cover for one another when one is not functioning at full capacity. They assist one another through personal, professional, physical, spiritual, and all other crises. Sometimes you may be the one struggling and the help of good teammates will be invaluable. Other times you will need to be aware of another’s struggle and do all you can to help them through their tough time.
If the person in crisis is the lead pastor though, you need to be careful. As the associate I believe it is your role to pick up the mantle where necessary, cover for the struggling leader, and do your best to keep the congregation functioning well. But there are several pitfalls to avoid. When your lead pastor is struggling, here is my best advice:
- Don’t overstep – Very, very few lead pastors will come to their staff to say, “I am struggling and need help for a season.” While it may be obvious to you the lead pastor needs to focus on themselves, it may not be so obvious to her. Like many of us, some lead pastors will seek to avoid their problems by burying themselves in busyness. Feel out the situation and make sure your help will not be misunderstood as overstepping your authority, job description, or role. Ask if you can help, “Hey, I can go to that meeting tomorrow night if you could use a break. Anything you want me to bring to it?” I have seen many associates misread a crisis, assume some of the lead pastor’s tasks, and find themselves in hot water with the pastor or their supervising committee over it. Be careful. Be gentle. Ask. Move slowly. This is a tricky time.
- Don’t look for recognition – Do not step up to further your career, build your fan base, or see if you can handle being a lead pastor. You need to take on these extra responsibilities for the good of the congregation, not yourself. Do not be surprised if no one seems to notice. They probably won’t say anything, but trust me, they notice. Any affirmation of you may be seen as condemnation to the lead pastor who is already in crisis. LIke much of your role as an associate, humility is key.
- Delegate like crazy – You cannot do it all. Let me repeat that, you cannot do it all! If you take on too much, you will soon be in crisis too, and of little help. Assess what you need to do, what can be delegated, and what can be postponed or dropped. There are not enough hours in the week to lead your primary area well and take on all this other responsibility. Make sure your area of responsibility is well cared for by the leaders you have mentored. Keep in touch with those leaders. Give them freedom to make mistakes. Treat them as you like to be treated as an associate.
- Do not try to be the lead pastor – Remember these six words, “I am not the lead pastor.” You may be overseeing some of his responsibilities for a time, but you are not the lead pastor. You have been called to be the associate. Love your job and do it well.
- When it’s over, it’s over – When the lead pastor comes through the crisis, or a new lead pastor arrives on the scene, you need to facilitate, and not fight, the transition. You are not now co-pastoring the congregation. You have not been promoted to some new, unofficial status. When the crisis has ended, you may need to re-read your job description to remind yourself of your role in the congregation.
As an associate, you can be a great asset to your congregation in difficult times. Do it well.
Do you have any tips for what to do or not to do when the lead pastor is in crisis?