Three years into my ministry, I had a huge blow-up with my pastor. Like most arguments, I’m not sure exactly how it started; however, the general theme was a lack of trust. I accused him of not trusting me and he did the same in return. It was ugly; however, with God’s grace and a good support system we were able to work through it. Today our relationship is strong, but it took a lot of time, work and persistence.
The relationship you have with your senior pastor is one of the most important ones you can have as a youth minister. If the relationship is bad, chances are that you, your ministry and even the church will fail. Ideally, youth ministry isn’t a separate ministry that happens within the confines of a church. You don’t minister in a silo. (Unless maybe you’re in a weird church plant in Kansas somewhere.)
It’s vital that you have a healthy relationship with your senior pastor.
So what does a healthy relationship with your pastor look like? It needs to have these four qualities:
When you have trust, you build up margin in a relationship. That means when you mess up, which we all do, your pastor can trust that you’ll rebound. It’s this margin that allows your pastor not to micromanage every decision. It’s this margin that allows you to believe he has the best interests for you, your ministry and your church at heart. The way you build that trust is by communication, respect and obedience. Oh, and if trust is broken? Do not let it go unaddressed! Deal with it, even though it’s difficult.
On top of building trust, communication is essential in making sure that the direction you want to take your ministry is in line with the direction your senior leadership is taking the church. Ideally, you’re being trusted to lead out in your area of responsibility. However, your pastor needs to know when you need support and resources. If there’s no communication, your pastor is left to assume. Then when expectations aren’t fulfilled, misconceptions are formed. And ultimately, trust can break down. It’s important to have a time when you both can check in with one another on a regular basis. Short, weekly meetings are a great way to accomplish this. If this won’t work, I’d recommend meeting no less than once a month.
You don’t have to be best buddies with your pastor. However, you need to have respect for his authority and position. There’s nothing more damaging to a church than when its own staff takes the pastor down a notch in public. What it communicates is, “I don’t respect his authority and neither should you.” If you do struggle with respecting your pastor, God is perfectly able to work on your heart. But you have to open yourself up to be changed. Be accountable for what’s going on inside of your heart. Disrespect for authority will bleed into your ministry and it will eventually undermine your discipleship efforts.
On top of respecting your pastor publicly, it’s vital to follow through by following his leading. Call it obedience. This often means taking on responsibilities not in your job description. Honestly, I still struggle with this. I’m so passionate about youth ministry that when my pastor asks me to do something outside of that realm, I can push back some. Or pout. It’s not that I don’t want to be a team player, it’s just that I focus a little too much on myself. Obedience means trusting your pastor’s decisions and direction.
Granted, building a healthy relationship with your pastor is a two-way street. On top of trust, respect and communication from you, he needs to do the same in return. It’s not easy. I can honestly say there have been times when my relationship with my pastor has been tested; however, because we’ve built a healthy relationship, we’ve worked through them.
No matter what your relationship with your senior pastor looks like now, it’s worth investing the effort to make it better.
It’s no surprise to God that the two of you are on the same team. Do whatever is in your power to make it work.