Ministerial Ethics

by Dennis Wiggs

The young pastor may serve in a church where he serves as the second man, an associate, or on the church staff in some capacity. This position provides an opportunity to learn how to pastor under the tutelage of a senior minister. But there are some rules that must be followed.

Respect the Pastor

You may not always agree with him, but respect him as your leader. The minute you refuse to respect his position, you should resign and move. Most likely he played a vital role in calling you to your present responsibility. You are serving because of his confidence in you. Therefore, always treat the pastor with utrnost respect.

Refuse to Criticize the Pastor

Once when a young pastor ministered with me, a church member his office and stated, “l want to talk with you about the pastor. But don’t tell him what I said.” To his credit, my assistant stood up and declared, “He is the first one I will tell!” The church member left abruptly.

A young preacher serving with a senior pastor will hear criticism, even plots against the shepherd of the flock. Never should the young pastor listen, encourage, or endorse such criticism.

Uphold the Pastor in Public

At one church, my music minister occasionally spoke in my absence. My wife often remarked that he always promoted me from the pulpit. She said, “You can tell that Danny is devoted to ministering with you.” Members latch on to comments by an associate that cast a reflection upon the pastor. Young pastor, uplift the man of God.

Pray for the Pastor

Call your leader’s name before the Lord daily. He faces problems, challenges, and decisions that you never know about. “The buck stops at his desk,” as President Truman once declared. If you fail in your responsibilities, the congregation holds him responsible. Let him know you are praying for him. Leave a note on the pulpit. Write a few words of encouragement and slide the note under his study door. Let him know that there is at least one church member praying for him regularly.

Do Your Job Well

Most pastors are overextended, if they perform their ministries well. Don’t drop the ball! Give 100% of your time and effort toward the ministry. Get to work early. Stay late, if necessary. Each afternoon, one of my assistant pastors would drop by my office and say, “Mr. Wiggs, I’m going home, but is there anything I can do to help you?” While I never responded in the affirmative, his servant’s attitude encouraged me.

Listen to Him

Give your shepherd complete attention when he preaches. Look at him! Don’t write down what you plan to do next week. Don’t whisper to your wife. Keep your children under control. (Leam to do that with a simple glance.) Remember that your leader is looking to you for moral support.

Once it was my privilege to have in the congregation two former pastors—W E. Rolison and W A. Hales. Those older men sat together on the second pew and provided a hearty amen from time to time. What a blessing! Treat your pastor when he is preaching as you would like to be treated by him when you are preaching.

Ask, Don’t Tell. “May I have tomorrow off?” “Do you think the church board would consider a raise in my salary?” “l feel sick. May I go home early today?” Ask, don’t tell the pastor. Take your calendar to his study. Plan vacation or family plans well in advance. Share with him your needs, but don’t expect or demand an immediate response. Your attitude of submission will go a long way in assuring that the two of you can work together harmoniously.

Resign Without Fanfare

Let’s suppose that you just can’t work with the pastor, the responsibilities seem too heavy, or some in the congregation want you to leave, and you feel compelled to resign. Then resign! But don’t write a letter of resignation criticizing the pastor or judging the church program or trying to set the deacons straight.

That will not accomplish anything. Just resign. And leave as quickly as possible. Don’t try to draw a crowd to your pity party and turn them against the pastor or the deacons or the program. Young pastor, you may need a reference some day. Leave on good terms.

About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.

Adapted from Contact magazine, August 1999.