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5 Things Your Senior Pastor Won’t Tell You

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

A healthy relationship with your senior pastor is a core part of a healthy youth ministry.

I understand this isn’t often the case, and you may wonder most days what’s happening in his or her head. It inspired me to create a list from my own life to give you some potential context on your end.

Here’s my best shot at it:

1) “I really take joy in what I’m doing.”
I don’t often say this out loud. Perhaps I should, but when I do the reaction is puzzling. People who hate their jobs or feel stuck in their circumstances can take on a subtle jealousy when they see someone else take pleasure in work or life. I sense this when I share my joy among those who reply with a tilted head and raised eyebrow, “Must be nice.”

The irony is my job is incredibly challenging. When others say, “I’d never want to do what you’re doing,” I know exactly why. Pastoring is emotionally exhausting, incredibly messy, and spiritually burdensome. Toss in leading a non-profit and coordinating teams of volunteer leaders all on different schedules, and it adds up. Still, through Jesus we can claim joy even when life or career wear us down. It’s why I shared this unique conclusion:

Your heart will gain scars.

You’ll be misled by others.

Close friends will seemingly abandon you.

The resources may run out.

You may fake your faith some days for the sake of others.

Simple things Christians say will annoy you.

The church you serve may appear two-dimensional in your three-dimensional stress.

Students will let you down.

You will disciple at least one Judas.

People will say all kinds of unkind things about you and your family.

And it is the best possible way to live.

2) “I’m a real guy, but I’m also a professional.”
There are people who love that I can be their friend, but won’t ever choose to see me as a leader or pastor. There are others who like what my title represents or the biblical guidance I can give them, but struggle with visualizing me being tempted or having real life problems.

It’s awkward for me to remind people that the inverse of their preference exists.

I’ve watched congregation members get tense because they didn’t want my voice to have any kind of authority in their lives, while others wanted more of my voice than I was able to give and ended up frustrated at my human limitations.

3) “Knock it off.”
I get emails, text messages and more containing the venting of people who would have me or our church do things differently. Honestly, it works me up because (as context) I personally can’t do or endorse something unless I see God in it myself… so we wouldn’t be doing it in the first place if it didn’t meet that criteria. I’m all up for someone questioning us for accountability, but when it’s a loud personal preference I want to look at the person and say, “Knock it off” – especially when I am seeing lives changed through whatever is being criticized.

At times, I will speak up. It can’t be my first response, as I’ve learned it’s easy for others to become more focused on my bold reaction than on how they first came at me. Suddenly my words become the new sound-byte, because (let’s face it) it’s easier to react to someone’s reaction than it is to consider what they’re saying underneath it all.

Which… is another reason why I don’t respond this way. When someone charges at me with a topic in hand, I can’t react to their reaction either. Whether because of my position or my awareness, I’m responsible to be patient with people who won’t be patient back. The occasional reward is I get to hear the real topic happening inside of them. Often the people who need to be loved most tend to come at you in unloving ways.

I don’t get to say “knock it off.”

But, seriously… “knock it off.”

4) “That’s cowardice.”

I understand that people are going to typically take the path of least resistance. Still, the Holy Spirit reminds me that this isn’t always right and won’t change unless it’s pointed out to them. With great fatigue, I’ve attempted to share that God has a better ideal for the situation that what they did or are about to (even though their choice made great sense circumstantially to them).

To be clear, the Lord would have us love each other – not pull back… work things out toward one another – not “agree to disagree” as we part…  lead our families – not have our spouses/kids/parents/siblings create funks we fall into… restore relationships into trust – not look for ways to continually second-guess each other… talk face-to-face – not banter behind a screen.

All of that is counter-cultural, which means it’s rare… and likewise, easier to find justification in cultural habits to be cowards who settle for the path of least resistance… even though what God proposes is what we secretly yearn for.

5) “I’m about ready to quit.”
For the record, I quickly typed this statement out without realizing it would be my last thought. It’s both incredibly honest and incredibly scary to see it included. I tend to be a quick writer and move on from one thought to the next, but this one rattled out of me… and sobered me up to stop and stare it for a while.

I understand that a pastor saying such a statement is cause for everyone to scurry about in anxious fear. People tend to be in a church until they feel like going somewhere else versus staying with it though thick and thin. We’ve seen households move on somewhere else simply because they feared something uncomfortable happening or continuing to happen. It’s why I don’t say out loud that I am tempted to quit my job just like anyone else is tempted to quit theirs… because it can turn people into mice fearing a sinking ship, when what’s actually happening are loud mechanical noises that can be addressed.

towel2Perhaps one day God will change my calling from where I’m at to somewhere else. In the meantime, I’m going to keep giving my best to what’s in front of me and assume that my human inklings of throwing in the towel are less about the “throwing” and more about the “towel” – the Lord would have me use it to wash the feet of others who are tempted to feel the same way.


I could write more, but this is where I’ll stop… because chances are whatever #6 would be is something I have yet to realize.

Does this help you in any way?

What have you learned (or need to learn) about your senior pastor or point leader?

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

6 thoughts on “5 Things Your Senior Pastor Won’t Tell You

  1. Nate LeJeune

    This is a share and save! Thanks for writing it. If I had to add one more it would be: “why don’t you help me instead of fighting me”. Articles like this force an inward stare at where I am and why articles like this hit home.

    • Thanks, Nate! That’s a great addition, too… because sometimes as a youth worker we think that toward the senior pastor, not realizing that he/she may be thinking the same thing our way. Great catch!

  2. Sam Swann

    Hey Tony, once again you have written something that is worth passing along! Thanks for sharing your insights with the YM nation. If would add one, it would be “I got your back” it has been my experience (not personally but through observation) that pastors feel this about their youth pastor/worker and when things get tough they show it but sometimes they forget to remind them on a regular basis. It helps the fearful side of us live a little more confidently.

    • Sam, thank you so much… and thanks for passing it along. I like your addition, too. How many of us need to hear that weekly, if not daily?

  3. I am 22 years old and interning in the youth department at a church. I believe youth ministry might be a big part of my walk with God and I just happened to stumble upon this article. I found it very helpful and truly enjoyed reading it! Thank you for sharing!

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5 Things Your Senior Pastor Won’...

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