Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pastor, Boss, and Friend

How about a little more tension in the second chair? Clayton asked me to stick my thoughts out there about the relationship to the first chair and the tension of my boss being my pastor, and my pastor being my boss. More than that, what happens when he is my friend, too?

First, I want to be friends. I am so relational, that friendship is the basis for a good working relationship. So, I work at sharing stories, asking him how he is doing, and making sure that we can enjoy a meal together and talk about how we were shocked that Peyton Manning and his colts lost to the Steelers. But, we don't hang out when we are away from the office.

As pastor, he and his wife have been there for the birth of my two kids, welcomed me to my new home with a plant, celebrated my graduation from seminary with a surprise party, and have visited my wife in the hospital when she had foot surgery. I have been able to share my burdens with him, my failures, and have even wept with him. All of this over eight and a half years.

As boss, wow, he has kicked my butt a time or two! We have had our disagreements, heated discussions, and he has called me on the carpet when I have been insubordinate. We don't always see ministry the same, as he and I are from two different generations. Also, he has given me substantial raises, given me substantial promotions from youth pastor to associate pastor, and has given me the opportunity to co-preach/teach with him every week, as we rotate between our two campuses.

Barry Landrum is a good friend, good boss, and a great pastor. He doesn't always listen to me, doesn't understand some of my ideas, and we frustrate each other at times.

I guess the question is how do I seperate it all or keep it all together with him as my friend, my pastor, and my boss? I hope these concluding thoughts help! I would also love to hear your thoughts on the matter of you and your pastor/boss/friend.

Initially and for the longest time, he was boss! This was our first relationship and it is the easiest relationship to carry out, as I am the follower and he is the leader. In this relationship, he says jump, and I say, how high? If this is where you stay with your first chair, you are in trouble. A BIG key to your success is this relationship and I think it is best when you can work your way through this part of the boss/pastor/friend tension. I say this because if all he or she is is a boss, and all you are is an employee, you are held at arms length. If this is where you sit, you will find yourself frustrated because you won't be able to impact the organization as a whole. Remember the definition of a second chair leader? Someone in a subordinate role whose influence with others adds value to the entire organization. At arms length, you can't add value to him or her and thus you will find it hard to add value to the entire organization.

As relational and opionated as I am, I pushed the friendship thing. He received it as well, and I believe that when he saw potential in me and a desire to work hard, he pushed the friendship thing too. We have fun discussing theology, how he feels about John Piper today, how he will feel about Piper tomorrow, and sharing stories about life and things we find funny. We chase rabbits and joke a lot as a team. This keeps things light, especially when the intensity turns up. I like bringing levity and a little sarcasm to the table when it will lighten things up just a touch.

Through our time together and my life experiences, he has become a great pastor to me and my family. We like his preaching ministry as well. He has done this part of it. He has cared enough about Julee and me that he has come to the hospital to visit us and pray with us. He treats us like anyone else in the congregation, as this is a tremendous strength of my pastor. I too have returned the favor, checking on him when he has had a procedure or two, calling him the night before for prayer, etc.

But I think the best thing that I can say is that I don't seperate these roles and look for weaknesses in how he has or hasn't been my friend, boss, or pastor. I could easily pick him apart for any of these if I wanted to. He could do the same and question my motives if he were insecure or perceived me as a threat.

He is boss/pastor/friend all of the time, and like a smooth luxury car, we are able to shift in and out of these different gears with ease and comfort. This is how it should be and I am grateful to say that it is what I get to experience most of the time.

Yet, I am no fool. This is a relationship, and every relationship is a two way street. So, I must do my part, and I am very proactive about my part, because I have been called to serve him. Servants don't stand around waiting to be told what to do. If you do, I wouldn't call you a servant as much as I would a responder. Servants initiate, anticipate, and seek to assist. So, in my relationship, I anticipate, initiate, and assist as an employee, congregant, and friend. In doing so, I have found it well received and appreciated.

