Leadership Journal has an interesting online article worth reading - From First Chair to Second Fiddle.
This is a far more critical issue that may seem to be on the surface. It may appear that this is about one's calling in the church. And it is. But it is also about how colleagues in ministry work together.
One of the challenges that a person who has been in a senior leadership position has when they move into an associate or subordinate one is that have to serve in the shadow of the senior person.
It is a very difficult situation when the senior pastor feels threatened by the dynamism of an associate. This can happen particularly when the senior and the associate are from different generations. Or, when the senior pastor has a more introverted personality and the associate a more extraverted one.
So, what do you do if you are the associate and it is clear that the senior pastor feels threatened by the performance of your job? I've been in this position. It is awkward. Especially when you realize that your very best efforts to do your job are viewed at the same time as undermining the senior leader's position. What do you do then?
You cannot simply ask whether that is the case. That will only make matters worse.
First, you keep the senior leader informed about what is happening in the ministry. If you are providing too much information, he or she will tell you so. If there is no issue between the two of you, meaning that what you perceive as displeasure with your performance may have a totally different source. Secondly, ask advice and direction. This will provide the senior leader the opportunity to offer constructive criticism that will give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you are not seeking to usurp his authority.
If it appears that this does not resolve the situation, then do the following.
Pray for wisdom, peace and insight for knowing what your responsibility is. You may not be responsible for this difficulty. Not all senior leaders are confident, humble and without fear of being shown to be inadequate or worse a fraud. Senior leadership can be a lonely position of authority and influence. So, seek to understand through prayer what your responsibility is for the situation.
Also, seek wise counsel from someone who is objective and caring toward you. Seek out someone who knows you apart from your ministry. Listen, and realize that even as they care for you, they do not see the whole picture. What their counsel provides is a reference point for understanding your situation.
If the perception of displeasure or conflict persists, you can attempt to discuss the situation directly with the senior pastor. Be specific about certain instances where it appears that he or she is unhappy with your presence in the church. Be non judgmental. Be open for instruction and direction. If he or she does not want to address it, and they do not affirm you in the context of your ministry at the church, then it may be time for you to look for a new position.
If we view life, ministry and career as a journey, then we realize that no one place is where we must spend our whole life. That God calls us to a place, and then calls us out to somewhere else.
This is precisely the course of my life and ministry. There is no way when I was in seminary that I would have predicted the course of the past twenty five years of my ministry. My vision for what God could do was not that broad. Even then, I was looking at missions, community ministry, pastoral ministry, and teaching, but never campus ministry or leadership development and planning consultation. We do grow into and through our calling. It can change and develop. My experiences in dealing with men and women in positions of authority over me contributed to my calling into serving leaders. They are people who need our love, affection, understanding, prayers and even compassionate, direct honesty.
If you are in this situation now, and you need someone to talk to about this matter, send me an email. We'll sort through your situation and determine a strategy for finding some resolution.