Going directly from a call to preach to leading a church is extremely rare.
Preachers need the maturation that comes from serving with or under another pastor, before leading their own congregation.
Yet many associate ministers wish they could just skip this process.
Pastors treat associates as flunkies. Congregations neglect the vital role associate ministers play. Members view associates as step-parents, substitute teachers, or “garbage-time” bench riders.
It can be discouraging. But it doesn’t have to be. Your time as an associate minister can be an affirmation of your ministerial call, a time of spiritual development, and a fruitful season of Christian service.
Here are 10 ways you can maximize your role as an associate minister.
1. Seek clarity about your calling.
Not every associate preacher is called to be a senior pastor. It may be to serve alongside another pastor. This is a noble calling.
Your ministry is not unimportant because your name is not on the bulletin. Seek the Lord about the calling on your life.
Is it missionary work? Should you be in the classroom, rather than the pulpit? Is there an area of specialization, like youth of Christian education, the Lord has purposed for you? Or are you called to the pulpit of a local church?
Get clarity about your calling and head in that direction.
2. Be ready to preach and teach.
You may not have a scheduled time to preach. And you may have to share opportunities with other associates. So take advantage of every chance you get.
Be ready. Don’t wait to get a date before you prepare. Study now. Write a sermon. Get your pastor’s input. Show him by your work that you are ready. And don’t wait for Sunday morning spots.
Volunteer for a Sunday school class, prayer breakfast, or funeral. Teach whenever you can. Prepare for the pastorate by increasing your skill and experience in ministering the word.
3. Learn everything you can.
Consider yourself an intern. Be marked present. Get involved. Participate in behind the scenes work, not just platform stuff. Follow your pastor around.
Ask a lot of questions. Listen to the answers. Don’t talk too much. Process what you experience. Learn from successes and mistakes.
Soak up all the knowledge and wisdom you can get.