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The troubling question can come any time: "Just what is it that you do at your church? Are you the preacher?" Senior ministers, unlike associates, aren't bothered by this question. "Yes, I am," they confidently reply.

But as an associate minister, my very self-respect is challenged by this question. Immediately I'm confronted by an array of possible responses.

Humorous: "I am the preacher boy" (remember to laugh).

Descriptive: "I work with youth and have pulpit responsibilities" (and don't give many details).

Succinct: "I am the associate minister" (fewer details).

My favorite: "I am one of the ministers at the Raleigh Church" (no details).

Kidding aside, despite the proliferation of multiply staffed churches in the past generation, most people still think in terms of having one preacher who has a bunch of helpers. The other ministers may be important, but since they aren't "the main man," well-meaning parishioners continue to ask associates, "When are you going to get your own church?"

Whether ...

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