Again, please let me remind you, this takes time. I have been where I am for almost nine years with the same first chair. That is a long time to meet, discuss, listen, and respond. Take your time. Don't be overly critical, and do your part of the relationship to ensure growth.


Clayton Bell said...


Thanks so much for responding to my question, even though you really didn't answer it! What happens when they're good at some of them but not all three? I won't say which one I'm stuggling with, but there are things in my mind I try and process and pray through how to handle the different dynamics.

The one thing that is encouraging is how short of a time I've spent with my first chair (less than 3 years or total relationship, 1.5 in a second chair role), and that you've been there 9 years. I remember from the book that it took 5 years for Bill Hybels and his XP to get on the same page. I've got to remember how young I am and how far we've come in that short period of time. I guess my biggest frustration is that we don't have the same communication style and cohesivness yet, and I'd like to be able to have high-context conversaions with him. I assume he's like to do the same thing with me, though.

The great thing about this blog is that we can get a chance to talk with other people who've been through these experiances.

Roger, one other question: Do you feel called to be a first chair? Do you have a idea of what that dream looks like (while staying content, of course...)?

BurkeBlogger said...

All I can say is....try doing this and throw in all the complexities to the first/second chair relationship and be different sexes! How many times I wish I could pick Nancy Beach's mind (from Willow Creek)- although I know her situation is different from mine as she is a teaching pastor - but still in a subordinate position to Bill Hybels. I am "friends" with my first chair (and let me also add that we are both safely and happily married to wonderful spouses) but there are obvious constraints to the relationship. And of course we also very naturally bring quite different viewpoints to many situations. But all in all...most of the works very well! But I am convinced only God could be making this work.

Tim said...

Yesterday I posted in my blog about this situation at my current church. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a Sr. Pastor that makes it his primary job to minister to the church staff. He believes that has he ministers to us that it equips and empowers us to reach the congregation. I also share his same philosophy and, as youth pastor, put my focus on the adult volunteers. By training them, spending time in their lives, and being their support, they in turn more effectively reach the students.

Concerning your situation, and without knowing either of you, it sounds like there are differences in vision and ministry philosophy. This is normal, but I don't think it necessary has to be a point of conflict if the Sr. Pastor can give you the flexibility and freedom to pursue what God's laid on your heart the way you deem necessary. I can positively say that I am so glad to have that here because it wasn't always so at former churches. I wrote about it a little when my former pastor called to apologize for it:

Working with people is always intersting since we're all imperfect sinners saved by grace. Thank God for his personal investment into our lives!

Jay said...

This is an interesting conversation to have because this is certainly an area that my first chair and I struggle with. My first chair was my first youth pastor and it was his first ministry position. He's been my mentor and friend first and for over 16 years. When he asked me to come be his associate pastor, I took the position because of a friendship, a deep respect, and a desire to give something back to him. My first chair was first my pastor and then friend. Then Boss was added to the mix. This was a hard transition and it still is and it creates a lot of tension. I'm very relational. He's not as much so for me this was difficult change. Our conversations are difficult now. I take correction and critism more personal. I believe that its also part of my role as a Second Chair to be the one person he can show his frustration with. I know that its not always directed at me, but it sure had to take sometimes.

Roger Patterson said...

Clayton -- Part of what I am trying to communicate is that you get to take the good with the bad. I didn't say "have to" take the good with the bad, but "get to." Why is this my perspective? Cause I can't change him. My wife gets frustrated with me in certain ways. She is wired to be neat. Me, not so neat. She wants the top of the bar cleaned. For me, being 6'5", it makes a perfect stand up desk!

There is not a person in ministry that I have met that I wouldn't change somehow. Some of our team is so idealistic, they can't get anything done. Others are so detail oriented, you can't get them to say hello!
But, HE has assembled the body and so, I must trust HIM. It is His church and I do it for HIM, not my first chair. One of the greatest expressions of love that I can show my Jesus is that I serve my first chair in spite of who he is and who I am. The Lord has assembled us to do something great and unique. He is also using this time to teach me and has put me with someone older, wiser, and stronger as a leader for me to learn from.

