Putting your senior pastor in his place (part 2)

Senior pastorsHi, my name is Tony Myles and I’m a former-Youth-Pastor-turned-Lead-Pastor who is a volunteer youth worker in my church’s youth ministry under the volunteers who lead it.

(I typically hear a pin drop when I say that out loud – that is, once I catch my breath from that mouthful.)

It’s all true, though.

As I shared last week, one of the more challenging relationships for youth workers is the one they form with the senior leadership of the church. For most, it’s the Lead Pastor or Elder Board, although it could be an Executive Pastor or Ministry Director who oversees that area of the church.

To keep things simple, let’s presume you’re a youth worker and you’re trying to put your senior pastor into his place.

The question becomes what his place will be.

When I first came to my church, I remember eyeballing the state of ministry to teenagers and noting that “something needs to happen there.” Literally two weeks later, I received an email from someone who told me that he had read the values of our website and was intrigued. He wanted to meet with me about the possibility of being a part of our church.

A few days later, I was gnawing on a bagel at Panera Bread with a guy I’d never met. He told me how he’d just graduated from Bible college and wanted to build a youth ministry in our church.

Keep in mind, he’d never actually come to a service. Likewise, this was our first meeting and conversation.

But boy, did he have ideas. Lots of them. The more he shared, the more I ate my bagel and chewed on the absurdity of what I was hearing.

When the sales pitch was done, I wiped my mouth with a napkin and asked, “What can you tell me about our teenagers?”

He paused, then answered, “I don’t know. I haven’t met any.”

I followed up with another hum-dinger. “Then why are we talking about a ministry model?”

I could tell he wasn’t comfortable with where this was going. “I just know that what I’m sharing you will work.”

“It might,” I said. “Tell you what – how about you come hang out with us for a month and tell me if the Lord is stirring your heart in any way.”

“Sure,” he replied. “Sounds great.”

I never saw him again.

About a month later, a woman in our church approached me outside of the movie theater we were gathering in. “I’m ummm… I’m not really sure how to say this… but… well… I noticed there isn’t anything happening for the teens. I wouldn’t know where to start, but, well, I love them and think there ought to be something for them like there is for us, you know?”

She appeared nervous, but I never heard a more eloquent call to youth ministry.

“JoAnn,” I said, “you’re awesome. How can I get behind that?”

I share these two stories because each youth worker had strengths and blind spots that caused me to respond to them in specific ways. Consider that, for most of the time youth workers feel their senior pastor is __________ when he may be responding to the ___________ he sees in you.

Next week I’ll share more about my current role in youth ministry, but first chew on that last point. How is what you bring to the table as a youth worker affecting the “utensils” your senior pastor is pulling out?

Posted on July 12, 2011

  • Authority.

    This year I prepared for a teaching on authority for our students. God's Word read me hard. The Holy Spirit humbled me. It. Was. Brutal.

    You see, my senior pastor has made a lot of tough decisions the past few years regarding staff, payroll and leadership. People have been hurt by these decisions. The interesting thing is, I found MYSELF feeling hurt, even though I had either not been directly affected, or I agreed with the decision that was made. This feeling of hurt caused me to undermine the one in authority over me in my heart.

    Deep down, I don't know if I was trusting my senior pastor. Why? Because I was PICKING UP OTHER PEOPLES' OFFENSES whether they were legitimate or not and making them my offenses. Soon it was what I imagine the beginnings of an adulturous relationship in a marriage. We see each other every day but I find dissatisfaction with my partner and everyone else looks "sexier".

  • The remedy for both is similar:

    Submit to the order God has created.

    To the same perfection the Lord instituted marriage as unbreakable, so he instituted authority as an unbreakable chain meant for protection and submission.

    PROTECTION: When we force ourselves into humility and CHOOSE to believe in, lift up, love and serve the authority above us (senior pastor/board), we find that we are under the cover of that authority. We are protected from both due punishment and from other forces that may discourage us (certain parents come to mind? joking!).

    SUBMISSION: When we force ourselves into humility and CHOOSE to believe in, lift up, love and serve the authority above us (senior pastor/board), we ALSO find that we

    1) See our place in the bigger plan and
    2) Have the power/authority to carry it out

  • A perfect example is Christ's Great Commission (see capitalized words)

    "Then Jesus came to them and said, “All AUTHORITY in heaven and on earth has been given to me. THEREFORE GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them IN THE NAME OF the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I AM WITH YOU always, to the very end of the age.”

    Jesus has the authority, therefore we can now go, we do this in the name (power or backing) of the Trinity, He is with us in this (power or backing).

  • That is my long answer to your short question, Tony

    "How is what you bring to the table as a youth worker affecting the “utensils” your senior pastor is pulling out?"

    We youth leaders tend to be a prideful bunch. It's cute sometimes with all the creative ideas and pushing the limits, but at the end of the day, real Kingdom work is going to get done by submitting to and supporting the authority over us. Only then can I find where my utensils might fit and how they need to be sharpened for use on the table God called us to serve together.

    *quick notes:

    1) submission does not mean we never push back. it's just that we do it along the proper lines and in humility/submission. so don't go talking behind your senior's back… go tell him to his face and submit to his response.
    2) authority is only valid when the authority is submitting to the higher authority above it (ie the government and God's Word).

  • tonymyles

    Brian, this is amazing stuff… and I think your insights into how our pride can get into the way of submission are valuable. I suppose the challenge is to determine if our willingness to follow authority is valid before we attempt to determine the validity of the authority over us

  • I think I resonate with much of what has been shared here already. We have to constantly be on guard against our pride and understand and respect the authorities that have been established by God over us.

    One thing I would ask though is, what are some examples of times in which you have had to make an intentional decision NOT to submit to a pastoral authority, and for what reason? Or, what are some good reasons to balk that authority? Are there any? I think the reality of things is that there may be times when we may need to take a stand against something due to personal convictions, biblical mandates etc. What do those look like for ya'll?

    I've developed a great appreciation for the way in which my current senior pastor and I have developed in our relationship together. We've been working together now for 5-6 years I think. His philosophy is that the church hired me for a purpose, to set the vision and lead a youth ministry. So he lets me do that. He's very supportive of my decisions and does not micro-manage me. I love it. The opposite in our case is true as well. He sets the vision and pace for the church in general and I get on board and run with that when applicable. The flip side to this though is that it would quite easy for me to take advantage of the lack of direct supervision if I wanted. Luckily, I'm driven by what I do and don't have the time to be lazy if that makes sense.

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99