5 Conversations to Have with Your New Senior Pastor

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Leadership change is a part of life.  Whether the Bishop sent you a new pastor back in July or the SPR hired a new staff person to be your supervisor, it’s important to get the communication channels open. Here are 5 conversations that you should have with the new senior pastor that could really get you off on the right foot.

1. Invite your new senior pastor to your main worship night.

If you had a teenager or a parent ask you what one program is the centerpiece of your ministry, what would that be? Sunday nights? Wednesday nights? Sunday School? Small groups on Tuesday morning? Whatever it is, invite the new senior pastor to that! He or she doesn’t have to speak – just invite him or her to come hang out and meet the teens.

Remember that part of a youth minister’s job (if they are in a local church) is to find ways to connect their group to the larger church. More than likely some of the teens who come to your “main event” do not attend Sunday morning worship at your church, but they are still a part of your church! Because of this, your senior pastor needs to meet them and they need to meet your senior pastor.

If you REALLY want to make the time significant, invite your senior pastor to preside over communion during your main youth group time.

2. Explain the demographics of your group to the new senior pastor.

Is your group mainly members of your church? Are they mainly members of a different church? Are they mainly unchurched? Do they come from private schools? Public schools? Home schooled? What about their socioeconomic level? How involved are the parents? Are you predominantly boys? Girls? Half and half? How many middle schoolers? High schoolers?

What about your volunteers? Are they parents? College kids? Young adults? Older adults? Men? Women? Does your significant other help out?

The more your senior pastor knows about the group that meets under the name of your church, the better he or she can minister to them. Furthermore, he or she can help identify what populations in your area that are not being reached with this information. By listing out these demographics, you might even gain a better understanding of what needs your group should address.

3. What are your needs? What are your struggles?

Speaking of needs. What does your group need? Do you need more consistent volunteers? Do you need a new sound system? Maybe your ministry would greatly benefit if the teenagers had more involvement on Sunday mornings. Maybe you need some guidance on a particular issue that has been brewing within the group. This is the time to ask. Don’t sound like you are complaining. Ask for insights.

Also explain your struggles. Are there any scandals or issues that have greatly impacted your group? Maybe your new senior pastor needs to hear about those. The more information that you can provide upfront will prevent possibly hard conversations in the future. Be as transparent as you can without breaching trust.

And what are you struggling with personally? Do you allow time for yourself spiritually? Are you getting burnt out? As the head of staff (and for tons of other reasons), the senior pastor is interested in your well being. He or she wants you to succeed. If there is anything to be done, trust that your new boss can help you.

4. What are your goals?

What do you hope to see happen in your group? Maybe you want to grow in number. Maybe you are okay with your current number and want to build better relationships within the group. Maybe you want to see more of your group come on Sunday mornings. Maybe you want the youth to be more involved with the other generations at your church. Tell your senior pastor. Get on the same page.

In some cases, you may receive a little push back. That’s okay. Realize that your senior pastor, too, has a vision for the church. Ask her or him what they would like to see in the youth group. Maybe they think that a youth group should be a way to get more people involved in the local church. Maybe they think that a youth group is a place where young people can learn about social justice for the first time. Maybe they have a different idea.

Really, all of these are valid. Hear out your new boss, but also be clear on your philosophy. Work together to build the kingdom. Learn from each other.

Also, keep in mind some concrete goals. Do you want to start an afterschool soccer ministry? Do you want to see more parents volunteer this year than you have in the past? Have some short term and long term goals and let them be known.

5. Ask what you can do for the new senior pastor.

Remember, he or she is the new kid in town – sometimes in the truest sense. They probably don’t know an extensive history of your town or church. Maybe invite them to lunch at a local place that only locals know about. See if he or she has a hobby that you can connect him or her to another person in the congregation. Do they know about the annual camping trip? Do they know that your kitchen given a free lunch to staff members on Tuesdays (no one told me that they did until I had been here for 2 months….).

Uprooting your life and family can be a very stressful time, and your new senior pastor needs your support. What do you wish you knew when you first moved here? What mistakes have you made that they should avoid?

Make yourself available to him or her just as they will be to you. Build the kingdom together.

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Bill is an ordained Deacon in the South Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He obtained a MDiv from Candler School of Theology with an emphasis on Biblical Interpretation and Religion in the Academy. He spends most of his time watching Netflix with his wife Lindsey and his daughter Arden. Bill currently serves as the Associate Pastor at Mulberry Street UMC in Macon, GA where the majority of his duties center on youth and intergenerational ministries and seeks to help people move from spiritual baby food to solid food.

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