One of the more difficult relationships to navigate is the senior pastor-youth pastor relationship. It can be one that causes great stress and anguish, but also one of the most fulfilling relationships. It can tear a church apart, but it can also cause a church to grow and become healthy! I’ve seen nightmare situations, but also awesome examples of this relationship.
I won’t claim to speak for all the youth pastors out there, but here are a few things that I think youth pastors would like from their senior pastors:
1. We want to be seen as partners in ministry
The senior pastor is the head of the church, which means we work for you. You’re the boss. Most of us cannot even imagine the pressure that you’re under, we don’t want that, we just want to join you in your work. We have a passion for the church and want to be included and involved in its work.
We often feel on the outside or in the “junior ministry,” waiting to graduate to the “big boy club.” Please include us in executive teams and allow us to join you as you make and shape the long term planning for the future. Give us a part in helping to lead the congregation and we will promise to do our best to not let you down.
2. Model professionalism & ask it of us too
I was recently talking with an old grey fox youth pastor who has been in youth ministry for 20+ years. He commented how at his first gig he developed good work habits (i.e. getting to the office early, work ethic, etc) and the importance of that for his ministry. It set the tone for his time as a professional minister and has led to a long, fruitful ministry in several churches and ministries.
Many youth pastors struggle in their ministry because they have never developed good work habits. We want need senior pastors that show us how to be good pastors! We’re watching and learning from you! Please help us become life long professionals.
3. Broken stuff is part of ministering to adolescents
I am a youth pastor—I spend time with adolescents. I try my best to respect the facilities that our church has been blessed to have. The only problem is that I work with adolescents who happen to break and damage stuff all the time. In my time as a youth pastor I’ve had spray paint on the floor, broken doors, knocked over lights, a hole in the wall, dodge balls smashing emergency lighting at the church. All of it was done by students, none of it was done because anybody was trying to destroy stuff.
I’ll never forget when Don, my senior pastor, was asked about a broken light in the church by somebody who was afraid he was going to get mad. He laughed about it, and then went to get a ladder to fix it. It happens, and I promise, we’re not trying to break stuff on purpose.
4. Student culture has changed
I only graduated from high school 11 years ago, yet student culture is very different from my time in school. Technology, specifically social media and smart phones, have reshaped the way that students interact almost over night. Many school districts schedule events without care for the schedule of churches, which means that students are busier than ever before. Many of the things that we did (even in early 2000’s) have been rethought. Events that use to be easy wins, like concerts or game nights, aren’t easy wins anymore. In many ways we’re having to rethink the things that we do to connect with students.
We need your help in continuing to connect and reconnect with students as they live in a culture that is doing everything it can to pull them away from the church and from Christ.
5. We need good accountability
A ministry with out accountability is one that is not going to thrive. We need you to help us with that. Please help us with setting goals and then help us by enabling us to accomplish these goals. Too often its easy to feel like we’re given a sheet full of expectations, a budget, and then sent off to get it down on our own.
We need your help in not just setting good goals, but in actually getting them done.
6. We want you to take care of yourself
Sadly, in our church culture, many senior pastors are workaholics. This is not good for you! We need you to set limits, take days off, protect nights off, and practice Sabbath. We want you at your best. Working crazy hours is not good for you, and we care about you.
Also, help us take care of ourselves. We want to be in the game for a while and need your help in making sure we manage our time and calendar well!
7. Use us as a change up
In baseball, some pitchers throw a change up, its a pitch that’s a different speed to help keep opponents off balance. Just in their nature, youth pastors are often different types of people than their senior pastors. Let’s use that to our mutual advantage. In the church, use our styles, personalities, gifting, and energies as a change up to yours! Together we can be present a more balanced approach to ministry, much like Paul is talking about when he speaks about the gifting of the body in I Corinthians.