View Full Version : "Assistant" or "Associate" Pastor?

09-07-2004, 01:54 PM
My question: Is there a substantive difference between the titles "Assistant Pastor" and "Associate Pastor"?

In addition to our Senior Pastor, my church has 6 Associates; 0 Assistants. The IFB church a few miles down the highway from us has a Senior Pastor and 4 Assistants; with 0 Associates.

Are the titles essentially interchangeable, or is there some substantive difference between the two?

Pastor J
09-07-2004, 02:03 PM
I prefer the term Assistant because the individuals are assisting the pastor in a specific area.

Dr. Bob
09-07-2004, 02:23 PM
Assistant implies a flunkie for the senior pastor, a lackey to run get dry cleaning or do the dirty work.

Associate gives a specific ministry that is the work of the church, not the senior pastor.

I have been an Associate Pastor in my early ministry; I would never consider being an Assistant Pastor.

09-07-2004, 03:51 PM
You're right, Dr. Bob. I have been an assistant pastor and it's just like you put it. I would never want to be an "assistant" again.


09-07-2004, 03:53 PM
What about just using the biblical term, 'elder'?


09-07-2004, 07:13 PM
Also, in lager Churches, the Associate pastor is the one who is a help to the pastor in his pastoral duties and assistant pastors are additional helps that head up specific ministries (aka staff members called to preach).

09-07-2004, 07:30 PM
Assistant to the Assistant Manager. hehe.

Pastor J
09-07-2004, 08:44 PM
I would disagree on the characterization of an assistant. The assistant plays a huge role in helping the pastor in his duties. I don't see a difference in the terms. It may be more of a regional thing

09-07-2004, 08:58 PM
Pastor's Assistant tends to mean secretary round here.

Bob Farnaby
09-10-2004, 09:34 AM
we just call them pastors. See no biblical reason for otherwise


09-21-2004, 03:19 PM
In my opinion you can call them whatever you want from a "churchy" perspective.

I would only higher an assistant/associate/elder who had the qualities and mentality of a Vice President or Director in the corporate world. Someone who could inspire and lead a group of people in the area that he/she is an expert.

A pastor who would want to hire a "pastor" just to follow behind him and pick up the paper clips that fall on the ground is not going to be building a very successful organization.

09-23-2004, 04:50 PM
I suspect there is not one whit of difference between an assistant and an associate. If you go back 25-30 years those who were not the senior pastor in a church were called assistants. Today the more trendy associate title has come along. I am sure the business world will come up with another title soon which Christians will adopt a few years later and both these titles may be obsolete or tainted with negative baggage. graemlins/type.gif

Dr. Bob
09-23-2004, 07:06 PM
You're only saying that because 30
+ years ago YOU were an "assistant" pastor while I was an "associate" pastor! tongue.gif tongue.gif

Dr. Bob
09-23-2004, 07:35 PM
Nate, a non-Baptist, shared this with me by pm
There is a distinguishable difference between an assistant and an associate within the PCA. I don't know about other denominations, but I would assume this is the same for all Presby denominations (even the liberal ones).

The assistant is a lower position. He (still a "he" in the PCA) is called by the Elders, not by the congregation. And, the Elders have the authority to dissolve the relationship between the assistant and the church.

The associate is called by the congregation. While I can't imagine an associate wanting to stay on if there is any disagreement with the senior pastor, the relationship must be disolved via a congregational vote.

Hope this helps.

09-23-2004, 10:56 PM
I find that the assistant pastor and associate pastor roles have something in common with the senior pastor role we see in churches today. I can find none of them in scripture.

In the Bible, we see a plurality of elders pastoring churches, not a heirarchy of professional pastors.

09-24-2004, 12:28 AM
In our church, unfortunately, there was once a Senior Pastor and 2 Associates with a number of Assistants. Each one had a specific ministry, but the Assistants all reported to a designated Associate, who then reported to the Senior Pastor.

Frightfully, it now appears that "Associate" is for the "tenured" pastors on staff, as it seems that if they've been there upwards of a certain number of years they get that title and a corresponding raise in pay.

Sad if you ask me, because it doesn't mean anything except a corporate hierarchy (and egos to go with it, but that's another story). In short, I don't approve of the use of the terms at all, ever. Call me old fashioned, but why not just call all persons that are ordained Pastor of such and such ministry instead of devising such a convoluted scheme? FOr one thing, it sends a message to members that if they don't like what "their" pastor is doing, they can go further up the chain to get a satisfactory response, complain, etc, just like a business; and, yes, that does happen from time to time.

This is one of the reasons I have come to dislike very large churches and am currently exploring options in a smaller church setting.

Pastor J
09-24-2004, 07:23 AM

I would be of the opinion that you only have one Pastor in a church. My assistant is just that. He leads our youth and children's ministries, but I am still the pastor of the teens and children. He is my assistant. I obviously do not know your situation, but if you did not like an assistant, then you should go to him and then the Pastor.

09-26-2004, 09:29 PM
Originally posted by Link:
I find that the assistant pastor and associate pastor roles have something in common with the senior pastor role we see in churches today. I can find none of them in scripture.

In the Bible, we see a plurality of elders pastoring churches, not a heirarchy of professional pastors. Most churches are much larger than house churches today.