I attended a worship service where an associate minister was given an assignment. However, instead of attempting to support the worship service, the associate attempted to shine the light on himself while he “preached.”

The Role of the Associate

I have seen it many times before. The associate might be called to read the morning scripture or perhaps to announce the hymn. Instead of following proper protocol, the associate might add some remarks about his week and how God got him through. Maybe the associate starts talking about how God spoke to him last night about overcoming. Then a 1 minute scripture reading becomes 4 or 5 minutes. Sometimes the story is relevant to the theme of the service, but most of the time it is not.

Often this problem is due to a lack of training. It is hard to blame associates when their only way of learning how to support a service comes from looking at other associates (and perhaps the senior pastor) drone on and on about irrelevant issues in services. This kind of problem can easily be resolved by providing training as some of the better senior pastors provide.

The associate must fully realize that the associate’s role is not to add another sermon to the service, but to support the service. The best associates realize that you should follow directions unless there is a really compelling reason to break protocol.

Associates support the service by knowing the theme of the service. What are the hymns and gospel songs that are sung? What are the scriptures that were chosen by the worship leaders? What is the sermon title? The answer to these questions will help to guide any observations or additions that the associate might feel led to tack on to the assignment.

But please remember, if you have not been assigned the morning sermon, do not take it upon yourself to add one. Associate ministers adding sermons to their part adds a lot of time to the service. If you have 3 or 4 associate “additions” you add 15 to 25 minutes to the service before the preacher even gets up. And if these associates additions are not relevant to the theme of the service, then it works against the worship planners hard work.

When it is your turn to give the Word, how would you feel if the 3 or 4 other associates had added 25 minutes of distracting additions to the service? Get up, do your assignment, and sit down!

Know Your Role

Keep in mind that associates are used as they support the preacher and the service. Associates who sacrifice the service to gratify their own desire to preach out of season will ultimately limit their future possibilities as worship leaders and pastors begin to limit their use in the service. No, do what God has assigned you in this service and sit down. When God has chosen you to read the scripture. Read it with power and with meaning. If you have to make some comments, limit them and make them relevant to the theme of the service.

You will get your turn to preach, your turn will come, and when it does, you will hope that the other associates will not detract from the Word that God has given you to preach.

26 thoughts on “The Associate Should Help – Supporting the Service

  1. I always tell people, “Don’t give a Pastor the microphone on a Sabbath he isn’t preaching because he’ll find a way to preach.” I’ve usually seen the problem coming during prayer time when it ends up being 10 minutes long and really just a sermon. Glad you wrote on this. I fully agree.


  2. Thanks for your comment. There is one sermon during the service, any other sermon normally will detract from the service. We should make sure that we do not detract from the service that God has graciously allowed us to participate in.

  3. Preachers can make folks glad to see them coming, glad to see them go, or at best both. In the best case scenario they’re glad twice whenever they see you because they know that you’ll impart some significant spiritual balm on their weary spirits, hence they’re glad to see you coming; and once you’ve done the do, they are glad you gave them what they needed, hence they’re glad you came and happy to see you leave. On the other hand one can miscarry their moments with the folk and rather than the folks being glad to see the preacher at her/his arrival, they groan. And, at his departure they rejoice, not because he/she has delivered, but because their departure acts as a tourniquet, stopping the bleeding that their presence, over-extension or lack therof causes.

    Preachers who have horrible pulpit ethics are the latter….

  4. Brandon Sidle says:

    Much needed instruction here!!! Can we get a follow up to this on overall pulpit ettiquette for ministers?

  5. Spencer L. Miller says:

    Thank you for this timely advise to Associate Ministers. it reminds me of how blessed I was in having a father in the ministry that made sure I knew the role of an Associate Minister in the church. There is a great book written by Manuel Scott, Jr. that I would also like to recommend to all Associate Ministers if I may, the titled of this wonderful book is, “Preacher Wait Your Turn” and Dr. Scott covers almost everything involving the proper role of an Associate Minister.



  7. Pastor these are great enlightening, educational, and protocol direction for the associate minister, as we the lay congregation so this so many times everyone,the associate minister, the elder or deacons, choir director, hostess greeter, all attempting to get their short sermon in when call upon to exercise their specific duties. I hope many of us will not just read your comments but do our best or their best to consistently apply them as this will truly make the Lord’s worship service more effective. Again great comments! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Since it addresses associate pastors it is readily assumed that this specific counsel applies to larger churches. As an “itinerant pastor”, preaching in about 12 to 15 churches before getting back around again, I see this issue as a huge problem in smaller churches as well. In these settings it’s the local elders, that also sometimes preach, that pack in their own sermon message as they do the duties assigned to them in the bulletin program. recently, at one church where I am the visiting speaker about 6 times per year, the elders consumed the time up until 5 minutes to 12:00 before yielding the pulpit to me, the speaker for the day.

