There are important relationships to manage at your church and then there is your relationship with your senior pastor. No relationship may be as grand of a dance as that one is. How you interact, serve & honor them is a really important part of being a leader in your church. The plight of some youth pastors is that their senior pastor never believed in them, supported them, had their back or just plain didn’t care about the ministry to the next generation. How can you have an amazing relationship with your senior pastor, where you look each other in the eye and care for what the other is doing in a meaningful way?
1. Follow Well
The senior or lead pastor at your church is constantly asking himself the question of “is anyone actually following my leading”? I am sure you can relate to that question, I know I can. I am my own worst critic and know that those inner voices have the power to paralyze me in my leadership if Im not proactive in leaning into Jesus. Your senior pastor is in the same boat. So, since you can relate, follow well. This means be supportive, encouraging, go the extra mile to show your senior pastor that you are all in to the vision of the church. The better you follow, the more trust gets established between you and the senior pastor. Trust is something that takes a lot of time to build and can be lost in an instant. Following well means to not give him a reason to not trust you. Have your senior pastors back in conversations. Stick your neck out on the line for them when you have an opportunity.
The majority of the relationship struggles between youth pastor and senior pastor stem from leadership tension. When you assume a follower mentality, that doesn’t mean you are not a dynamic leader yourself, that means that you understand leadership isn’t always about being in charge. Follow your senior pastor well and I guarantee your relationship with them will change for the better.
2. Serve Well
Depending on the dynamics of your specific church context you may wear more than one hat when it comes to responsibilities. The first church I served at I wore a bunch of different hats because, well, you have to to make things happen sometimes. I lead adult worship, helped out with our starting point class, did the youth ministry stuff and was involved in mens ministry on some level. You do what you need to do at your church to accomplish the mission that God has put in your heart. What I didn’t realize by wearing all of those different hats was that my senior pastor noticed and appreciated my attitude towards those roles. This servant attitude earned my extra points with my senior pastor and continued to build the trust between us in our relationship.
Serving God’s church well, in turn, serves your senior pastor well. When you do this without complaining, willingly and with a great attitude you propel your relationship with your senior pastor forward exponentially. Serving well may mean doing things that aren’t in your job description. Serving well may mean you need an attitude change. Serving well may mean you need to say “no” to some things so you can say “yes” to things that have more impact long term. You are the only one who knows how you can serve your senior pastor well. When you do, you will see your relationship with them grow!
(Obviously, there are leaders out there that don’t notice or don't care. These leaders need to be lovingly told and explained that the need to be aware, appreciative and grateful towards people who are serving well.)
The quickest way to build trust with your senior pastor is to crush it with teenagers at your church. Build a ministry that helps teenagers get to know Jesus and grow in their relationship with Him. Build a ministry that makes waves In the community for the Gospel, build a ministry that develops and empowers leaders to invest in this generation, build a ministry that is vital to the long term growth of the church. When you do your job well, you reflect your senior pastor’s leadership. (Regardless of if it really is an accurate reflection)
Growing your ministry to students, grows the church and in turn gives your senior pastor greater influence which should lead to a better relationship. So, GO CRUSH IT!
Be Humble, Hungry and Smart! Stay on the grind, love your family well and serve your senior pastor well.
Let me close by saying that there is a possibility that you are doing all of those things incredibly well and still getting no where. Don’t lose hope, keep working on building a bridge and working hard to honor the person in authority over you. If you ever need to have a conversation about this relationship and need someone unbiased, I am always available to chat!