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Five reasons to pay attention to who’s in the second chair

By Tim Spivey

The importance of “second-chair” leadership has become an important topic of discussion in ministry circles over the last 10 years or so. Allow me to add my voice to that chorus. A quality executive pastor (XP) alongside a gifted lead pastor/minister (LP) affords the church to grow to full development.

Here are five reasons (though there are many more) having a quality executive pastor (aka church administrator) is important. Some you may have heard before. Some are from my own experience.

5. They offer someone with intimate knowledge of the church and some degree of positional authority to handle situations requiring such in the life of the church. This assumes the XP and the lead minister are of one mind. If they are, the church is blessed. If someone needs “approval” for something, or a particularly dicey situation arises, two is better than one.

4. They keep an eye on the blind spots of many senior ministers. Senior ministers tend to be drawn to the big picture and teaching. They tend to neglect the “how” of the big picture and the financial side of the church. I know some lead ministers who are really good with details and church finance. We shouldn’t assume they can’t do it. It’s that if given the choice, their primary ministry passion lies elsewhere. So some vital areas of church ministry often go less cared for.

3. They provide friendship to the lead minister when they are left lonely by unpopular decisions. Leadership is sometimes a lonely enterprise. One gift I’ve always had is that I’ve always had at least one devoted friend, other than my wife Emily – and my parents. This doesn’t mean the XP always agrees with the lead minister. It means friendship doesn’t waiver with opinions on ministry matters. Jon Mullican and Randy Armstrong have not only been among those I work closest with –they have been amazing friends. This is huge when the going gets really rough. This isn’t to say a minister shouldn’t be willing to stand completely alone if need be. It’s just that it isn’t wise to do it often.

2. They can keep the elders/board from feeling as though they need to handle facilities, finance and the technical side of H.R. personally. The benefits of this are self-evident.

1. The single most important role an XP plays is as consigliere to the lead minister. They are the chief advisor. I’ve always held whichever XP I’ve worked with as my closest confidant in ministry. They’ve offered unique perspectives, challenging words and words of affirmation at absolutely crucial times. I’m not talking about friendship. I’m talking about a vital ministry function – sound counsel. If I were an elder/board member, it would help me sleep better to know the lead minister talks through significant decisions with someone else I know, trust and respect. However, I have seen cases where church boards have a tough time listening to the XP if he or she consistently support the vision of the lead minister. They think they are simply a “yes man” or “yes woman.” Usually, they are just of one mind. It may be they worked hard to get there through lengthy and spirited discussion. But, if an XP and LP are of one heart on something – that’s almost always a good thing, not a bad thing.

If your church cannot afford a full-time or part-time administrator, let me encourage you to find a layperson that can fill some portion of that role for now. XPs are vital to the well-being of the church for the reasons mentioned above – and then some. They are also usually good for the emotional and spiritual health of the lead minister – which is also good for the church.

Dr. Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book “Jesus, the Powerful Servant.”

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