A big part of being a second man is handling the "high maintenance" people that your pastor simply doesn't have the time or energy to deal with. These are typically "needy" people. They need attention. They need constant instruction. They need to be listened to and shown that their opinion is important.
I would say the 80/20 principle applies here--20 percent of the people (the low maintenance people) do 80 percent of the work. Probably 80 percent of your time and effort in ministry is spent on high maintenance people...who typically get a lot less done than the low maintenance people. (By the way, If this article comes across as rude toward high maintenance people I apologize, but please read the whole article to understand where I am coming from. I recognize some people are more "needy" than others, and I am in no way saying their "needs" should be neglected.)
I've always considered myself a pretty low maintenance guy. In the workforce, as long as I got my check every payday, I was happy to try to be the guy my employer could trust to run things in his absence with little concern. As long as I was keeping things afloat, the boss was happy...I was happy...things were good! (I may not have always succeeded, but I've always tried to be that guy).
In about every job I've had (probably because of this low maintenance attitude) I was soon asked to train others, and in some cases even went on to a supervising/management-type position...This is where I failed each time! Here are two simple reasons:
1. I like to be left alone! That is mainly why I am "low maintenance" in the first place! Dealing with people who constantly need attention is the opposite of being "left alone"...and I'm just not very good at it.
2. It is easier for me to "do" than to "train." Because of this I often become an enabler, allowing high maintenance people to dictate what they want me to do, complain about how I am doing it wrong, pout about how it hurts their feelings...you get my point.
So what can you do about it? After all, it is part of the job! If you can deal with these people before your pastor has to, you will be helping him out tremendously! So here are a few points to consider from one second man to another second man (...or to whoever else chose to read this article for whatever reason):
1. Make sure YOU are not high maintenance. That is counterproductive for your pastor.
2. Don't run and hide from high maintenance people. Their "problems" may not seem important to you, but they are probably a big deal to them. If neglected, things will only get worse.
3. Don't let high maintenance people keep you from meeting the needs of the lower maintenance people. Although they probably won't tell you, the lower maintenance people still have problems and needs that shouldn't be neglected, and if you are not careful you will not have opportunity to meet those needs because too much of your time is consumed by others. Don't be afraid to tell the high maintenance people you will have to get back with them but have another matter to tend to (just don't forget to get back with them!)
4. Try not to take on the problems of the high maintenance people yourself, but rather try to get them the necessary tools and teach them to help themselves.
5. Don't be too discouraged if you can't keep the high maintenance people happy. Just so you know, you probably won't!
6. Pray fervently for the high maintenance people, and for patience and wisdom in dealing with them.
7. Always give your pastor a brief recap of the problems that came up and how you handled them.
If you have any other thoughts on the matter, I'd love to hear them. I certainly don't have this one figured out yet!
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