Helping to lead a church can be easier when you’re the senior pastor than if you’re serving in a subordinate role. As a “second chair leader,” you may have lots of good ideas and plenty of enthusiasm, but not much power or authority.


That doesn’t mean you can’t successfully influence your church for the better, though. In fact, you can help improve your church at every level through wise leadership, even when you’re not in charge.


Here’s how you can lead well while serving in a subordinate role:


Develop strong relationships. Realize that your primary strength as a leader won’t come from your job position, but from the relationships you build with others throughout your church. Work to build relationships marked by trust and respect. Expect that your influence with other people will help you add value to your church as a whole. Know that your contributions as a leader are vital to help your church perform well.


Deal with the subordinate-leader paradox. Manage your relationships well. Understand that your church’s senior pastor is not your adversary. Know that you can accomplish a great deal if you work together well. Understand the line that defines which decisions you can make without consulting the senior pastor, which ones require his approval, and which you shouldn’t even approach on your own. Earn the senior pastor’s trust and work with him as a team player. Support him through your loyalty and encouragement. Keep him informed of all significant issues or undertakings as they come up.


Deal with the deep-wide paradox. Manage your work habits well. Recognize that, while your specific role in the church is likely narrower and deeper than that of the senior pastor, you still need to have a broad, organization-wide perspective. So you need to balance the details of your job assignment with the big picture of all that’s taking place at your church. Understand that you can’t make isolated changes that won’t affect the status quo at your church; a change in one aspect of your church will ripple through the rest of it. Ask lots of “why?” and “what if?” questions to gain a more complete understanding of your church’s organizational dynamics. Always think of the congregation’s needs ahead of any specific tasks. Try to identify gaps that aren’t being addressed by others and consider how you can help fill them without being unduly intrusive.