Leading from the Second Chair


When asked what the most difficult instrument to play was, Leonard Bernstein replied it was the second fiddle. So many people want to be the leader, they want to be in the limelight. The same thing is true many times in ministry. It can be very difficult to be called by God to serve in ministry under the leadership of another.

For thirteen years of my ministry, I served as a youth pastor. I served with some wonderful pastors, and one or two that presented challenges. My last youth ministry position was under the leadership of the best pastor I’ve ever had the privilege of serving. He cast the vision for the direction of the church, empowered his staff ministers to lead in their ministry areas, and then supported them in their ministry.

One valuable lesson I learned was the ability to lead from the second chair. I found that the senior pastor was willing to give me the opportunity to make decisions when he understood that I wanted to achieve the same goals that he wanted to achieve. The following three items are helpful to successfully lead from the second chair.

  1. Never contradict the senior pastor in public or in private. If you have a different opinion, go privately to him to discuss it, but if you still disagree you must conform to his leadership. He’s responsible to God for the direction of the church.
  2. Whatever your role, do it as a humble servant to the glory of God. Remember Col. 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
  3. Make up your mind that the best way to serve the church is by making sure the senior pastor is successful. Do your best to anticipate what he will need in order to accomplish his ministry goals.

You may ask, “So what if I do this and the pastor takes credit for my work?” My response is what is your motivation for ministry? Are you doing it to get credit/praise, or are you doing it to expand the kingdom of God? If you seek the praise of man, that will be your reward. Let me encourage you to seek to be obedient to Christ and receive the reward of the inheritance rather than the praise of man.


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