Team Series: Second In Command

colead

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.

Shepherding Women In Crisis

Black and white image of a young woman crying and covering her f

When I first stepped into leadership roles in the church, over 17 years ago, there were some things I was never prepared to encounter.  Even to this day I can be caught off guard by the phone calls that will come my way.  I don’t always know the right thing to say, but I am getting better at it.  This is an area where I think we are failing to prepare our leaders in any facet of ministry leadership.

What do you do when your phone rings at two in the morning, and a woman from your church is crying out for help?  What is the appropriate way to respond, when a woman approaches you after church on Sunday and confesses that her husband abuses her?  How do you counsel the woman who has just admitted to you, after small group, that she’s been having an affair?  How do you comfort the woman who just shared with you that she had an abortion?  Do you know what resources are available in your area for a woman who is struggling with addiction?  And, do you know what the laws are in your area for mandatory reporting?

If any of these questions have left you stumped, scratching your head, you are not alone.

The first step, begins in the Pastor’s office.  I find it is better to head things off before they are a real life problem.  Speak with your Pastor about what the laws are in your state for mandatory reporting (as a ministry leader you may not have the same privilege protections in place as a Pastor would).  Also, ask him for a list of services that he recommends to members who come to him for counseling.  What Christian counselors are in the area that he refers people to, and what local addiction services does he recommend?  If he is unaware of other services you may need (like help for a homeless mom), take to the internet and begin searching for resources in your area.  Or, ask on Facebook.  You’d be surprised what your friends may know about that you don’t.

The second step, is to share all of this information with your team (including small group leaders).  As the leader of the Women’s Ministry, you will get some calls.  However, I believe that the majority of the phone calls or personal confessions are going to come to the leaders you serve with.  It is important for them to understand how to address these calls too.

The third step, is to help the women on your team understand their role in responding to the women who are in crisis.

  • You are NOT a problem solver.  It is impossible for you to have all the answers to all of their questions, or solutions to all of their problems. 
  • You are NOT a licensed counselor. There are going to be issues that are too big for you, and you should not attempt to address them.
  • You are NOT responsible for their choices.  There will be people who don’t listen to your advice or guidance, and you can not take that personally.
  • You are NOT their Holy Spirit or their Savior.  Be wise in the role you take in there crisis, we can walk along side a person without stepping into a role not meant for you.
  • You are NOT always the right person.  Friends may seek your advice because you are loyal to them, and not potentially the other person involved.  This means you are biased, and it may be wiser for someone else to walk along side them during this time.
  • You are NOT always in the right space.  If you are currently going through your own crisis, now is not the time to try to help someone else. 

The fourth step, is to set up some ground rules for dealing with women in crisis.

  • You will NOT talk or counsel the person while they are currently under the influence.  You have taken the call, heard what the person said, and verified that they are currently safe.  That is the most important thing you can do in that moment.  Set a time that you are going to call them the next day.  How they respond the next day will shed light on how serious they are about getting help.  If the person is not safe, then you can proceed with asking where they are & what you can do to get them to a safe location for the evening. You may want to bring your spouse or an elder along with you, for your safety (depending on the answer you get).
  • You will NOT make a promise you are not able to keep.  Do not tell a person they can call you at all times of the night, unless you are really ok with that.  You can answer the call, and instruct them to call the next day after a certain time. 
  • You CAN set expectations on how you will counsel the person.  It is absolutely okay to come to an agreement on biblical counseling that puts the load on the person in crisis.  If she admitted to having an affair, you can tell her that you will walk with her once she has ended the affair.  If there is a confession of addiction, you can tell the person you will not help them until they have told their spouse first… and you are happy to be there when they do for support.  You can suggest scripture readings to take place between meetings with the woman, and if she fails to keep her end of the bargain… your meetings will stop.  Clear expectations keep this relationship safe, structured, and nothing is a surprise.  There may be more practical boundaries as well, such as willingness to buy groceries but not give cash; or to help them create a budget plan without paying off their debts.
  • You will NOT “fight the fight” for the person in crisis.  If she continues to cancel meetings with you, doesn’t answer your calls when you set an appointed time to talk, didn’t call the resources you recommended, always has an excuse, etc… then she is not ready.  You can’t make her be ready to receive help, and you will need to know when to walk away.
  • REMEMBER that you are probably not getting the whole truth.  A person in crisis may not be telling you all of the facts.  It may be worse than you think, they may place blame on someone who is innocent, there will be plenty of reasons and excuses for their situation, etc.  Stay objective.  If you lose your objectivity, you need to walk away and recommend her to someone who can.
  • Don’t be SURPRISED if after counseling the person along, things get better, and then you find her in the same situation again.  Some forms of crisis, like addiction, are cyclical and take several attempts before recovery is possible.   Only you can decide how long you will be apart of that ride, before you trust them to the professionals.  You may also find out that you are not the first person to receive this type of call.  This behavior could have been happening for years, and you are just the next person on the list. The first person who answered their phone that night, the new face that doesn’t know her history, etc.
  • You WILL NOT feel guilty for mandatory reporting.  When a woman confesses to you that she (or her spouse/boyfriend) is abusing their child… and you have to make that phone call… you will NOT feel guilty.  At this point, the safety of the child is your priority and getting her help is the second one.  If someone confesses to you that they are suicidal, you will not feel guilty for calling their spouse or parent (if a minor) in order to get the help they need.  At this point, their safety is priority. 
  • You WILL NOT allow yourself to be a secret vault where people dump their burdens on you.  If you are going to allow yourself to take on this type of role in a person’s life, you need to be able to not carry their load for them.  Some people will dump and dump their issues into your head.  You can be weighted down by their problems.  Learn how to listen and lead without carrying.  Additionally, you are not helping them by keeping it a secret.  One tool that I use is asking:  “Do I have your permission to research some resources for you?”.  If the person gives me permission, since this is a woman in the church, my first stop is usually to call our Pastor’s wife.  She is actively involved in the leadership of the church.  Through her, I am able to discern if this is an issue the church is aware of and already helping with.  If not, then she can help point me in the right direction of resources that I may be unaware of.  If the church is already helping, then she can bring me into the fold (remember the woman invited me into the situation).

There is SO MUCH MORE on this subject than I could fit into a single post, especially with the various types of crisis women face.  However, this is a good starting point to get conversation happening between your leaders.