The disconnect between youth pastor/senior pastor relationships

The Disconnect - PhysicalThis past week at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference I had the privilege of attending Doug Franklin and Mark Riddle‘s pre-conference seminar, “The Disconnect: Bridging the gap between youth pastor and senior pastor relationships,” titled after Doug’s new book. It was very helpful for me in many ways and I really appreciated the insights Doug and Mark had to share.

I talked with Doug about his book and asked him some questions regarding the topic:

  • What common things separate youth and senior pastors?
  • How closely aligned do values need to be?
  • How can a youth pastor earn trust and respect?
  • What does a good relationship look like?

Watch our conversation

This video is my conversation with Doug Franklin about the questions above and several other things that came up while we talked. When you get 6 minutes to watch it, I definitely encourage you to do so.

What you should do with the book

I encourage you to pick up two copies of the book: one for you and one for your senior pastor. Each of you read through your respective chapters and meet once a week to go through the included exercises together. Whether your relationship is currently solid or not, you will definitely learn a lot about each other, about working together, and how to serve the body of Christ better together than you ever have before. (And no, this is not a sponsored review!)

Get it here:

The Disconnect: Bridging the Gap Between Youth Pastor and Senior Pastor Relationships

Win a copy!

I have a copy of Doug’s book to give away to a random person who comments below. Just share what you think commonly leads to a disconnect between youth pastors and senior pastors. Be sure to comment with your real email address so I can get in touch with you if you win. I’ll select a random winner next week on Wednesday, March 16, 2011.

Posted on March 9, 2011

  • I think the biggest disconnect comes when neither one has done the job of the other. Meaning, that the youth pastor has never been a senior pastor and the senior pastor has never been a youth pastor (or hasn't been for 30 years). It creates a chasm that can only start to be crossed via time spent together and quality communication of clearly stated values, expectations, hopes and desires.

  • Shane Jenkins

    The greatest disconnect between Youth Pastor and Senior Pastor to be is caused by pride and ego. Youth Pastors like myself have to realize that the Senior Pastor is there to equip you to minister to youth. You may not agree with all his decisions but God is directing him. You need to stand in unity with him. Share his vision. God, Your Senior Pastor and You make a three folded cord and that can't be broken. Stand alone and you will break every time. Don't let your pride stand in the way. Humble yourselves and in due time God will exalt you.

    • Congrats, Shane, on winning the book! I'll email you to get your contact info.

  • The biggest disconnect is when the senior pastor won't leave me alone…..Just kidding. I think it happens for the same reason many relationships falter in a church setting. People think their own agenda is more important than a shared agenda.

  • Good interview! I'll be putting the book on my wish list.

  • Alan Myers

    The biggest disconnect is usually their hearts. It really doesn't matter what experience either have in the other's ministry, who has seniority or whatever the case may be. The reality of it is that if they don't come ready and willing to serve with one another by putting their pride to the side and doing what God would have them to do they are destined to fail. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matt. 15:19) Throughout the Bible we are told to guard our hearts (Prov. 4:23). The reason being: out of it comes who we really are. If both the senior pastor and the youth pastor have given their hearts to God (Prov. 23:26) and are willing to work with each other most, if not all, issues should be eliminated.

  • I have found a disconnect to be the difference in responsibility and obligation. For example, the youth director has to reach students for Christ which means he/she has to try different methods to reach them. To an adult, it may seem "childish" or even unsafe. But to a youth director it is cutting edge and effective. That puts the senior pastor in a bind when he has the responsibility of the whole church on his shoulders. Because the pressure the senior pastor has at reaching the whole church, that can cause a difference in opinions on how to effectively and strategically reach youth which can cause tension.

    I have experienced this tension many times and it can lead to some pretty unhealthy friction between the youth director and senior pastor.

    • Lynn B

      Agreed. Well stated. :)

  • Lynn B

    Often times I think the disconnect comes from a lack of communication between the youth pastor and the senior pastor. Both are so focused on their own ministries that they fail to communicate well with each other. And then when they do talk it often comes because the youth have done something that displeased the senior pastor, like the church having a mess that came from the youth or the toilets begin backed up, noise, talking…the list goes on. The senior pastor does not tell the youth pastor well done…and in the same token the youth pastor does not tell the senior pastor well done. In focusing on the business of running a ministry rather than building up and encouraging we get caught up in business and rules and relationship gets lost.

  • PJ Wong

    Pride. Each side has a view that "worked" for them but can't work together

  • Assuming there's not a huge relationship issue, I'm going to go with vision. I've been a part of one situation and seen many others where the senior pastor and youth pastor had diverging visions for the church and the YM. Even if both have good, noble directions and dreams, if they don't really align all that much, there can be a huge disconnect.

  • This relationship is crucial and the longer I have been in ministry have paid more attention to building that relationship with the Sr. Pastor.

  • Tim a great review and some great great questions. I wish I had a copy to work with my future senior pastor whoever that might be.
    I know that my relationship with my sr pastor deteriorated the year leading up to my laying off. I saw and asked him about it and he made no effort to change or work with me on it.

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