    Typically I never bring issues to the attention of the local pastor as I feel he does not need me to instruct him as to how the local church must me managed and directed. But, in the case cited above, I did discuss it with the pastor. Turned out that the most long-winded of his elders (and the most time-consuming one that day) constantly complains about church not finishing up on time – at 12:00 noon on the dot. Amazingly amusing & Amusingly amazing.

  9. Sylvester Warsaw, Jr. says:

    Timely and insightful advice. The unfortunate and sad reality is and this isn’t to excuse one’s behavior, is that we live in a society where the only place where some who have no authority, even in their own homes, find their authority in God’s house and as a result of this, often-time authority is misused in the name of God. This behavior isn’t limited to the Associate, but, I’ve been in services where Pastor’s were given one minute for expressions and often-time preached mini sermons. If, some Pastor’s refuse to follow protocol/directions, how can you expect their Associate to follow correct protocol/directions? How can one be an effective leader if they’re not a good follower meaning, Christ Jesus, is the Head of His Church and the Pastor is the undershepherd/servant leader. The Pastor has the responsibility of training ministers to be servant leaders.

  10. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Pastor Tise,

    Thanks for your point. My article was not necessarily designed to only address larger churches. We are a multi-denominational resource and thus we attempt to use language that is understandable to all denominations. So we use “associate” which could mean “local elder” in some contexts, “assistant pastor” in others and may even be “lay pastor” in some other contexts.

  11. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Pastor Warsaw,

    Yours is a very important issue. Sometimes the senior pastor (whatever term you use in your tradition to refer to her or him) is guilty of misusing the time and what should we do then?

    I, like you, have seen pastors greatly abuse time. I saw one pastor who preached a 20 minute sermon-ette that encapsulated the sermon preached the night before during the Welcome Time of the Service. So he added 20 minutes to the service. Then the same preacher got up during the “preaching time” and preached for 70 minutes.

    Often when someone questions such wasting of time these ones are accused of stifling the spirit or not being open to the movement of the Holy Ghost.

    So I understand your issue. And if a pastor cares little about worship planning and proper worship protocol, there is little you can do. However, if an associate is guilty of the above, hopefully there is a senior pastor that will train and then deal with those who use the worship time for self promotion.

  12. Aww, man. Associate Gone Rogue is a very common occurance. The MAIN problem is usually an unloving, undeveloping, or otherwise super-tolerant (read, uncaring) Senior Pastor.

    Bogarding the mic often indicates pain and lack of respect. “I’m gonna get mine in right now”, “I better take advantage of this”, “I want these people to know I can perform too”. “Silence me? Please.”

    So much of this can be nipped in the bud by a loving, caring Senior Pastor. Here’s all the Pastor must do… on Tuesday, or Thursday, or Friday, or Saturday, BUT NOT SUNDAY…

    “Brother, Preacher… it’s not many men called into the ministry. You are among God’s chosen. What we’re going to do is develop a proper strategy for you to exercise your gifts as much as possible, and get you ready for God’s next step for you. I know it’s very frustrating to have the WORD locked up in you, but can’t get it out. So, here’s what we’re going to do. 1, 2, 3. Now, we’re doing this because our Worship Services MUST be conducted decently and in order. And perhaps you’ll be led to either ORGANIZE a Church or get Called to Pastor, or who-knows-what God has in store for ya. You need to understand ALL roles and positions for when YOUR TIME COMES, right brother? All right then. Now let’s TEAM UP, go out together, and SHAME THE DEVIL! AMEN!”

    Think COACHING. Anything like THIS, on a REGULAR BASIS keeps ROGUE out the Pulpit, and actually gets more Unsaved Saved sooner, rather than later (if at all). That Associate Minister needs to get equpped to reach them ASAP. If an Associate Minister cannot or will not comply with this type of loving approach, better dust off the Church Discipline, “Boot-em-out” Guidelines. Glory To God.

  13. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:


    Training will fix a lot of issues. I had the benefit of being trained by a loving and knowledgeable senior pastor. It is very likely that many associates have no idea what they are to do up there…

  14. Michael Gallant says:

    This is also a big problem in bible study where the pastor has a specific lesson planned and some “minister” or “elder” or “know it all” disrupts the lesson with their so called spiritual comments.
    Also, in regards to the worship service, the minister of music are also often guilty of trying to take over and control it.

    You are right in that “everyone” in the worship service, from the associate minister to the minister of music, to the sunday school supervisor, etc need to know their place.

