One of the more difficult relationships to navigate is the senior pastor/youth pastor relationship. It can be one that causes great stress and anguish, but also one of the most fulfilling relationships. It can tear a church apart, but it can also cause a church to grow and become healthy! I’ve seen nightmare situations, but also awesome examples of this relationship.
I won’t claim to speak for all the youth pastors out there, but here are a few things that I think youth pastors would like from their senior pastors:
1. We want to be seen as partners in ministry.
The senior pastor is the head of the church, which means we work for you. You’re the boss. Most of us cannot even imagine the pressure that you’re under, we don’t want that, we just want to join you in your work. We have a passion for the church and want to be included and involved in its work.
We often feel on the outside or in the “junior ministry,” waiting to graduate to the “big boy club.” Please include us in executive teams and allow us to join you as you make and shape the long-term planning for the future. Give us a part in helping to lead the congregation, and we will promise to do our best to not let you down.
2. Model professionalism and ask it of us, too.
I was recently talking with an old grey fox youth pastor who has been in youth ministry for over 20 years. He commented on how, at his first gig, he developed good work habits (i.e., getting to the office early, work ethic, etc.) and the importance of that for his ministry. It set the tone for his time as a professional minister, and has led to a long, fruitful ministry in several churches and ministries.
Many youth pastors struggle in their ministry because they have never developed good work habits. We want senior pastors that show us how to be good pastors! We’re watching and learning from you! Please help us become life-long professionals.
3. Broken stuff is part of ministering to adolescents.
I am a youth pastor—I spend time with adolescents. I try my best to respect the facilities that our church has been blessed to have. The only problem is that I work with adolescents who happen to break and damage stuff all the time. In my time as a youth pastor, I’ve had spray paint on the floor, broken doors, knocked over lights, a hole in the wall, dodge balls smashing emergency lighting at the church. All of it was done by students, but none of it was done because someone was trying to destroy stuff.
I’ll never forget when Don, my senior pastor, was asked about a broken light in the church by somebody who was afraid he was going to get mad. He laughed about it, and then went to get a ladder to fix it. It happens, and I promise, we’re not trying to break stuff on purpose.