In my ministry career, I was a youth pastor for five years and an associate pastor for two years. I then spent nine years as a solo pastor. There are a lot of challenges to being an associate pastor, but it also can be very rewarding. I know a number of pastors who have gone from being a solo pastor to being an associate pastor. Here are some things that are important for you to remember if you want to be a good associate pastor.
1. You are not the senior pastor.
You may have a sizeable ministry under you, perhaps even larger than some solo pastors. But you are not the senior pastor. There are some pressures and responsibilities that only a senior or solo pastor will have.
2. Don’t treat an associate position as a stepping stone to a senior position.
Your next position may be a senior position, but if you treat your associate position as only a stepping stone, you will never give it your full effort.
3. Don’t let your ears be tickled by the critics.
There will be critics of the senior pastor who will come to you with praise for you and criticism of the senior pastor. It will feel good. Do not listen to it. Tell them to talk to the senior pastor if they have problems.
4. Do not publicly criticize or disagree with the senior pastor.
You are free to disagree with the senior pastor in the staff meeting. But when you go before your board or your congregation, you must support the senior pastor even if you disagree.
5. Seek unity with the rest of the team.
As an associate, you may be one associate among others in a team. Do not attack one another in the hopes of moving up the chain. All of your ministries are important and you must support one another.
6. You don’t know the timing.
You may have a great idea that the senior pastor rejects. It will feel painful. It does not mean that the idea is bad or that God does not want you to do it. It just means that the senior pastor is following the vision they believe is from God. Your idea may be for your next church or the church after that.
7. Support the pastor in any way possible.
It is unlikely that the senior pastor will come to you for pastoral care (although it is possible). Pray for them. Pray for their family. Pray for them while they are preaching. Give words of encouragement. Do whatever you can. Do what you would want your associates to do if you were the senior pastor.