At 33 years-old, I have now spent about half of my life devoted to student ministries. I started serving as a small group leader as a junior in high school, and for the past 16 years, I’ve continued to serve in various capacities within this realm. Not long after I started serving as a small group leader, I became the right-hand man to the new youth pastor at our church, thus beginning my tenure as Number Two.
Most recently, I’ve been serving as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Outreach, overseeing several different ministries in our church. As I’ve looked at some of the things I have wanted from the men and women in leadership over me, I quickly realized that I had fallen short in providing those same things to the people I was leading.
If you want to be a great leader, it is critical to invest in your relationship with your Number Two. They can either be your greatest cheerleader, asset, and companion in ministry, or they can be the constant thorn in your side, source of frustration, and maybe even the reason you’re considering quitting.
These are five things your Number Two needs from you.
1. YOUR VISION
Like it or not, as the primary leader of your organization or ministry, people are looking to you for your guidance and vision. Your Number Two, and everyone else in your organization for that matter, needs to know where you’re going. It is essential for them to be on board with the vision that you’ve laid out for your church. However, they can’t be on board with your vision if they don’t know what it is.
Make sure the people you are serving (and that includes every member of your staff) know what your vision is. Your Number Two needs to know where you’re going so they can help you steer the ship. Make sure your vision is clearly communicated and that your Number Two is as fully committed to your church’s core values, mission statement, and ministry philosophy. More often than not, when I find myself frustrated with someone for not following my lead, it’s because I haven’t communicated to them what the vision is, or why we’re doing what we’re doing.
2. YOUR TRUST
At some point, you and/or your church believed that your Number Two was the right person for the job at hand. You had sifted through dozens of resumes, hours of interviews, and came up with this individual as the best candidate. If you still believe that this person is the best individual for the job, trust them to do it. If you’re not sure they’re still the best person for the job, it’s time for a conversation, but that’s another story.
Remember the reasons you wanted to add this person in particular to the team. They came in with a different background, different strengths, experiences, and yes, even different weaknesses. Different is good. Trust that your Number Two is bringing something to the team that you were previously lacking.
Your Number Two needs to know that you trust them to accomplish the task they have been given. Make sure they know your expectations for them and how you intend to keep them accountable, because we all need accountability, but make sure they know that they have the freedom to do their job. Nobody likes being micro-managed, so trust your Number Two to do the job that they’re on the team to do.
3. YOUR EXPERIENCE
A fool doesn’t learn from his own mistakes. A smart person learns from their mistakes, but a truly wise person learns from someone else’s mistakes. If you’re anything like me, you’ve made some pretty boneheaded mistakes in your lifetime. If you’re still in a position of leadership, you’ve hopefully also learned a lot from those mistakes.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your Number Two is the gift of your experience. Hopefully they respect you enough to come to you with some of the struggles that they are having and feel comfortable bringing their shortcomings to you. In these times, your Number Two might learn best from some of the times you’ve been in a similar situation. Share with them some of the experiences you’ve had that have changed the way you view the world, do ministry, or even how you interact with others. Help your Number Two learn from your successes as well as from your mistakes.
4. YOUR CONFIDENCE
If you’ve been in ministry for any length of time, you know that it’s hard, it’s lonely, and sometimes you feel like giving up. Your Number Two needs to know that they can be transparent about those feelings. It’s so important for churches to be an environment where it’s ok to not be ok, and nowhere is that more important than amongst your leadership team.
Your Number Two is dealing with all kinds of pressures, stresses, and insecurities that they need to be able to share with someone. If you’re the lead pastor in your church, remember that your staff are part of your congregation; you are their pastor as well. Your Number Two needs someone they can talk to without fear that the whole world will become privy to that knowledge. If your Number Two has things they feel like they can’t tell you, then make sure they have someone they can talk to. You may not want or need to know about every tiny detail of their life, but they need to know that whatever you tell them in confidence will be kept in confidence.
5. YOUR EAR
Not only does your Number Two need you to listen to them regarding their own issues (trust me; we’ve got plenty of issues), they need you to listen to their ideas. Since your Number Two is different from you in so many ways, they might just have some great ideas that can help shape the future of your church and ministries.
As pastors, we’re used to the trope of people falling asleep during sermons, but there’s really nothing worse than people not paying attention to you when you’re speaking. Make sure you’re giving your Number Two an opportunity to bring you their ideas, and before you shoot them down, remember that they’re on the team for a reason. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and they just might surprise you.
I certainly can’t claim to speak for all Number Twos all across the ministry world, but I know these are some of the things I have appreciated and will continue to appreciate from those in leadership over me.