I have been an assistant for much of my time in ministry. Some pastors have treated me with the utmost respect. I have seen other pastors who treat their assistants almost as slaves, giving them the least desirable jobs and neglecting acknowledgment of the work that they do.
Senior pastors should note that they are not the only ones who are giving their time and energies to the church. Many of these assistants are in part-time situations; sometimes they are not even paid at all. But these assistants finish their work in industry and then come to ministry to seek to give their talents to God.
There are, in my estimation, three steps that a senior minister must follow if that minister is to have effective assistant ministers.
Step 1: Respect Your Assistants
There are many senior pastors who show by the way that they treat their assistants that they do not respect them. In my position as web minister of SoulPreaching.Com, I often hear stories and get emails from assistants who have been treated with less than respect from the senior pastor. One pastor simply canceled an ordination on the day of the ordination for some silly reason. The ordinate had people in town and was in a very embarrassing situation.
Another senior pastor kicked off a special initiative where his assistants were to take on some significant ministry responsibilities. At the prayer of initiation, the senior pastor prayed, “Even though they ain’t nothing but assistants, one day they may be senior ministers.” Belittling the work of those who work 40-50 hours and then attempt to give some time to the church is not the way to respect your assistants.
Step 2: Acknowledge Your Assistant’s Work
Another step to effective assistants is to acknowledge their work. This includes both acknowledgment of the assistant’s work and the assistant who did the work. I remember working on starting a new ministry in a church. The pastor emphasized that the new ministry had been started, but he never acknowledged that I was the one who did the work. Sometimes the pastor will argue … you did it for God and not for man, therefore God will acknowledge you. This may be true, but it is the utmost of disrespect to acknowledge the work and ignore the worker. It is a shame when God has to find some other person besides the senior minister to praise the work of an assistant. Ignore your assistants too many times and you may have less help in your next big ministry thrust.
Step 3: Utilize Your Assistants
One final thing you must do to have an effective cadre of assistant ministers is that you must utilize them. This means that you determine what your assistants can do, and you use them in that ministry. Underutilized and/or nonutilized assistant ministers will be a cause of strife and contention in the church. Ultimately, your group of assistants are resources that God has given your church. If you fail to utilize them, you are failing in your stewardship of one of the greatest gifts to your church.