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Putting your senior pastor in his place (part 1)

Tony MylesI’m excited to welcome Tony Myles to the Life In Student Ministry author team! He’s served in youth ministry for over 20 years and has spent the past several years serving as both a youth leader and the lead pastor of this church. Through my relationship with Tony, I’ve learned that he is very humble and very wise. I’ve benefited greatly from our relationship, especially his perspective on youth ministry from the senior pastor’s view. I’m excited that he’s on board here and I know he will be a blessing to you as much as his wisdom has been a blessing to me. — Tim Schmoyer

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Senior pastorsYour senior pastor needs to be put in his place.

That’s not to suggest you should chew him out, but rather that you create a place for him in the youth ministry of your church.

He may not want that place, or he may want it a little too much. You may not have a great relationship with him and don’t see the value in having him around more. Nonetheless, he has a role to play as the pastor over your congregation and you may be the one to find it for him.

I know this because I happen to be a Lead Pastor who’s spent two decades working with teenagers. I first started when I was just out of high school and began volunteering in the student ministry I became a Christian in. I had a shallow spiritual foundation and ended up faking my way through my role of being responsible for ministry to an entire high school campus (within the larger umbrella of the megachurch I was in). I had no clue what I was doing, and I did my best to make sure no one found out.

Next I was on to Bible college where I gained a degree that led to an eventual run of many years in full-time student ministry. I still remember the insecurity I felt when I’d ask students to make sure they called me “Pastor” before saying my name – it felt like that would give me my credibility to pastor them. To this day I still remember students who didn’t do this and the way I questioned whether or not I had any authority over them, because that seemed important at the time.

Finally I knew I “hit it big” when I was the youth pastor in a megachurch. We had our own youth building and were building another one. Attendance was progressing and my family was growing. Talk about the American-Gospel Dream, right?

That is, until I lost my job. It wasn’t the first time it had happened — I’d been in other churches where the insecurities of the senior pastor had spilled out and I got canned because of it. I developed emotional shin-splints taking the uphill journey of not sharing the details with the church, which is why I vowed I’d never become like “those unstable senior pastors.”

Without ever realizing, of course, that I had the same insecurities.

Your relationship with your senior pastor likely needs some work. It’s easy to see each other through a lens that makes the other person seem 2-dimensional instead of a real person who is growing at an awkward pace.

Maybe your senior pastor really does need someone to chew him out with self-righteous¬†indignation. Then again, maybe he doesn’t and you’re missing out on opportunities for things to become healthier.

Opportunities that could actually revolutionize the youth ministry of your church.

QUESTION: This is Part One in a weekly series on this topic, and I want to hear about your context. What kind of questions and issues can I help you address in the coming few weeks?


Posted on June 30, 2011

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