Q&A: Working with a micromanaging sr. pastor

A Life In Student Ministry reader who wishes to remain anonymous emailed me with the following question:

How am I supposed to deal with a Senior pastor that passionately wants to make (most) decisions about our youth ministry? I understand that I must be humble and submissive to his authority, but little room is left for the leaders and kids to participate in the decision making process.

Observation Period

It’s probably best to try to understand why he is a micromanager. Is it fear of failure? Is it insecurity? Is it a trust issue? Is it something that he learned from a previous ministry? Have you made big mistakes in the past? Is someone else micromanaging him? Is he just very detail-oriented in general? Get to know this man on a personal level and establish as much trust is possible. Let him see that you’re on his team and that you support him 100%. Trust and respect on a ministry team is huge! The thing about trust, though, is that it’s not a right someone will automatically give you just because of the position you hold. You have to earn it. That takes time. It takes years to build trust and only seconds to destroy it, so be patient and be careful.

While earning his trust and respect, try to observe what kinds of situations kick him into full “micromanaging” gear. What do each of those scenarios have in common? Do certain issues make him breathe down your neck more than others? Is it mostly after a board meeting? Is it when his wife just yelled at him on the phone? This will help you understand him and his leadership style and also know how to better respond when you know he’s about to flex his control-muscles.

During this time, also pay attention to your own job performance. Are you meeting the expectations laid out for you? Are you casting a compelling vision for the ministry? Are you doing anything that could possibly give him reason to feel uncomfortable with your leadership? Are you undermining his leadership in any way?

The Confrontation

After you’ve spent time observing these things, confront him about it. All the normal principles for confrontation apply. So do all the rules for fair fighting. Be honest about how it makes you feel. If you’ve noticed your own shortcomings, admit them. This may be one of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have, but, Lord willing, it could also potentially be the most rewarding and freeing conversation you’ll ever have. But even if it isn’t, there’s no other way this issue can be resolved. This kind of thing won’t go away on it’s own. You have everything to gain and probably not much to lose.

Realistic Expectations

If the confrontation goes well, don’t expect things to change right away. People don’t normally change their life-long patterns instantly. This may be a hard journey for him to start letting go and trusting your leadership. So, look for the little victories and thank him profusely when they occur. Let him know that you notice the progress and think he’s the best guy in the world because of it. And, of course, continually go out of your way to support him and his leadership, both publicly and privately to his face.

Give your input

This is a pretty touchy subject and I’m certainly no expert on it. What do the rest of you recommend? Drop a note in the comments below. Thank you!


Have a youth ministry question you’d like me and other readers to answer? E-mail it to me! Please keep your question brief and to-the-point. Thanks!

Posted on September 24, 2008

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