I know it all sounds like pie in the sky spirituality. But, out of reverence for Christ, I stay and serve and love. And in those seasons of frustration, I have found that in waiting on HIM, He usually changes me instead of my first chair. This makes me a better servant.

So, he is my boss and pastor, and if I have anything to say about it, we will always be friends.

Be patient and sow correctly. Remember, you reap what you sow!!!!!

Roger Patterson said...

Clayton -- I also realized that i didn't answer your last question about my calling. Yes, i am called to the first chair. I talk about my calling pretty openly in my article on our site, in the Elisha, Elijah relationship.

I do have a pretty clear picture of what that looks like and have had to lay some of those aspirations down for a season so as to serve faithfully. I have recently read MCNeal's book, The Present Future, and it has re-ignited many of these thoughts in me. Great read if you haven't read it.

So, yep. At the right time, God will bring that to fruition.

Mike Bonem said...

I'll jump in on this as well, especially to Clayton's question about what you do when your first chair leaves something to be desired as either a pastor or as a boss. First, I agree with Roger's comment that you take the good with the bad. It's difficult and uncommon for them to excel at both. Also, keep in mind that one person's definition of a great boss is quite different from another's. For example, some people want lots of affirmation; others want to be left alone.

I believe that many pastors of multi-staff churches have trouble wearing both hats. In particular, they may be great pastors to the members, but not to their staff members. Think about how difficult it must be to give a subordinate some unwanted but needed feedback be a spiritual leader, and "pastor" them in a life crisis - all for the same person in a short period of time.

So if they're not good at both roles, I would hope that my relationship with my first chair would allow me to talk directly about my frustrations. I wouldn't try to dump everything on him/her not would I expect immediate change. But I would hope that this might help us to both move in the right direction. And in the meantime, I'd ask God to continue to give me patience and wisdom.

Clayton Bell said...

Thanks Mike...

Roger, I have read that book and it almost made me go out and plant a church right then!

Glad to see we're getting more and more people interacting on this blog. I'm currently trying to organized a conference for church administrators in our movement, and I'm going to strongly recommend this book to everyone there, and encougage them to engage in the discussion here.

Just a comment on the blog itself...there is a way to adjust your settings so that when you click on comments it goes to a separate page with the blog and then the comments listed below instead of a pop up window. You can do it either way, I'm just not a big pop up guy...

Roger Patterson said...

Marie -- One of the things that we hope to capture is this aspect of male femal role. We are currently talking with CCN,, about doing a simulcast on our book. We hope to be assembling a panel, and on that panel we hope to have a woman second chair leader. So, we believe there is much more to come in this area. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on it, though.

Keep us in your prayers.

Marie said...

Roger - It can be quite difficult at times...and yet I believe there can be advantages. In my particular situation we are SO different in many ways. He is a baptist trained ordained minister, I was raised in a very Catholic home, attended Catholic schools and have no formal ministry training. He is much more patient...tends to be more nebulous in deciding who does what...I like to define an issue, assign roles and get to work. And yet being female I guess...I do tend to be more emotional and would like to talk more about some situations. I really hate stereotypes but would never deny that God made men and women very differently! (thank goodness!) I am strictly a volunteer (he is the only paid ministry) and we have been working together for about 4 years. My role has greatly expanded but I am freqently frustrated by what I see as rather vague guidelines or lack of clear job description. But that is who he is and I respect that totally. We obviously must avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety. Sometimes I think we must actually appear somewhat cool towards each other. To be totally honest...sometimes I envy the easy comradery I see between some of the male leaders. But its all part of the job I guess. As regards to the above conversation...he was my pastor first - became my boss somewhere along the way...and we continue to work through the male/female friendship issues. And to return to a discussion under another heading...I have continued to return to psalm 37 this week. There has been some friction this week..its been a little rough - but I continue trust, dwell, delight, commit, and try so hard to "be still and wait patiently". Your book is SO helpful. I can't wait to hear your simulcast.

