Navigating the church system (5 of 5): Common mistakes by youth pastors

Topic / Leadership

No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but, as youth pastors, we seem to error in a couple common ways.

1. Only listening to the innovators. As I mentioned yesterday, we tend to only listen to the innovators and wonder why everyone else can’t follow and be exactly like them. If we base church ministry on a group that consists of 2.5% of the people, we’ll never make it. It’s imperative that we build relationships with the early adopters and early majority people, not just the innovators.

2. Starting too soon. What youth pastor hasn’t started in a new position and immediately started itching to make changes (and good ones, at that!)? We all have! But just because we’re ready for change doesn’t mean that everyone else is. Spend at least a year getting to know the current church system, earning trust and building relationships before making any changes at all. Being passionate about a vision is great, but don’t run ahead like a crazy man and later turn around to see that no one was genuinely following.

3. Failing to create a strong guiding coalition. When we move the church and the youth group in new directions, we need to do our best to bring along as many people as possible. Sure, there are the laggers who will always disagree, but at least give them the chance to hop on board. If we have to, there’s nothing wrong with taking extra time to implement something huge when it means gaining more support first.

4. Underestimating the power of vision. If we can’t articulate why something is a good idea because we have a vague sense of why it’s going be great, we’re not going to convince anyone.

5. Under-communicating the vision. We need to repeat the vision over and over again. Not in a way that’s redundant — that’s saying the same thing the same way several times. Redundancy is boring. Rather, repeat a simple message in a variety of different ways.

6. Being too optimistic. Just because we’re the cool youth pastor doesn’t mean everyone will blindly follow us. (Deep, I know.) We need to keep our heads out of the clouds and be realistic about the direction we’re taking the ministry and the pace that will get us there.

7. Not working the process. When we’re excited about something and believe in it 110%, it’s easy to run ahead of everyone and leave them behind. We have to remember that climbing the mountain to the pinnacle of our vision is a process of one step after another, not a single giant leap for one man.

8. Taking resistance personally. Most of the time, resistance to an idea is not about us personally. Often it’s about them. How tired are they? How often have they been burned in the past? Once we take the resistance personally, we can’t have a conversation anymore because the relationship changes.

Read the rest of this series:
Navigating the church system (1 of 5): Youth workers need help!
Navigating the church system (2 of 5): Leadership tensions
Navigating the church system (3 of 5): Why churches change slowly
Navigating the church system (4 of 5): Understanding the adoption curve

The above material is based on Tiger McLuen’s seminar, “Surviving as a youth worker in an imperfect church.” Used and edited with permission. Thanks, Tiger!

Posted on January 31, 2008

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