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

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 of:   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:

–  personalities differences

–  different ministry strategy

–  gives lip service

–  makes slow decisions

–  misaligned mission and vision

–  steeped to 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 of:  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, 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 listen.  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 3rd 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 mis-align?

(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.

 

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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5 comments

  1. Your posts have been great…. you’re on a roll.

    1. We all want to take the easy way out and as such we falsely believe that the ministry interview is about making friends and being liked. Often times on both sides of the spectrum a youth pastor and a senior pastor is rolling out the red carpet to themselves and avoiding weak spots and true intentions.

    2. Both people have to be honest. You can’t make changes or adjust strategy in order to sync if you’re not being honest. A lot of times much of it can be handled on the front end of the job but when change is happening people have to have the self awareness and integrity to say, “You can no longer do this” or “I can’t do that and here’s why or what has to happen in order for me to adjust.”

    3. I got nothing.

    4. A friend of mine picks one week each year to prepare themselves in prayer and fasting to seek God about the topic of where they are at professionally and spiritually. If in that week God reveals to them that it’s time to step away he conveys it immediately to his pastor.

    If he prayed in January and got direction from God, he shares with his pastor that he will be there till June to help with transition and finish strong. He does this in spite of not having a place to go to. By the time June comes God has taken him through a spiritual journey of faith as he listens more intently to God about what he is up to and where or what he will be doing come June. He is led by faith and not his skills in job hunting or finding a “grass is greener” spot.

    January is the only time he addresses with God if there is need for change. If God says no he does not leave or take action on anything different regardless of frustration or occupational stress until the next January of prayer and seeking.

    That’s just a suggestion about how to make sure you’re listening to the Spirit when you transition and not your flesh or taking over for that matter and using your connections and skills to avoid pain and non-preference.

    The “fresh start” is probably the most tempting option you have to be aware of that you’re feeling inside that may be to the detriment of seeing fruit and being shaped well by Christ through difficulty.

  2. Of your lists of reasons why senior and youth pastors don’t align – I’m currently experiencing all of them – or at least most.

    It honestly took me by surprise – I’ve never had this sort of problem before, and I’m never had such trouble communicating with someone either. There was a hint that communication might be a challenge during the interview process… but I never thought it could ever reach the level it is at. I would say that maybe I should have trusted that gut instinct that there would be trouble in that area except that we (my husband and I) felt that this is where we were supposed to go.

    We are currently at the bring in a third party stage – which is including the Birkman Personality Assessment. If you haven’t heard about it, you can check it out at http://www.birkman.com. It helps people learn more about themselves, and their stress behaviors (with tips on how to deal with them) and highlights areas in which teams may have difficulty.

    We are hoping it helps – but just as another note – my senior pastor is definitely someone my husband and I can spend time outside of the church with – as a person we love him! As a co-worker/boss… we have experienced frustration more extreme than ever before – and so has he with us, it seems.

    We are concerned that it’s gone past the point of repair, that none of the parties have the energy and grace for the next steps… but before we leave, we want to know we gave it our all.

    We feel like God is telling us it is okay to move on… but are wary of our frustration/exhaustion tainting our decision… which is why we are giving the Birkman a shot.

    That doesn’t really answer any of your questions – I just thought I’d chime in that I’m on an adventure trying to find the answers right now.

  3. 1) Agree with your reasons. I think there are any number of reasons why we dont align, ranging from arrogance as a young youth pastor to arrogance as an old sr. pastor, and everything in between that you have already touched on. Reading your list almost makes it seem impossible to find a sr pastor that I, as a youth pastor, can align with. I know that can’t be true, but its one of those discouraging thoughts I struggle with, dont know about others.

    2) Your answer of go through a book is a great one, but in a lot of cases, the relationship is too strained to even want to do that. My Sr. Pastor and I just went on a pastors retreat 2 weeks ago, and it was one of those things I had to just grit my teeth and barrell through, but once we were there, it wasnt all that bad, we learned more about each other, shared laughs, shared our weaknesses, discovered some strengths, had a great time. Last week he was up to his old tricks again, though, and I feel like he didnt change at all from our retreat.

