Ministry is rooted in relationships.
Your best days serving God are directly impacted by the people you work with and for – not to mention the people under your own roof.
That’s why in this first installment of “Ask a Senior Pastor” we’re addressing two common tensions within our closest connections. Perhaps you can identify with what’s being asked, or even have a better answer that what I’m proposing.
Question 1: Why can’t senior pastors be honest and tell people when they want them to leave the church? It’s so destructive to be passive-aggressive.
I really appreciate this question, and often asked it myself as a youth worker. I hope I can make a tongue-in-cheek observation, though – rather than asking your senior pastor directly, you’re proposing it here. That’s obviously okay, and perhaps you did share this with him (I hope so). I simply want us to recognize how easy it is for us to anonymously expect something bold from a leader without requiring ourselves to be equally as bold.
Perhaps we all want our senior pastors to be champions for the most important things without letting distractions or distractors get in the way. As it relates to your question, one of three factors may be at play:
- Your senior pastor believes life change is possible: Ministry involves dealing with people who could at any moment through Jesus be transformed from “Saul” to “Paul.” A good senior pastor will hope that even the “thorn in his flesh” could one day become a life-giving “kernel of wheat.” Granted, this involves discernment about if that person can experience that in your congregation. Broken people are attracted to the Church because Jesus is in it, but not every church is equipped to minister to every broken person. Still, miracles are possible – and this may be your senior pastor’s thinking.
- Your senior pastor believes fallout is possible: Senior pastors often juggle keeping everything that’s healthy from falling to the ground. Sometimes they think confronting one person will cause a ball to fall, creating nervousness among everyone around that person. This then creates nervousness into others around those people, and so on. You can end up dealing with the echo of the echo, of the echo, of the echo of something that happened years ago. That concern, along with the complaining that happens on social media, can make many senior pastors want to avoid confrontation altogether.
- Your senior pastor believes accountability is possible: This is perhaps the most personal reason, for it doesn’t deal with “them” as much as it deals with “me.” It’s a weird and risky thing to ask someone to leave a church, primarily because the Church belongs to God. Do we even have the right to make such a demand if it’s not a matter of sin but merely of personality? Will we be held accountable by the Lord someday for kicking someone out who needed love and compassion? The Bible does speak about confronting those who are sinful, divisive or quick to argue, but I sense we should be humble and biblically shrewd in every other scenario.
Your senior pastor is in a position to transform the atmosphere of the church, but you are in a position to transform the heart of that individual. Check out my book “Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side” for tips on this.
Question 2: What’s your advice for balancing youth ministry leadership and family life when you have babies at home? My husband works 60+ hour weeks, and I’m the Youth Director at our church. I absolutely love my position and the teens I get to work with, but I often end up leaving as soon as my husband comes home to go do things with our youth group. It feels like we never see each other anymore and it’s wearing on our family. Any advice for keeping everything in balance and keeping everyone happy?
This is another great question, as I really appreciate its honesty. It’s easy to only wrestle with this unconsciously, which is then eventually spilled out into frustration or anger. Church is different for ministry families than it is for others. What your spouse and kids are comfortable in stretching to do today can snap back and cause whiplash in the days to come.
Knowing this doesn’t mean you’re on top of it, though. One of my old mentors used to say, “God invented the family before He invited the Church. I can always get another church job, but I can’t always get another family.” It was great advice. That is, until he did the opposite and almost lost his family altogether.
I can tell you enjoy ministry, but one of three things needs to happen:
- You scale back from what you’re doing: This may hurt you the most, since you obviously feel a calling and joy through serving. Keep in mind, the same God who hardwired that into you also said that nothing should ever separate a husband and wife. When the work you’re doing for God destroys the work God is doing in your home, that’s a huge yellow light – if not a red light.
- Your spouse jumps into what you’re doing: This may hurt your spouse the most, assuming he isn’t as fond of youth ministry like you are. Consider how farmers have demonstrated that it’s possible to stretch the DNA of an animal, such as cows; however, what they can’t do is change its DNA. Your husband can only go so far into what you’re doing and still be “him” – anything beyond that is a violation of his DNA, and only the Creator can change that. Perhaps find a role that suits who your husband is, if he is willing.
- You and your spouse (and church) identify a compromise: Your church can use one more moment of your time, as can your family. Recognize this with everyone involved, including the desire you have to serve both without crossing a line. For example, if you can’t have at least one meal with your family a day, give them veto power over your schedule and make sure they get to have their own time with you, that’s a miss. Likewise, if you’re only giving your ministry your leftover energy, then you may need to scale back into a support role versus a big leadership role.
It’s been said that the greatest gift you can give your children is to love your spouse well. What if the greatest gift you can give your students is to love your family before them?
Thoughts on either of these?