For seven years in ministry I served as an Associate Pastor. I loved it, but I constantly had to find creative answers to questions like, “What do you do all week?” and “When do you want to become a real pastor?” I was blessed to serve then at a church that treated associates as the fully-gifted and credentialed pastors that they are. But, I know that’s not always the case. Now, there’s a resource that is written specifically to this unique vocation.
I was happy to receive a new book to review from Alan Rudnick called The Work of the Associate Pastor (Work of the Church) from Judson Press. It’s a small book that provides an overview of the profession and calling of associate pastors. The book details what it takes to be an associate pastor, the nature of the work of an associate pastor, and the context of ministry. Alan helps readers out of his own experience, but also shows awareness of a wide range of associate roles, including those from diverse Christian denominations.
Alan talks about the identity crisis that often accompanies being an associate:
As associates, they are called to serve the congregation like any other pastor, but they do so in a role of number two (and sometimes number three or four) pastor. That functional hierarchy can generate an internal struggle as associates strive to discern and develop their position within the church or community. After all, aren’t pastors, whether associate or senior or solo, called to the same gospel work as servant leaders of God’s people? (15)
Each chapter includes helpful questions at the end for various types of readers. There are some case studies included as well, though it’s not always clear what the reader is to do with some of them. The book doesn’t delve into a critique or discussion of professional clergy; its purpose is to help support those in associate roles. I know of people who serve in associate ministry roles their entire working life, and happily so.
The strongest part of the book, and the reason for purchasing a copy, is PART THREE where Alan discusses the challenges and opportunities of the associate pastor. He talks about what makes it risky and what makes it rewarding. In this section, he writes with great conviction and provides wisdom for those considering being an associate … or quit being one due to discouragement.
The book isn’t large and it’s not trying to be something other than a helpful practical guide to those in associate roles, churches considering associates, and considering how to make the most of being an associate.
For more on Alan, visit his website, alanrudnick.org.