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In response to my blog on the Ideal Associate Pastor or “2nd Chair,” I received a request to write about the qualities of the ideal Senior Pastor or “1st Chair.” That request led me to consult with some Associate Pastors from whom I received great insight, the kind I wish I would have received while serving as a Senior Pastor. Here is the beginning of a list of essential qualities, as determined by Associate Pastors, for the ideal Senior Pastor.

  1. The ideal Senior Pastor will embrace the principle of shared ministry (Ephesians 4:11) and, thereby, choose to benefit from the collective wisdom of the pastoral team.
  2. The ideal Senior Pastor will humbly acknowledge that he or she has blind spots and biases which hinder effectiveness and which will inevitably negatively impact the congregation.
  3. The ideal Senior Pastor will trust the Associate Pastor to identify these blind spots and biases; then facilitate opportunities for open conversation about strategies to compensate for them.
  4. With the help of the many resources available, the ideal Senior Pastor will learn how best to encourage, motivate, and support the Associate Pastor.
  5. The ideal Senior Pastor will meet regularly with the Associate Pastor for conversation, prayer, dialogue, and feedback. These meetings will take place in a variety of settings: formal and informal, over a meal or in the office, while attending a conference or participating in some kind of regional gathering. They will also be limited to the Senior and Associate Pastor and, thereby, provide an opportunity for ongoing coaching, correction, and direction.
  6. The ideal Senior Pastor will recognize that the relationship with the Associate Pastor is just that: a relationship, one founded in Christ and made possible by a shared commitment to serve Christ in a particular context. While completing the tasks in a position description is very important, this relationship is not, at its core, a work relationship whose strength is determined by performance. It is more akin to a familial relationship whose strength is determined by loyalty, trust, and dialogue.

What’s missing here? No doubt, it's already a demanding list, one that requires a significant outpouring of grace and wisdom for both the Senior and Associate Pastor. Praise the Lord that such gifts flow like a river to those who are thirsty.


I agree - a rule change would be helpful here. Apparently, the Church Order Our Church Order was not written with staff ministry in mind.

If this is a problem now, then how did we deal in the past with the idea that there was a chair of council?   A chair who would sometimes have to make decisions that not every other council member could agree with?   Would it not seem that a senior pastor, if asked to designate tasks, for example, would do so in a way not to lord it over, but to make the pastorate an organized place to work, just as council would not be seen to lord it over a pastor for whom they might reorder the job description? 

If I had to introduce Sam Hamstra to an audience, I would say; "At this time I would introduce to you [audience] the Reverend Sam Hamstra, or Dr. Sam Hamstra."

If I had to tell someone about  Rev.Sam Hamstra, I would use the word "Pastor" Sam Hamstra. To me, he was a "Pastor!" When a parishoner like me gets to know the "Pastor", Sam Hamstra is when my son, Don Koldenhoven was near the end of his life at the age of 35, and Pastor Sam was there with our family, Pastor Sam held Don in his arms and said the 23 Psalm and shortly after Don died from his cancer. My point is, the title Reverend has no meaning at at time like that! " Pastor" has meaning in times of need!

I also refer to Pastor Sam as "Coach" Sam, since we did coach high school baseball together. The title of a person's name is proper for introductions and references, but how a person knows a minister of the Word to me is a personal one! "First Chair" , Chairman, President are all titles. I believe that the highest honor you can address a minister of the Word is,"Pastor!"

Dean Koldenhoven    Palos Heights, IL  Member PHCRC



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