Ever get frustrated with your senior pastor? Okay, if you don’t want to agree verbally, you can shout “yes” in your head. People can be frustrating—it’s a fact of life, and ministry is no different. The difficulty of working in ministry can force some youth workers to feel like they are on an island, especially when it comes to communicating and dealing with their senior pastors.
I have worked with four different senior pastors, and each one has been completely different. Each setting has taught me so much about leadership and working relationships. I am also a PDYM mentor and I hear from youth workers that a big struggle for them is not being able to work with their senior pastor. I know each setting is different for everyone, but most of the time, communication is the biggest key to having a healthy working relationship.
So with those experiences in mind, I offer you a TOP 10 list of ways to get along with our senior pastors, in no particular order, that have seemed to work for me.
- Pray for Him! Prayer should be one of the biggest things we do each day of each week. I pray for my senior pastor as often as I pray for my family. He is the one that I am following in leadership, sharing the burden of a church, and sharing a significant part of my life. Prayer should be a major part of how we deal with our senior pastors.
- Communicate with him about the youth ministry. The bottom line is you have been hired to oversee a specific area of the church. Most of the time your pastor won’t know what is really going on, good or bad, unless you tell him. Tell him your praise reports and your struggles. Hopefully you’re in a setting where both will be embraced and welcomed. You may even receive some advice that will encourage and inspire you.
- Communicate with him about your life and family. No one will care more about the well being of your family than you. You need to share the highlights, pains, financial struggles, need for more family time, and well, you know the list goes on. You need to be the one to bring those difficult and joyful conversations up. You need to be the one to fight for the health of your family. You also need to be the one accountable for your time. If you are given a gratis family day, don’t abuse it.
- Establish your boundaries. Whether you’re at a large church or small church, your pastor needs to know your boundaries. But remember, some of those boundaries need to be acceptable to both parties. What are acceptable standards and expectations are of you? When a discussion comes up about what is expected, both parties should know what should and should not be done.
- Defend him. Let’s be honest, leaders are an easy target. Your relationship with your senior pastor can go to a deeper level when he knows you are on his team. That doesn’t always mean you will agree with him, but at the end of the day are you a part of his team?
- Ask questions. Most of the time, youth workers are frustrated because they don’t fully understand what is going on in a pastor’s head. So don’t try and guess, ask questions. If you are wondering, don’t wait till the next staff meeting, track him down to talk. It doesn’t have to be a big moment, just stop by his office.
- Fight for his time. Most youth workers don’t feel they have enough of their pastor’s time, so fight for it. Sit him down and talk to him. Tell him what you want to do and be willing to partner with him to make the relationship work. Your time is valuable, and so is his. Often, he is juggling as much as you are in a day, so when you have his time and attention, get to the point. Also, I try to schedule a non-business dinner or lunch where we just share life. Your communication and relationship will go farther when you have both a personal and professional relationship.
- Stand your ground. Be cautious with this. You have to ask yourself a question, “What hill am I willing to die on for certain causes?” There are many times my pastor has asked me to do something or change something that I didn’t agree with. I have learned that talking with him privately, and with a sound company of trusted other leaders, is best. There have been times when I knew a change had to occur and there have been times when I knew a change should not occur—and in both cases I stood firm. Thankfully, I have never had an issue turn into more than a leadership conversation, but I have had to earn the ability in each setting to have my voice heard. This is probably the toughest task to do, but you have to be mature enough to pray, talk, and also listen through the issue at hand.
- Have fun. Ministry shouldn’t be boring or gruesome. Have fun. Start a little wager between the two of you and see who can drink less pop in a week. Go to a movie once a month. Have students TP his house, but let him in on it so he can get students with a water balloon. Enjoy being together and enjoy the ministry. Keeping a mindset and attitude of having fun together allows the difficult seasons to pass.
- Worship Christ together. At the end of each day, God is in control. Be able to sit back and worship God together. Rejoice together, share insights you are both learning from scripture, and defiantly stay focused on what God has called each of you to do.
No place of ministry is perfect, no working relationship is without flaws, but pursue the type of environment and relationship you want to have. Be proactive and maybe even show this article to your senior pastor and discuss it. Who knows, you may get a birthday card from him this year!