Today I’m offering one answer to the most common frustration I get.
Care to guess what it is?
Take a minute to think about it.
It’s not overbearing parents or silly fundraisers or unruly students.
Nothing like that.
Nope, it’s conflicts between youth workers and their senior pastors.
I get this email at least once a week:
Please help! My senior pastor is being a massive jerk and I don’t know what to do about it!
The messages come from all over the country, from people all over the map when it comes to experience, church size, youth ministry size.
They write about boring meetings, resistance to new ideas and the difficulty of doing ministry on a miser’s budget.
I hear about absent pastors who have noting to do with youth ministry and overbearing pastors who want everything done the way they used to do it.
In fact, I’m just dorky enough to keep a log of people’s complaints …
When youth workers share their ministry frustrations, nearly half of them complain about senior pastors.
Second on that list is fundraising, and it’s not even a close second. Less than 25 percent of people share that complaint.
(And in case you were wondering, overbearing parents take home the bronze, comprising about 20 percent of complaints.)
But the big one on that list is the senior pastor, and if that’s a frustration on your list, I’ve got a solid recommendation about what you should do first.
Consider giving your pastor a break.
I am keenly aware that this is not the answer that many of us are hoping for, but if you haven’t tried it yet, I hope you will …
… because I refuse to believe that HALF of the pastors out there are as bad as we sometimes think they are.
In fact, I think it’s far more likely that, as a field, youth ministry has developed some misconceptions about what a pastor is supposed to do for us.
So while I do know that there are a fair number of pastors out there who have earned their reputations, I think most of us need to hold our judgment a little longer. Try to keep the following things in mind:
Every ministry wants more volunteers.
As soon as you’ve finished pitching the senior pastor about why you need him to help you recruit seven more volunteer leaders, the children’s minister walked in and asked for the same thing.
So did the choir director and the tech director and the team in charge of hospital visitations.
Trouble is, there are only so many volunteers to go around.
If you were the senior pastor, what would you do?
Every ministry wants more money.
I know that you feel like your ministry gets the short end of the stick when it comes to adequate funding, but so does the maintenance team and the welcoming committee. Let’s not even mention the fact that the building is falling apart.
Your church might be one of the unfortunate ones that struggles to pay utilities or make payroll every week, but even if you’re not …
… I don’t know of a single church that has enough money to give every ministry every dollar that they think they need.
He’s trying to negotiate a fine line of involvement.
I hear from plenty of youth workers who wish their senior pastor offered more advice, encouragement or wisdom.
Then I hear from other youth workers who find that to be overbearing. They say the same things over and over again:
I wish he’d just let me do my job!
Your senior pastor is trying to find a very small sweet spot between supporting your ministry and letting you run with it.
It’s very difficult to find very small sweet spots.
He probably gets interrupted more than you do.
It’s easy to get frustrated when your pastor doesn’t get things done on your time table, or when he leaves you hanging on a project …
… but remember that he’s trying to do his job between funerals and hospital visits, through staff conflict and committee strife every single week.
You and I exercise a lot of grace for a lot of people and it might be time to make sure that our senior pastors are on that list.
Do you have unreasonable expectations of your pastor?