Church, Practices, Reflections

Better late than never …

At the United Methodist Church’s School of Congregational Development someone thought to have a conversation about what characteristics are required for a new church’s second pastor. They offered the following insights (after confessing that while they thought to have the conversation, they forgot to invite anybody who had walked that walk. I have been a new church’s second pastor and I could point you to others):

# A Maximizer Strength- Gallup would define it this way, “people strong in the maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.” (Rath and Conchile, Strengths Based Leadership Gallup Press, 2008. p. 203)
# Systems Thinking- is able to build systems that will keep the church on the growing edge of ministry and moving toward multiplication.
# Self-awareness- knows their own unique gifts and strengths for ministry and is not intimidated by the success and popularity of the founding pastor.
# Stick-to-itiveness- understands the dynamics of change a congregation experiences transitioning away from the founding pastor and hangs in there when the waters become choppy (as they will!)
# Better than average administrative skills- helps the church move toward better organization and administrative practices.
# Entrepreneurial traits- is able to help the church think creatively about new venues for ministry. Keeps the congregation from becoming “settlers”.
# Affinity with the Congregation and Mission Field- is a good fit.
# An understanding of the dynamics of new church development- needs to have a thorough understanding of the process or church planting and the uniqueness of this type of ministry.
# Experience in “turn-around” churches- as someone has said, “It is far more difficult to raise the dead than it is to give birth.” The skills gained from helping to resurrect a dead or dying church can prove invaluable to the ongoing development of a newer community of faith.
# Proven fruitfulness in growing ministry- you don’t want a “maintainer” as a second pastor.
# Good Pastoral Care skills- knowing enough about the importance of this to develop systems for pastoral care AND for being someone who has good caring skills.

The item they missed on this list is possibly buried in their fourth point. To be a second pastor in a new church requires first that you have thick skin. After you have checked for their thick skin, check it again, and then check it one more time. It is the first three requirements for a new church’s second pastor. Here’s why. The founding pastor does an incredible work of launching a new church. From inception to crawling, to walking, even running they use their unique gifts to establish a community of faith. Along the way, their congregation comes to see their unique set of gifts, strengths, and even weaknesses as THE qualifications for being a pastor. The judicatory body may be looking at the above list, but the second church pastor will be judged by the congregation by the standard of the founding pastor’s gifts, strengths, and even weaknesses.

I feel pretty confident that I did a good work as a second pastor for the new church plant to which I was appointed. I even embody much of the list above, but consistently I was measured by whether or not I functioned as the founding pastor did. Its unfortunate, but true. It may be the best work of a second pastor to be an interim. Help the congregation deal with the loss of their founding pastor and then transition them to someone with the gifts lifted above. The above list reflects good intents, but it lacks the boots on the ground reality of those of us who have walked as a second pastor in a new church.