Say you could snap your fingers to create the perfect senior pastor. What do you envision? What traits would you want more of? less of? Or perhaps you simply desire more consistency?
Senior pastors are brain-twisting enigmas. (Keep in mind: the person who just wrote those words is a senior pastor!)
The ancient philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Just when you think you’ve figured out your senior pastor, his or her words and actions suddenly surprise you. I’ve discovered that this isn’t always because of who the senior pastor is, but because of who I am.
I became a Christian in high school through an incredible student ministry. At that time, the leaders in my life included teenagers who were a few steps ahead of me on their faith journey, young-adult volunteers, and a few paid youth workers who stood on a stage connecting the Bible’s timeless truths to my life. So when I accepted my first role as a youth worker in a church, I didn’t have a solid reference point for what to expect from a senior pastor.
It’s important for youth workers to recognize exactly what they expect from a senior pastor.Click to tweet
For example, have you ever wanted your senior pastor to be like…
Francis Chan (Ideal Pastor)
Do you want a senior pastor who talks and acts more biblically, maybe walking away from megachurch fame to start working with the poor? If God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, this stereotypical ideal pastor is omniloving and omnitheological. Zero flaws. Unlimited strengths. And lots of arm-waving, like he or she is doing some sort of pastoral Crossfit.
Dr. Phil (Psychologist)
Wouldn’t it be great if you could dump your woes before your senior pastor and receive some free, life-changing therapy? Confessions wouldn’t get you fired; instead, you’d be fixed in five minutes.
Sure, sometimes the pastoral sound bytes would seem like they’re coming from Foghorn Leghorn, but at least you’d feel better.
Whenever Harry Potter gets into trouble, good ol’ Dumbledore sends a flying toenail or flaming scarf to his rescue. Do you want a senior pastor who’s willing to use special powers to save you from crazy parents or ministry angst? Maybe you secretly think the pastor has a more direct line to the supernatural than you do.
Chip and Joanna Gaines (Renovation Experts)
Perhaps you’re looking for a pastoral super-couple. Their incredible wisdom can take any life “as is” and renovate it into something solid and beautiful. They also flirt a lot.
When life or ministry is falling apart, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone swing the hammer and make things awesome while you walk off to do other things?
Adam Sandler (Bruh)
Want to hang out with your senior pastor like a best buddy? Certainly your senior pastor wants to hang out with you. They’re supposed to be funny and nice to people, right? We expect to see senior pastors at BBQs, birthday parties, and other celebrations. Maybe they play guitar or ride a motorcycle. They’re just cool people who can relate to everyone.
Steve Jobs (CEO)
Some people expect a pastor to make the sharpest decisions, continually innovate, market the latest platform, and provide visionary leadership.
We say it’s about art, but we know at the end of the day “we’re a business.” So we really want to see our “brand” become more popular than others. (You can decide what that analogy means for you.)
Cliff Huxtable (Parent)
Every generation has a dad it looks up to. He’s usually a fictional character because it’s better to imagine he’s legit than to learn of any skeletons in his closet.
We want this in a pastor, too—the kind of parent you can share a hoagie with when the other parent (or a church elder) isn’t looking. On occasion, you might even bust out some old tunes and dance around together haphazardly. Most of all, this is the kind of person you can look up to and who always offers sound advice.
Cell Phone (In my pocket)
These days you can access almost anything you want on a phone at any time. Many people view pastors that way. They must always be available, whether to answer a question, offer a solution, or simply be a sounding board when you have time to kill. Frustrated with your spouse? Call the pastor. Dissatisfied with work? Call the pastor. Struggling with doubt? Call the pastor. It’s great to feel needed, but at some point a cellphone runs out of battery.
Which of these desires do you identify with most? What do you look for in a senior pastor, and how do you react when certain desires or needs aren’t met?
Ministry can be exhausting, so it drives us to seek like-minded people who “get it.” We want someone to help us commiserate losses and celebrate victories. Maybe we even want to impress someone from time to time and hear an occasional “Good job!” Knowing—and honestly assessing—your expectations can help you create and nurture a positive relationship with your own senior pastor.
Want more on this topic? I wrote Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side, packed with advice from a senior pastor for youth ministry.