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How to Play Nice with Your Senior Pastor

By Doug Franklin October 23, 2017

In a ministry that directly serves youth pastors, I have heard countless stories of pain from youth workers about their relationships with their senior pastors. These stories of pain have been caused mostly by missed expectations the youth worker had for this key relationship. Young youth workers get solid mentoring in college, but don’t get the hard skills needed to deal with budgets and parents. Senior pastors have these skills and the wisdom of which obstacles to avoid, but they often don’t fill the mentoring void left in the youth worker’s life. This all leads to a disconnect.

Why does this happen so often? Senior pastors may not know it’s an expectation. Or they may not pursue it due to former youth worker relationships that went sour. Or, as is often the case, senior pastors may not feel respected enough to pursue a mentoring relationship.

What can you do to heal the disconnect?

Don’t wait. Youth workers need to make their expectations known while in the interviewing process. Be clear about your desires and ask for a commitment from the pastor for mentoring. If you already have a youth ministry job, make it clear you want mentoring. Senior pastors and youth workers serve the same families. When they are connected, they can meet the needs of their congregation and grow together in the process.

Take the initiative. Don’t expect your senior pastor to take the first step. Make it clear that you value your senior pastor’s experience and wisdom enough that you want to learn from and emulate them. Remember, if you’ve been hesitant to embrace your senior pastor’s advice in the past, they may be reluctant to embrace an entire mentoring relationship now. Start small. Ask for input into various aspects of your ministry, then work your way up. That will help build a foundation of trust and respect needed in a more substantial mentorship.

Integrate mentoring into your current routine. If time is the biggest issue, get creative. You both have busy schedules, but there are ways to integrate mentoring time into the activities you’re both already working on. Offer to contribute to a church-wide project you think you could help with and learn from. Ask your senior pastor to give advice on a new initiative you’re starting in the youth ministry.

For more on bridging the gap between youth workers and senior pastors, check out the LeaderTreks TrainingCast and Doug Franklin’s book, The Disconnect.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More