1. Own your shape.
Upon meeting my husband and me, people always remark on how different we are, and inevitably say, “Well, isn’t that just such a blessing in your ministry?” Sure, whatever. Being so very different is also so very hard. My husband is a triangle―and not even a right triangle, but more like one of those scalene triangles from ninth grade geometry with no matching sides or angles. I am a square―four right angles and four equal lines. The problem comes when I want him to quit acting like such a triangle and square-up! “Why didn’t you run the meeting like this?” “You need to finish your sermon on this day.” “Can you seriously not do… (fill in the blank)?” Or, on the flip side, “My partner is so great at that, and I’m not. I’m obviously a worthless pastor with nothing to contribute.” Both behaviors―trying to re-shape your partner in your image, or re-shape yourself in theirs―are harmful to you, your partner, and your ministry. Own whom God has made you to be, and allow your partner to do the same.
2. Take a cue from parenting.
In many ways, co-pastoring is like parenting: two people working together to love and train others—in our case, our parishioners. Seasoned parents can offer wise counsel. First of all, don’t get played. Unfortunately, even Jesus-loving church folks can misbehave. If they don’t get their way on an issue with one pastor, they might very well try it out with the other pastor. Heed the words of my wise father, “If mom said no, so do I.” This requires consistent communication between pastoral partners and deep trust in one another’s decisions.
That said, remember to praise in public, and critique in private. Even if you are absolutely mortified by your partner’s decision or response to an issue, it is rarely, if ever, appropriate or healthy to correct your partner in front of others. Some would say avoid disagreeing in public altogether, but that is insincere and communicates a false image to your people. Instead, pledge to praise your partner in front of and to others and save critiques for private conversations. When you do disagree with your partner in a meeting or interaction, be a model for Christ-likeness in humility and gentleness as you share your difference of opinion.