One of the Many Problems Youth Pastors Face: What to Do When a Youth Pastor and Senior Pastor Don’t Align

One Of The Many Problems Youth Pastors Face: What To Do When A Youth Pastor and Senior Pastor Don’t Align

The intention of this post is for my readers to give me resolutions, based off of their experiential knowledge and contextual insight, on how to manage their relationship with their senior pastor.

I need perspective on HOW youth pastors and senior pastors can get on the same page. I am constantly getting the questions like: How do I get my senior pastor on board? What do you do when a youth pastor and senior pastor come out of alignment?

WHY I think the breed of youth pastors don’t naturally drift toward their senior pastor:

–  personality differences

–  different ministry strategy

–  gives lip service

–  makes slow decisions

–  misaligned mission and vision

–  steeped too heavily in traditional and denominational values

–  to 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

My working list that describes HOW youth pastors can have a decent Kingdom-minded relationship with their senior pastor:

Do your homework before getting hired. Make sure the senior pastor shares the same ministry strategy and he/she energizes and inspires you. Ask the question: Would I be able to hang out with him/her outside of church?

Get a team of parents and adults that function as the youth ministry elder board and 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 that the senior pastor already respects and you already like and work well with.

Read a book together and start a conversation. For example: THINK ORANGE, Orange Leader Handbook and Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors (part II). The beauty about Orange is that it highly advocates for staff synergy and compatibility, and forces everyone to have one end in mind. Orange is like a church chiropractor—Orange is all about adjustment and alignment. The first part of Mark’s book talks about how to hire the right youth pastor, and the second part of the book describes the dynamics of the youth pastor and senior pastor relationship.

–  Improve your interpersonal relationship by spending time together by you asking questions and just listening. One great move on how to improve your interpersonal relationship is to meet weekly, bi-weekly and/or monthly so you can organically just get to know each other.

–  Plan a pastoral retreat that solely focuses on relationships and team building

–  Pray for your senior pastor

–  Play to your senior pastor’s strengths

–  Invite a third party consultant—possibly another senior pastor or senior leader your senior pastor respects, trusts and admires

–  Invite senior leadership to ALL youth events, retreats, programs and outings and ask them what they think

–  Focus on commonalities

–  Move slowly and be patient


Unfortunately, it was easier for me to list reasons why youth pastors have problems with their senior pastor than it was to answer how a youth pastor and senior pastor can align. I am finding and hearing more youth pastors leaving their youth ministry position and church planting because of how fed up they are with their senior leadership. I have heard many stories about senior pastors treating their youth pastor so bad or not willing to try something new, which quickly led me to ask the question: How can the youth pastor/senior pastor relationship improve?

4 Questions for youth pastors:

(1)  Why do youth pastors and senior pastors misalign?

(2)  How do youth pastors and senior pastors re-align?

(3)  What resources encourage youth pastors and senior pastor to be on the same page?

(4)  When is it time to leave the church because of the senior pastor differences?

Please post any suggestions (in the comment section below), especially if you have a healthy workable relationship with your senior pastor. If you don’t want to post publicly, please contact me with any suggestions.

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Jeremy Zach
Jeremy Zach easily gets dissatisfied with status quo. He reeks with passion and boredom is not in his vocabulary. He becomes wide awake when connecting with student pastors, thinking and writing about student ministry, experimenting with online technology, and working out. He is married to Mikaela and has two calico cats, Stella and Laguna. He lives in Alpharetta, Georgia and is a XP3 Orange Specialist for Orange—a division of the REthink Group. Zach holds a Communication degree from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities and Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.