Team Series: Second In Command

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Team Series:  The 2nd in Command by Gena McCown

One of the first tasks any good leader should do is to find, appoint, equip, and build up second in command.  A President has a Vice President, executives have junior executives, even Pastors have Associate Pastors or Elders they can call on.  Why is this an important role to fill on your ministry team? 

What if the Lord removed you from your Women’s Ministry right this second?  What would happen?

A family emergency takes you unexpectedly out of town.  One of your children become hospitalized.  Your spouse gets reassigned and you have to move this weekend.  You are threatened with a health crisis of your own.

Any number of things can happen that will unexpectedly pull us away from our ministry work, sometimes it is temporary and other times it is not.  Could your team function in your absence?  I’ve always felt the mark of a good leader is that their absence is not noticed. 

I have been on a team where this happened, and we were left scrambling.  It wasn’t that she was a bad leader, in many ways she was a great leader.  However, she had never taken any one under her wing to serve as a second in command.   When she left, we had a lot of plans on the calendars but none of us knew all the background info that she had been working on.   There we many decisions that needed to be made and a weight of uncertainty in the air.  Had there been someone working directly under her, who had knowledge of these details… it would have been a much easier process.

There are primary two ways you can work with a second in command, the first is similar to a hierarchy structure. This leader in training is kept up to date with the details of the ministry, but doesn’t have any more power than other members of the team.  You will walk them through the ropes of running the ministry, but you hold all executive power in the final decision making.  Their purpose is to be ready to take over the reigns of the ministry, should the time come.  

The second way is as a Co-Leader, this woman will have a bit more power/pull/weight to her opinion than other team members.  She may not have the ultimate say when it comes to the ministry decisions, but her opinion carries greater influence.  Her role is to slip in and out of leading the group as needed.  This is the woman who can fill in while the leader is on vacation, or take over for a matter of few months when a leader is going through a crisis.  In a large ministry, you may even have more than 1 co-leader and even give them particular team members that they oversee. 

In both cases the Women’s Ministry Leader is responsible for developing these future leaders to take over her job.  However in the case of a Leader in Training, this is your ace in your back pocket that you bring out only when you need to.  Whereas a Co-Leader has a far more active role in the ongoing ministry work.

A Second in Command Leader Should:

  • Have a heart for women’s ministry in the church and community.
  • Dedicated to the church, and exhibit a solid relationship with Christ.
  • She should be trainable, you don’t need a person with experience.
  • Dependable, showing up to meetings regularly and completes her tasks.
  • Shares ideas that will help the ministry function better.
  • Excited by serving others.

What She Should Know:

  • Keep her up to date on the ministry finances.
  • Location of important documents, passwords, keys, codes, etc.
  • Contact information and details associated with event planning.
  • Overview of information pertinent to the Women’s Ministry from staff meetings or the Pastor (only information pertinent to WM, please).
  • Access to team members contact information.
  • Overview of meeting agendas in advance, and what are her meeting responsibilities.

In the past, Women’s Ministry Leaders have created binders full of important ministry information that could be passed like a baton to incoming leaders.  Now, we can share documents online via google documents (if you have a gmail account).  This helps leaders stay connected, work and update tasks between meetings, etc.  If you are interested in starting a Women’s Ministry Binder… check out Pinterest for GREAT suggestions, printable worksheets, and more.

I love to see these developing leaders active versus people I siphon information into.  So, intermittently as part of training, allow her to completely lead a meeting from start to finish.  You can work her up to this by giving her small responsibilities and increasing them over time.  Give her a larger task to oversee, like planning a brunch or finding new small group leaders.  See if she has a passion for something to add into the ministry that you can put her at the helm, like a prayer ministry or mentoring program.

While it is great to have a second in command who has a similar ministry vision as you, it’s also great to bring someone along side you that has new ideas to bring to the table.  You may wish to strategically develop a younger woman, select a woman who is transitioning out of another ministry leadership role (previous MOPS Leaders are great for future Women’s Ministry Leaders), or you could find someone that just has a HUGE heart for women.  While experience isn’t necessary, their level of experience will determine how much time you need to spend developing their skills.

