By Sam Yoon: One of the most common questions I am asked as a campus pastor is, “What’s the difference between the role of the campus pastor and the associate pastor?” That’s definitely a question I asked and wondered when I served as an associate pastor. And now having been on both sides, I’ve learned three things that make being the #1 guy different from being the #2 guy.
1) Spiritual Weight
A spiritual burden and weight comes with being a campus pastor. It’s a very different spiritual weight than being an associate pastor because people typically see the campus pastor as the pastor. People generally want to meet with the pastor in charge first and will come with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
There is also a spiritual weight and expectation to pastor, to counsel, and to encourage your church as a campus pastor. As the associate pastor, the campus pastor is your buffer. The campus pastor may ask you to carry some of this weight. But the main responsibility falls on the campus pastor.
2) Leadership Weight
I believe the saying, “As the leader goes, so goes the organization.” This also applies in the church world, “As the pastor goes, so goes the church.” The ability to lead, cast vision, strategize, organize, and execute vision falls on the shoulders of the campus pastor. Staff, volunteers, and church look to the campus pastor to guide them, inspire them, and move them.
This doesn’t mean that campus pastors don’t delegate and lead wisely of course. However, it’s an understanding that it’s the campus pastor’s role to set the tone, establish the pace, and hold people accountable. No one is looking at the associate pastor for this type of leadership. If they are, then there is an issue of leadership at your church. The associate pastor plays a critical role, but the leadership engine starts and ends with the campus pastor.
3) Family Weight
Church and ministry jobs can be one of the most stressful careers that exist. When you are the lead guy, there are more decisions, expectations, and responsibilities that need your attention. You are juggling many different elements and that can spill over into your time with your family. Healthy boundaries need to be set so that you maintain a healthy balance with your family.
But your family will also feel the weight of your role as a campus pastor, whether you want them to or not. You can invite them into that journey and share the load with them, or you can separate your family and church life. Either decisions has its pros and cons, so it’s important to understand and be in communication with your family. As an associate pastor, your family isn’t looked on with as much scrutiny as the campus pastor. You are given more leeway and so the expectations for your family are different. Your family may feel the pressure of being a pastor’s family, but they will bear the weight differently.