Opportunities of leading from the Second Chair

Elim Training hosted it’s first conference for second chair leaders recently. Dave Newton explains more.

Earlier this year, Elim hosted it’s first conference for ‘second chair leaders’ in Coventry. The two day event brought around 25 pastors together for a conversation to deal with the challenges, opportunities and complexities of leading from the second chair.

The term second chair is used to describe the significant ministry many have in serving alongside senior pastors. In Elim we have over 250 associate, assistant ministers or ministers who are in training.

There were a number of conversations and questions that were being considered;

  • Is the 2nd chair simply a training ground for a 1st chair in the future?
  • How can 2nd chair leaders really enhance effective growth in our churches?
  • How does a 2nd chair leader define their role? What is the working dynamic between the leaders serving in the same church?

Stuart Keir, Associate Pastor at Audacious Church, was the keynote speaker and introduced an interesting challenge on the first night. Based on Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in Unity or Harmony.

Using a musical metaphor he described the vision of the senior leader as a melody and offered the second chair leader two options. Firstly to sing the same melody to increase the volume of the vision in order to help others hear it and join in. Secondly to develop a harmony that enhances the melody adding value to it. It was stressed that a harmony cannot exist on it’s own, however it is often a refreshing alternative to a dominant melody.


It would be easier to perceive the second chair as restrictive, limiting our leadership influence, too tightly defining our role. Over the two days many discovered the second chair was not only potentially a spacious chair but also essential to bring balance, practical delivery, caution and opportunity to the primary leader.

Further sessions spent time exploring a number of biblical examples:

  • Aaron to Moses – Ability
  • Caleb and Joshua – Positivity
  • Armour bearer to Jonathan – Affirmation
  • David to Saul – Loyalty

All of these characteristics are key components for longevity in ministry and to create healthy team. Perhaps one of the necessary features of Elim leadership on the dawn of next 100 years is to find leaders who are committed to following. Those who are unable to follow well will never be exceptional leaders because the essence of leadership is helping others to follow well.

A greater appreciate of different leadership roles within Elim, a growing sense of trust in each others unique giftings, a commitment to pull in the same direction toward a common vision could be a potent leadership combination for our movement in the years ahead.

Feedback from attending this event...

‘This event brought so much great insight into the relationship of 2nd and 1st Chair leaders.’


‘Thank you for validating the role of the associate leaders in our Elim churches.’


‘This conference has helped me consider how I can increase the load I carry on behalf of my senior leader.’


5 tips for second chair leaders

Question: What does it take to be a successful second chair leader? What tips would you add? Leave a comment below.

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