Maintaining healthy relationships is a priority in all areas of life, but our ministry world requires special attention. Ultimately, we spend about a third of our lives working, which means we spend a third of our days with co-workers. That’s a significant amount of time, so we want the atmosphere to be positive and productive for everyone.
All of my church-staff relationships are important, but one that stands out is my relationship with the lead pastor. Thankfully, I have a great relationship—and friendship—with him. I always want to honor and respect my pastor, and I want to encourage other people to do the same.
If you don’t have a great working relationship with your lead pastor, it can seem difficult to give the kind of honor you’re “supposed to.” But as Craig Groeschel of Life.Church says: “Honor is given; respect is earned. Respect is about how the other person acts. Honor is about how you act.”
Regardless of how anyone else acts, I’ve learned the only person I can control is myself (and sometimes my 5-year-old, though I’ve lost a few major public battles).
These four personal, practical actions help me support, encourage, and honor my lead pastor. In the process, our relationship has deepened and I’ve become a stronger leader:
- Relate—I affirm my pastor both publicly and privately. This isn’t an attempt to butter him up; it’s a way for me to show (and model) honor. Whenever our busy schedules allow, I spend strategic time with my pastor, asking good questions, listening intently, and taking notes. I’m interested not only in growing our church but in growing our friendship. Our pastor has an incredible, genuine love for people, and that rubs off on me when I spend time with him.
- Demonstrate—I work hard to get a job done well, not just done (a lesson I learned from checking to see how well my kids have “cleaned” their rooms). I want to support our church’s mission and vision with excellence.
- Communicate—Obviously, I share what’s happening in my youth ministry area—the wins, the needs, what’s on the horizon, areas we need to work on. But at a deeper level, I’m thankful I can have open, honest conversations with my lead pastor. It’s easy to lose the privilege of being heard. We lose that privilege when it’s more important to be right than to be respectful, when we complain much and celebrate little, and when we confuse our personal agenda with organizational needs.
- Evaluate—I ask for feedback and invite constructive criticism. Although our leadership styles are different, I don’t want to steer the church in a different direction. I want to be on the same page as my senior pastor. When I hear encouragement, I try to do more of whatever’s working. When I receive constructive criticism, I respond by addressing my pastor’s suggestions.
Because there’s often a gap between what I do and what I think I do, I asked my lead pastor’s opinion. What have I done to support, encourage, and honor him? During our productive conversation, most of his feedback fit into the above four practices. But one thing stood out: my pastor’s love for our church. Anything I do that shows honor and respect for our church honors him.
These comments from my senior pastor offer insights about earning the trust of your own leader:
- “You work on understanding our DNA before you try to make big changes.”
- “You’re all-in with the church’s mission. You support the congregation and our vision.”
- “You can be blunt, but your words and actions are respectful. I’m not worried about your motives. I feel respected and supported.”
That makes me feel honored. Yet I don’t serve the church to win over my pastor; I serve the church because I’m serving Jesus. That means that I, in turn, support, encourage, and honor my pastor. I’m on a mission at my church, and I want to align with what Jesus is doing here.
What is Jesus doing where you’re serving? How can you honor him—and other people—by honoring your senior pastor?