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Youth Pastor Tensions: When You Clash With Your Senior Pastor

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Youth pastor: How do you manage problems in your relationship with the senior pastor? The intention of this post is for readers to offer resolutions, based off their experience and insight. Thanks in advance!

I need perspective on how a youth pastor and senior pastors can get on the same page. People constantly ask me, “How do I get my senior pastor on board? How can church leaders get realigned?”

Unfortunately, it’s often easier to list problems than to brainstorm answers. But I hate hearing about youth leaders leaving ministry because they’re fed up with senior leadership. Let’s explore the challenges and possible solutions.

Youth Pastor Challenges

The new breed of youth pastor doesn’t naturally drift toward senior pastors. Here’s why that might be:

  • personality differences
  • different ministry strategy
  • gives lip service
  • makes slow decisions
  • misaligned mission and vision
  • steeped too heavily in traditional and denominational values
  • too old, out of touch, and irrelevant
  • no vision
  • lack of commitment
  • difference in minor theological convictions
  • not a great work ethic
  • simply not around—not physically present in the church office
  • lack of trust
  • poor communication skills
  • no desire to try something new
  • financially doesn’t support youth ministry

Possible Solutions: 10 Relationship-Building Tips

How can a youth pastor have a Kingdom-minded relationship with the senior pastor? Here’s my working list:

1. Do your homework before getting hired.

Make sure the senior pastor shares the same ministry strategy. Does the pastor energize and inspire you? Ask: Would I want to hang out with this person outside of church?

2. Form a team of parents and adults to be the youth ministry elder board.

Then begin to dream and envision what the student ministry should look like. This board/team will be directly responsible and accountable to communicate what God is doing in the youth ministry. It would be wise to recruit a parent/adult who the senior pastor already respects and you already like and work well with.

3. Read a book together and start a conversation.

For example: THINK ORANGE, Orange Leader Handbook and Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors (by Mark Riddle). The beauty about Orange is that it highly advocates for staff synergy and compatibility. It forces everyone to have one end in mind. Orange is like a church chiropractor. It’s all about adjustment and alignment.

The first part of Mark Riddle’s book talks about how to hire the right youth pastor. Then the second part describes the dynamics of the youth pastor and senior pastor relationship.