We can predict when a changing of the guard is going to happen, but when it is within our ability we should make sure this woman is fully ready to assume command of the ministry before we retire or voluntarily step down.  You can begin by steadily increasing her leadership, while culling your leadership back.  This also makes for an easier transition for your team members who have served loyally with you over the past years.  Give your team members advanced notice that you are planning to step down in a few months and that you are transitioning the new leader into place.  When they come to you with questions or concerns  funnel them toward the new leader instead of dealing with it yourself.  You are not only training a new leader, but the team to trust her leadership.

If you plan on still serving with the Women’s Ministry after stepping down form leadership, I recommend taking a few months off.  Allow the women to get accustomed to serving under the new leadership, and then ease yourself back in.  Leaders leave a legacy even when they don’t intend to, and it can take time for members to adjust to a different leadership style and new ideas.  Change is hard, even in ministry service.

Who Is Your Timothy?

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When developing leaders in your Women’s Ministry team, one of the most important people you need to be on the look out for is your eventual replacement.  Life and ministry work is unpredictable.  The Lord may move your to another city or state, or perhaps you may find He is moving your heart away from Women’s Ministry toward something else that needs your specific gifts and talents.  You could get pregnant or have an illness in your family that requires you to take some time off.   Our co-founder Laura says we need to have a “if I get hit by a bus” plan in place. 

What if something happened today that immediately pulled you away a leader?  How would your Women’s Ministry team respond?  Could they pick up your baton and keep running or would they be lost wondering what to do next?

A few years ago, I was a part of a ministry that had a very unexpected and sudden departure of our leader.  She was very hands on and did most of the work herself.  As her team we supported her ideas and programs.  When she left, we were stumped.  There were a few major projects up in the air, and we didn’t have all of the information we needed.  One of the biggest was related to a financial commitment and we had just under a week to decide if we should move forward or shelve it.  We sat at the meeting… staring at each other in disbelief… no one knew the answers the questions we all had.  

This is NOT a great situation for any ministry to be in.  Which is why it is important that we have a second  in command.  Call it a co-leader, assistant, vice president, or whatever term you feel comfortable with… but the role is the same.  It is the person who can pick up that torch for you, because they’ve already been apart of the process.  This person is being mentored and groomed by you to take your place, should the season arrive.  When you are planning meetings or projects, they are brought into the fold.  Everything you know, they know. 

You will share with them how you come about your decision making process, where you keep supplies, passwords and keys, etc.  Occasionally you will allow them to run the meeting in your place, or take the lead on a major project.  If you are meeting with the Pastor or staff member that oversees the Women’s Ministry, she is included in this meeting.  She becomes your right hand woman, the Timothy to your Paul.

How will you identify her?

  • She never misses a meeting.
  • She’s not only writing down the things that apply to her from the meeting, but everyone else.  She’s already “in the know”.
  • If you can’t recall a piece of info from a previous meeting, she usually can.
  • She speaks up often with ideas and suggestions for the ministry.
  • She accomplishes her tasks without you needing to remind her, and usually early.
  • She’s known for helping others with their tasks, once she has completed her own.
  • She’s has leadership experience, and you can see that in how she interacts at the meetings.
  • She’s a regular attender at the church.
  • She is also wise, she doesn’t overschedule or overburden herself with commitments.  She knows how to say no, and she’s said it to you in the past.
  • She may have outright asked or hinted at desiring more responsibility in the ministry.
  • She will email you ideas, articles on  Women’s Ministries, or share what she has learned other ministries are doing effectively.
  • At conferences, she signs up for workshops about Women’s Ministry.
  • She is pursuing a deeper relationship with Christ, and knowledge of the Word

These are just a few ways you can look for those people who stand out.  But, before you approach her about this role, be sure to cover it in prayer and speak with the Pastor or the staff member that oversees the ministry about the person you are considering.