  15. Vernetia Miller says:

    Please allow me to add a twist to this issue. I have watched some associates (1) pray out loud after they approach the podium even though a covering prayer has already been offered up by the pastor or officiant; (2) sing a song that has nothing to do with the message that they are about to preach; (3) give a soliloquy on how God spoke to them and gave them the text that they have selected; (4) flat our testi-lie instead of preach a message; (5) are so unprepared that they ramble on and on about nothing; (6) go past the assigned time limit and turn away from the pastor or officiant so as to pretend that they did not know that their time was up; or (7) stray from the assigned preaching topic. These things are just as distracting and/or annoying to congregants as rogue preachers.

  16. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Minister Miller,

    I gotta admit…I agree with you totally on that one. The preacher can sabotage the service just as much as the rogue preacher. I think that should be another article that will be posted soon…

  17. Minister Evangeline says:

    Elder Cox I have a question about associate ministers. Should the senior Pastor gage how the congregation reacts to a minister in order for the minister to get their license. Is this a common practice for senior pastors to use?

  18. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Minister Evangeline,

    The question is hard to answer for a few reasons. First, I am not sure the church polity that you are under. We have a wide variety of readers who represent a wide variety of approaches to licensing (and ordaining for that matter) minsters. For the purposes of this answer I will assume that you are Baptist or in a church that follows a “Baptist-like” polity. I also assume that you are talking about a license to preach. Most of the time when people talk about their license, they are talking about a license to preach…so I will make that assumption.

    The license is the local church giving a stamp of approval to the ministry of the minister. The church is saying, “this candidate has begun the steps towards ministry and we recognize that.” I will set aside ordination becuase you didn’t ask about that and confine my remarks to licensure from here on out in this answer.

    Because licensure is the local church recognizing the gifts of the minister, how the minister is seen in the congregation is of immense importance. I do not know what you mean by “gauge how the congregation reacts to the minister.” you could mean that the preacher looks to see if the congregation recognizes the gifts in the minister that the minister wishes to be licensed in. That is, in my opinion, a valid consideration. If you want this local church to license your preaching ministry then you are in a sense telling the church to judge your ministry. Now if you think that the church (through the senior pastor) is wrong, there are alternatives. You can find another ministry that will license you. However, one must be careful. Perhaps the senior pastor is correct.

    But in the end, licensure is from the local church, in your polity, and so it is at the discretion of the senior pastor and her or his licensure and ordination practices. I know a Baptist pastor who will give a license to anyone who says that she or he has a call. Then the preacher is to prove that calling to get ordination. Then there are others who want you to prove some level of calling (and educational aspiration) before being issued a license.

    I hope that addresses your question, forgive me in that I don’t know enough about the particular situation to be any more specific.

  19. It is indeed a common problem for associates to be an eager-beaver in turning their assigned task into a preaching opportunity, even if justifying their act as done for a few minutes only. It is just like a holder of a student driver’s license wanting to act as professional driver who lacks skills yet needed for one. However, constant communication to associates on their role is necessary to avoid such problem.

  20. Rev. Kenneth R. Jenkins says:

    I am glad to hear those answers giving on this forum. I am an Associate Minister in the church I am attending and I do understand the duties as an Associate Minister.
    Again, thanks.

  21. Man,

    This a much needed topic that every minister needs to ensure every associate reads; I’ve had to pull the coattail of many a rascal that has tried to hijack and or hold hostage the service by pulling stunts like the one’s described here.

  22. Man,
    Its is what i see all the time the associate pastor gets up and read the bible. He turns the reading into a sermon instead of reading the word and making a few comments on the scripture. It turns into he sings and song gives his testimony when the senior pastor has to wait on him to be done. Its like you said associate pastors should be short and sweet and in due time and due season he or she will get their time to preach the word of God. Great post sir!!

  23. I am an associate minister and newly licensed. I am one for ORDER. I enjoy my supporting role. When I conduct worship service, I view it as my reasonable service. It is NOT about me and my ‘skills’. example: when I conduct our worship service, I chat with whomever is on the program i.e. prayer and scripture. I tell them that I do not introduce each segment or each person. What I do is try to have a continuous ‘flow’. I silently motion to the next person and they full-fill their role.

    I was watching your webinars and reading the insightful comments and articles and I have grown so much as the result. In all actuality I try to draw as much attention AWAY from me and more on to our Overseer and Pastor! I believe that because of this, I am asked to do more and I am grateful and humbled by this.

    I believe that by focusing on God and His Will for us and our church, that when He is ready to elevate me, then He will in His time! I am not going to rush that process.

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