Caddying in the local church: Lessons for Second Chair Leaders

Caddying in the local church: Lessons for Second Chair Leaders

By Luke Francis, Executive Pastor for First Light Church in Vandalia, Ohio

I am a lifelong fan of golf. In fact, some of my earliest memories from my life are of my dad chipping golf balls in our front yard or watching intently as he would practice putting in his office. As I grew older he’d take me along to the course and I eventually started to develop a game of my own. In my twenties, I shifted from a casual holiday player to being a more engaged student of the game. Around that time I also had a paradigm shifting experience with a caddie at a course in the low country of Charleston, SC that showed me how golf can actually be a team sport - a fundamental pivot to how I saw the game to that point.

Golf can actually be a team sport

If you listen closely, you’ll even hear that same distinction in interviews with today’s best golfers in the world in describing their golf game. Just recently, Scottie Scheffler was awarded his second green jacket by winning The Masters Tournament. To little surprise, in his post tournament interviews Scheffler thanked and accredited his caddie Ted Scott as a key to his win. However, this wasn’t a new thing from Scheffler in how he approaches his game. A few weeks prior in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Scheffler gave Scott similar recognition. Notably, when Scheffler was asked about his performance, he replied by saying, “I’m thankful for how we performed out there.” Later, Scheffler talked about how his caddie played a key role in his mental approach. He said, “Teddy did a really good job of keeping me in a good head space and you know we stayed positive out there and I hit a lot of good putts.” Perhaps Scheffler and Scott, a dynamic duo that now have nine wins together on the PGA Tour, is onto something that second chair leaders can learn in our approach to local church ministry.

After serving over a decade as an executive pastor, I have begun to see how my role is very similar to that of a caddie. To the most casual observer, a caddie may just seem like a person who lugs equipment for the real star, but for serious amateurs and professionals, a caddie is a teammate whose knowledge of the golfer, the equipment, the course, and the conditions are key to success. Similarly, a second chair leader in the local church can best serve the Lead Pastor or Senior Pastor if they have a sober, honest, and artful understanding of the church—her people and resources—and the surrounding community and can employ that to faithfully advance the mission and vision at hand.

I would like to press this analogy for second chair church leaders and share what I believe are good lessons from the art and science of golf caddying.

Know the golfer 

A caddie can only give good counsel to the golfer as much as he knows the golfer’s capabilities. What is his range off the tee? Does he tend to fade with his 6 iron? Does he have an injury that’s affecting his swing? What are his tells that he’s stressed?

Similarly, a second-chair leader needs to know his lead pastor’s strengths and weaknesses. A deep, kingdom-oriented friendship goes a long way to making sure the church is led by someone who is spiritually healthy and operating within their spiritual giftings. There is no reason for leadership to be the loneliest place anymore.

Know the course

A caddie needs to have extensive knowledge of the course. To prepare for a tournament, he will walk every yard of the course. He double-checks the distances, measures elevation changes, notes pin placement on the green, and identifies potential trouble spots for his golfer. Some experts estimate that caddies spend about 50 hours studying the course before a tournament.

Similarly, a second-chair leader needs extensive knowledge of the congregation and leadership team. He can serve the lead pastor best by being an expert in the church’s history, knowing the points of pride and even the darker moments. He can help guide decision-making and preaching by knowing sensitive shepherding issues. He also helps navigate new initiatives by reading the congregation’s threshold for change.

Know the conditions

For a caddie, knowledge of the course only goes so far. Weather conditions are also a major factor on a golfer’s performance. As we see commonly in The Open Championship, wind can be a major factor! A caddie must be prepared with the right information and equipment to make sure his golfer is ready for the elements. He needs to understand wind speed and direction. He needs to have the right clothing for the temperature. How will moisture level affect the speed of the greens?

Similarly, a second-chair leader must pay attention to factors in the community that affect the lead pastor’s decision-making and preaching. Tragedies or celebrations in the city may require a different tone in the sermon. A crisis outside of the walls of the church may indicate a change in course or perhaps a delay in starting a new ministry program. The loss of a large employer in the community may mean a different approach to a building campaign or tabling a potential new hire. All these factors create a need to discern how to stay focused on the ministry at hand and factor in the unique conditions presented.


While it’s no surprise to churches that ministry requires a healthy team, I believe second-chair leaders will enhance the work of the local church as they embrace their unique opportunity to support the first-chair leader as he preaches and leads. That role is just as crucial and warrants careful thought and preparation. And if I may paraphrase Charles Spurgeon, “If God calls you to be a caddie, don’t stoop to be a golfer.”

If God calls you to be a caddie, don’t stoop to be a golfer

Interested in learning more about second chair leadership?

The SCBO will be hosting a Leading Well from the Second Chair workshop on Thursday, August 1. Led by First Light Church’s Executive Pastor, Luke Francis, this one day workshop is tailored for Executive Pastors, Associate Pastors, and other key leaders who are charged with the implementation and integration of their church’s mission and vision. Through a one-day workshop built around a discussion, reflection, and action, leaders will gain a clarified understanding of the unique calling as a second chair leader, robust framework for leading within the leadership landscape of their local church cand team, and encouragement from other like-minded and gifted ministry leaders. If you’re looking to explore or cultivate your distinct second chair leadership toolbox this one day workshop is for you.

About Luke Francis
Utilizing his second chair gifting Luke serves as the Executive Pastor for First Light Church in Vandalia, Ohio. Drawing from a depth of experiences serving churches across size and life cycle stages, Luke is passionate about investing time with teams as they navigate through seasons of transition and renewal in pursuit of God’s better future. Over the last decade, Luke has acted as a trusted coach to senior teams and leaders as they grow in their leadership for the next season’s challenge. Luke’s steady and quiet influence as a strategic shepherd can be found behind many of today’s leading church planting expressions across North America. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University, Ohio University, and Wheaton College, as well as advanced certifications from The Paterson Center, The Table Group, and ProSci.

Related Pages