Before I joined a church staff I never imagined work relationships would be difficult. I believed there would be consistent communication and a unified front across ministries. After all, we’re all following the same Jesus and shepherding the same people! For some, you may have that experience: mission, vision, and values laid out in plain sight, pursuing it as a team. But for others this may not be the case. In fact, many of you may be laughing at my naivety.
Serving as a youth pastor I now realize how challenging working together can truly be. My office sits three doors down from our senior pastor’s, a mere 26 ½ feet. I know because I measured. So why does it often seem hard to bridge that gap? Why can 26 ½ feet feel like 26 ½ miles? How do I, as the youth pastor, relate to and work with my senior pastor? Where do I even begin? All of these questions quickly flooded my head when I was hired and now, 2 ½ years later, those questions still weigh heavy in my mind.
The good news is that gap can be closed. I have found several ways to begin that process and while they are simple, they can go a long way toward building a 26 ½ foot bridge.
- Invite your senior pastor to events.
Simply inviting your senior pastor to attend a youth event can do wonders for your relationship. By inviting them they know they are welcome and you would be glad to see them there. The senior pastor has many things going on. Many people want their attention and time. The truth is it is extremely possible they will not come to your event and if that’s the case, do not get discouraged! Continue to invite and the door will always stay open.
- Ask for advice
My guess is for most of you, your senior pastor has more ministry experience than you. In my case, my senior pastor was never a youth pastor, but asking for advice is still extremely valuable. This should especially true when you are dealing with a crisis situation but I challenge you to do this on a regular basis. Not only are they able to share insight from their ministry experience, you show them you have a desire to learn and grow as both a teacher of God’s word and a follower of Jesus. My advice is to look for advice anywhere you can, and your senior pastor is a great place to start.
- Update them on teaching series, events, God moments, etc.
Chances are your senior pastor does not regularly attend your weekly service or gathering. Keep them up to date on what’s going on! What are you teaching on? What events do you have planned? Share things that excite you, stories from a teaching or a cool moment that happened at an event. Bring your senior pastor into your world! Do not expect them to come to you, go to them.
It is clear from Scripture we are the body of Christ. God did not intend for us to be siloed or stuck in our own offices and ministry worlds! The stereotypical, unruly, gets-on-the-senior-pastor’s-nerves youth pastor can and should go away. We should find ways to bridge the 26 ½ feet, both for our own sake and the sake of the gospel.