DivaD said...

Marie - and all,
I too am a female in 2nd chair leadership. It certainly does provide some unique tensions at times.

Thankfully, my pastor/boss/friend and I have developed a relationship where we can switch between the roles smoothly on any given day and in most situations. For the most part, we work together very well. I'm not sure what 'order' our relationships developed. Looking back, I'd say we began a friendship first - when our family first began attending our church. I think this was probably very necessary for us (my family) because we had come from a church where the pastor had been like a father to me for 16 years, but he could never see me as an adult. Although my husband and I were youth pastors there for 10 years, he (my former pastor) struggled with allowing me to mature in our relationship - and in ministry. The last 2 years at that church developed into a spiritually abusive (and I do not use those terms lightly) situation that caused us to finally leave with a broken heart. So - when we came to NRVCC, it was more critical for us to begin a friendship with our pastor first. We had to learn to trust a pastor again. And that's how God saw to it.

5 months after coming to the church, and being on the front end of a friendship with the pastor, I began working as the church secretary due to a critical need. That 'position' has morphed into a 2nd chair leadership position as the Programming and Arts Pastor and Administrative Director of the church. It began with a friendship... working through the conflicts that have come... and, of course, me learning how to settle into a 2nd chair role versus having to be "in charge" of everything. The friendship laid a foundation for us to be able to work through issues and for us to continue to speak truthfully to each other - because we did that from the beginning as friends.

Like Jay, I'm the person that hears most of my 1st chairs frustrations first. For his protection, mine, and the church's, we now have a team of elders that he is beginning to trust and share his frustrations with as well. It's critical that he talk with men who can support him, identify with him, pray for him, and keep him accountable - as he does the same for them.

Also, like Jay, there are some times when there is tension because one of us is being a better friend than the other. That happens in any given relationship, but it can seem so much more frustrating when it's your boss/pastor/friend. Time and working at the relationship helps make these times of tension less frequent, less intense, and over quicker. :o)

I've heard/read both perspectives. 1) that you cannot be real friends with someone in authority over you, and 2) you have to be friends with the person 'over' you in order to be effective. For me, I've always had a deep relationship with the bosses that I have had, because I am a very relational person (and very task oriented at the same time... figure that one out). It can make things more difficult at times, but others can be that much more rewarding because of the trust factor and the kindred spirit that occurs in a real, authentic friendship with someone in authority.

There's no "right" answer to this.

You have to know your boss/pastor well regardless of whether you have a deep friendship or not. And you have to decide if you're able to work with him while struggling through these 3 'levels' of relationship. It will take time, patience, and a commitment to work through the inevitable tensions and differences. If you are committed to doing what's necessary to love and serve your first chair well, the relational levels should eventually be a natural outcome... if it's a God-thing.

Marie said...

Hi Divad....(and everyone else of course!) Its great to hear another female voice out there. I went to the link for your blog and I love what you say...I hope you don't mind me quoting you here," 2nd Chair Leadership is a journey... and adventure... with surprises, even dangers, around every bend. I'm on that journey - learning every day how to be Aaron and Hur to the "Moses" that God has called me to serve." How true, how true. And sometimes lifting those other arms gets really heavy doesn't it? And yet sometimes it is just such a joy!! This has been such a week of ups and downs...lots of arm lifting and burden bearing by different folks at diffent times.

I wanted to share a scripture verse that ended up in my mail box last night. It was one of those things that appeared at just the right time -

"12Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life." James 1:12 The Message

Sometimes it is about perseverance and waiting and letting God be in control. His plans, His timing, His good purpose.

DivaD said...

One of my favorite scriptures - especially regarding 2nd chair leadership and holding up the arms of first chair at those critical times...

God has given me the tongue of the learned that I may know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. Isaiah 50:4