    3) Orange, Sustainable Youth Ministry by Devries ( which also leads to Youth Ministry Architechts, a great organization that I feel can help), and even going to a conference together. Sometimes a conference is better than a retreat of just the two people because it takes off some of the pressure of being with just each other.

    4) Its time when you have sincerely tried to make it work and it just wont work. I was on here quite a bit in dec / january commenting on some stuff, needing to leave my job because of Sr. Pastor differences. After really praying about it, though, God kind of told me not yet. I changed my perspective, humbled myself completely, and gave the pastor a fresh clean slate. Recently, though, those same problems have come up and the personnell committee is seeing that maybe Im not the problem, but he is. He’s not going to change, hes stuck in his ways, but hes also been here so long they cant just fire him.

    Having said that, I probably am going to look for other opportunities. My wife and I have discussed it knowing that if we were to leave in say July, we would feel much better about having left in January, because we did completely change our perspectives and try as hard as we could to make it work, and it just didnt work.

  4. So here’s the deal with me. I’m definitely a rookie and I know it. I have only been doing professional youth ministry for 2 years now but on the other hand, I’ve been in my current position for over a year a half, which by some youth standards is a long time. I also feel I’ll be here for a while, and that this is where God wants me. But trust me, it’s not always butterflies and roses with my senior pastor, especially because we are really the only full time staff at this church. We also have some differing views theologically, and he’s not always the best communicator. So let me offer some of my insights.

    1) Most importantly- as Chad mentioned above, be sure to discern the place you are is the place where God wants you. That’s crucial. You need to feel in step with God and that you are truly “called” to be there (whether ordained/clergy or a lay person. so if you know in your core being and your heart of hearts that where you are is God approved – Perfect! Now if not that’s a whole other story. So even if you are butting heads with the pastor you know God is with you right where you are, and God will help you through it!

    2) Pray hard. Pray often. Pray alone. Pray with others. Just pray!

    3) Work with others. Be part of a team, make sure your thoughts/plans/ideas are “Spirit tested” which you discern through others. Surround yourself with church members that are faithful, honest, and caring. They need to be able to lovingly tell you when you’re in the wrong. Which sometimes, we all are.

    4) Remember to be humble and that you are both trying to serve Christ, in ways you feel led to serve. Look at your pastor as Christ would look at your pastor.

    5) Keep in mind most seminaries, or schools teach little to nothing regarding staff leadership/management. So essentially you got a lot of well meaning, faithful, loving, compassionate people that know nothing about running an office/staff. Find people who get management within the church to help.

    6) identify the top 3-4 things that really really are intolerable to you and develop a strategy (with the help of others you trust completely) to address them face to face with your pastor. It’s scary and hard, but can be really helpful. If you or he/she is prone to being emotional perhaps include a third party as scripture suggests.

    6b) go out to lunch with the pastor and DO NOT talk about church business. talk about sports, books, movies, spouses, anything but work/church stuff.

    7) Have a dedicated staff support team of people that you can just vent to and who will truly hear you and offer constructive feedback. Also find a local peer from another congregation that you can go to the bar or starbucks with and just talk and pray together and meet with that person regularly!

    8) listen. listen to God. listen to the pastor and understand where they may be coming from. listen to others in the congregation. then reapeat 1 through 7 as needed. Good luck and God bless – always!

  5. please pastor i thank you for your teachings and i wont more from you please try to help me please i thank you for that.please i am a pastor in italy and i start ministry in one year and now by the grace of god we are going small but now i wont to take you as my spiritual father and you help my ministry to grow well becuase i no what is inside you that is why i have said that please thanks for that and please please i wont help from you both spiritual and phycical help in prayer books money to help my ministry please now we need church car to pick the peoples and one thing is imprtant is i wont to do crusade to win souls for christ but becuase of we not registed church we can not do please this is my problem am praying for gog help so please you pray for me and let god help me throuh you please try to help becuase my vision souls thanks you can contact me please on opokuchris727@yahoo.com please try to chek my profile and see how i am and how the ministry it is thanks pleaes i wont you to repry me please thanks may god richly bless you and your ministry and your family thanks thanks bye bye my spiritual father amen

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