Important considerations to help maintain a healthy relationship between youth pastors and senior pastors.
After my post on “4 Things I Hope All Senior Pastors Know About Youth Ministry” and in the interest of creating meaningful dialogue, I’d like to present what youth pastors and youth leaders need to know and keep in mind about the role of our senior pastors.
1. Your senior pastor believes in you.
As youth ministry leaders it is important that we understand that our pastors believe in us; this is obvious because they either hired us on to paid ministry staff or appointed us over the ministry as volunteer staff. Either way they believed in us enough to put us in leadership over the student ministry. Just because we may not have direct access to them as often as we’d like, doesn’t mean they are displeased with our service. They hired us to do a job and they trust us to do it. When we can’t move any further without their input, we will get it.
2. Your senior pastor is responsible for more than just your ministry.
I will be honest and say that sometimes I have to be reminded of this point, as I often want my leadership to answer a question I have or to focus solely on the youth ministry. However, one thing I have to remember is that they have other ministries within the church and some of our leaders are also responsible for ministries outside of our local church. While we would like to think that our ministry is the only one that they should focus on given the fact these students will be adults soon and they should want them developed and trained well (I know I’m not the only one thinking or saying this at times), it is also the reality that the men, women, couples, singles, music, preaching, finances, and other ministries of the church are also important and need their attention. I am in no way saying that the youth ministry should come after these ministries but instead that we need to be mindful as youth leaders that we don’t have to worry or really even think about these ministries as much as our senior pastor does.
3. Your senior pastor wants your input but needs it at the right time and in the right way.
I have heard some youth leaders speak about their frustration with the lack of communication between them and their pastors by saying “well they just don’t care about what I have to say.” The truth is that our pastor cares a lot about what we have to say and I would even say that they value our thoughts on the youth ministry and even the overall ministry. I believe the problem comes in when we want to explain something or share a thought but the timing doesn’t work or the method is wrong. I have learned that I can’t tell everything at one time or even in one way. Some things I can text them and that works better than talking with them. Other things I can talk with them about but the timing has to be right—Sundays and/or immediately following meetings might not be appropriate. I have found that the best way to communicate your thoughts with the pastor is to request a set time each week or month. Sometimes the work we do speaks for itself. Now I am not saying that we don’t need to have focused time to talk with our pastors, but I am saying that we need to work on how that time is spent and discover the best ways to communicate.
4. Your Senior Pastor needs a break just like you do.
It is very important for us to understand that even though our pastor is in charge of all of the ministries and it seems like they can eat, breathe, sleep, dream and drink the ministry 24 hours a day and seven days a week, they, too, need a break and some time away so that they can be refreshed and further developed for the work that they have to do. As youth leaders, we need to respect their time off. If you don’t know when they are off, ask. If they say that they don’t take time off (pray for them), tell them what day of the week you won’t bother them because you believe that they need a break as well. Make sure that the people on your youth ministry team and even those that you serve with at the church (the other pastors/ministers) respect their time as well. If we want our pastor to be the best that he/she can be, we need to make sure we allow them to spend time with God, their families and themselves.
Russell St. Bernard (@PastorRuss09) is the youth minister at Reid Temple AME Church’s north campus in Glenn Dale, Maryland, and the founder of After the Music Stops, a full-service youth ministry resource company dedicated to assisting leaders and parents as they serve their students. This article originally appeared in Youth Ministry Hindsight: 5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started.