You get it – a healthy relationship with your senior pastor or the person you report to is a core part of a healthy youth ministry. The individual in that role is in a position to transform your impact in the church.
What you may not realize is how you are in a position to transform the heart of that individual.
The problem is your senior pastor may seem like a tool.
It’s possible you’re working under someone who is completely insecure, makes short-sighted decisions, abuses power, or seems to have your worst interests at heart.
I’ve been in the same conversations you have when youth workers vent. Isn’t this the caricature we create with our summaries?
Then again, maybe it’s just a caricature. Perhaps there’s more going on beneath the surface. It could be that you’ve forgotten this and are actually furthering misperception.
What if your senior pastor isn’t a tool?
Jesus said that one of the best ways to overcome tension with people is to “bless” them.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'” (Matthew 5:43-44, NIV)
We also read that when a leader is doing a good job or is in a position of responsibility over us, we should recognize this, too.
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17, NIV)
The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium (of respect and remuneration; lit of double honor), especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17, HCSB)
Take all of that in…
what are you going to do about it?
How about appreciating your SP beyond saying “thank you?”
I like this super-short Ted Talk video on the power of being the “first follower” of a leader:
How do we do this?
- Pray up: Consider the example of Nehemiah who served under a King, yet had his own God-given burden. Nehemiah prayed that the Lord would give him success by granting “favor in the presence of this man.” In doing so, Nehemiah set his heart right by understanding God wanted him to have a good relationship with the authority above him in order to do what was in front of him. We can assume Nehemiah regularly prayed for this man and their relationship. What’s your application from this?
- Listen up: Many senior pastors have something inside of them that really could become contagious. Perhaps it’s a fire from God they hope will catch on. Pay attention to the movement of God in such a leader and join in. Likewise, listen up for where your senior pastor may be struggling – be it on the home front, spiritually or otherwise. In one church I noticed my senior pastor really became insecure as a leader when his oldest daughter rebelled. Had I not recognized the connection, I may have misread his actions and tone.
Those first two suggestions may seem passive, but they prepare you for what follows.
- Speak up: Have you ever seen a customer harass a store employee or manager? It’s awkward, especially because customers often feel they can say whatever they want for the person working the job will get fired if they defend themselves. Senior pastors know this angst, which often makes senior pastors feel alone. Speak up not merely to defend yours from petty attacks, but also to affirm what you appreciate. Give frequent shout-outs on social media, in conversations or in services where others in your church can understand what you appreciate about him or her.
- Serve up: Once a group of senior pastors confessed to me that they wished their youth pastors would “just do the job and not need so much maintenance.” We can really encourage our senior pastors by doing that – fully serving within our job description with full hearts. Accordingly, let that overflow by asking your senior pastor, “Beyond my job description, how can I serve you this week?” Maybe it’s making sure he/she is healthy personally – how can you make a date night happen or give some time off to invest into the kids?
- Own up: You probably want “something” from your senior pastor… something as simple as friendship or as complex as surrogate parenting from him/her. Own what you are looking for, and consider seeking it elsewhere. I’m not suggesting you still shouldn’t hope it happens, but that every senior pastor struggles with people inserting an “ask” or “expectation” on that relationship. If you can remove yours, then the connection the two of you share will be full of grace and freedom versus assumption and supposition.
Check out Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side or The Disconnect, or check out this podcast interview I recently did with Terrace Crawford.
Bottom line – it’s easy to wait to be served, inspired and recognized, yet in doing so we miss out on the opportunity to serve, inspire and recognize instead.
What is and isn’t working in your relationship with your senior pastor?
Do you have any advice or questions on how to make it better?