I was asked a few months back to write an article for youth pastors and youth leaders on how they could build and develop better relationship with their lead pastor/senior pastor, specifically dealing with my vantage point from transitioning from being a youth pastor, to a denominational youth director and now a lead pastor. Here is that article, and my hope is that it will help youth pastors deepen and develop meaningful relationships with their lead pastor that they serve alongside of. This resource is dedicated to my Pastor that I served under for over 10 years, Steve Jamison (thanks for believing in me and taking a risk on me!), Josh Jamison (my partner in crime for all those years and my best friend), the youth pastors and youth leaders of the Northwest Ministry Network (I learned so much from you – I will always treasure the season of serving in that role!) — and to Jacob Coyne and Jon Asher who have served as youth pastors on our team at Life Center Rainier (you guys have blessed me in so many ways!).
Enjoy the journey.
In a perfect world, every youth pastor would have an ideal relationship with their lead pastor. Communication would be great, they would see eye to eye on all the key issues, their vision and mission would be in perfect alignment and they would actually have the level of relationship that they would want to vacation together if they had the opportunity.
Sadly, this isn’t the case for many. I’ve seen and heard far too many stories of broken relationship and challenge when it comes to the youth pastor and lead pastor relationship. I had the luxury of serving as a youth pastor for over ten years at one church. I look back on that time with great memories. Thankfully I had a lead pastor who believed in me and invested into our staff.
Were things always easy or perfect? Nope.
Did we do everything right? No.
Did we have to work at relationship? Yes.
Do we still have a great relationship to this day? ABSOLUTELY.
Now that I serve as a Lead Pastor, I find myself thinking about what our staff (including our youth pastors) are needing from me. I think about the areas that I am thankful that my Lead Pastor invested in my life. I think about things that I could have or should have done differently as a team member.
Youth Pastor, you may look at the relationship that you currently have with your lead pastor and wonder if there is hope. You may find yourself asking, “Is there ANYTHING I can do to make this relationship stronger?”
The answer is YES.
And the starting point is a simple one: The Golden Rule.
Before you write this idea off as cliché, think about the significance of these words, and how well you embody them in your current role as Youth Pastor and how they are being lived out in your relationship with your Lead Pastor.
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 7:12 NLT
What is it that you would love for your Lead Pastor to do to you? Seriously. Take a moment to think about that question.
Now answer this question: Have you been giving that toward them?
As we think about this idea of giving and doing, here are 7 Principles that we can live out to build a great relationship with our lead pastors.
1) GIVE ENCOURAGEMENT
As I served as Network Youth Director in the Northwest Ministry Network, I would often hear stories of youth pastors longing for the encouragement of their Lead Pastor. I would often ask a simple question: How have you been encouraging them?
Your Lead Pastor needs your encouragement more than you may realize. If you want some, be sure to give some! And when you give him encouragement on his message, be specific! Tell them what it was in their message that impacted you.
2) GIVE SUPPORT
One of the greatest things you can do to strengthen your relationship with your leader is for them to KNOW that you have their back, both in public and in private. It will be hard for you to have a great relationship with your Lead Pastor if they don’t trust you or your motives. If they have to wonder if you really support them, you will never experience the level of relationship that could be a reality. Youth Pastor, are you supportive of your Lead Pastor with more than just words, but also actions?
3) BE AVAILABLE
A simple way to deepen your relationship is simply by being available. Do they need a ride to the airport? Do they need help with a project? Are they looking for someone on the team to step up and help? Be the solution. Be available. I tried to serve my pastor in such a way that if he needed something, I would be the first person that would call.
Youth Pastor, do you want to serve, or do you want to be served by your leader? This is a tough question. Jesus told us that the greatest among us would be those who serve. If you want to experience greatness, it starts with serving. I can think of times where I wrongly believed that my Lead Pastor was there to HELP ME build “MY THING”. I think it is good to be reminded that we are there to serve. God has placed your leader there, and He saw fit to put you on that team. Never underestimate the power of serving and the investment that it will make in your relationship.
Listen to what they are saying. I know this sounds so simple, but I really believe it is often overlooked. In your team meetings, when you are riding with them, when you are having a meal together…LISTEN. In addition to listening to what they are saying, listen to what they are NOT saying. Their vision and heart will come out. Our primary role as youth pastors and leaders is to take the vision of our leader and interpret it to the generation that we are ministering to.
I’ve had conversations with youth leaders that are frustrated because they feel like their input is never listened to or received. My question for them is, “Are you listening?”
I can’t overstate the importance of this. It is hard to hold a grudge toward someone that you are praying blessing and favor over. Pray for your Lead Pastor. Pray for their family. Pray for their safety and protection. Pray for their health. Pray for their wisdom and discernment. Pray for God to speak through them. Pray that they would continue to fall more in love with Jesus. Pray for endurance in the journey. I think you get the point. Pray for your leader.
They are feeling the weight of issues and decisions that you are not even thinking about. I know that now. They need you to cover them, their family and your church in prayer.
7) BE TEACHABLE
If you already believe that know all their is to know, relationship with your leader won’t be more than a boss to employee relationship. Unfortunately, I’ve met far too many youth leaders who actually believe that there is nothing that they can learn from their Lead Pastor. To me, this is a scary place to be in. Your leader has been placed their, by God, for a reason. As leaders (no matter our age, title or current assignment), we must remain teachable! We can learn from anyone. Keep a humble heart and humble spirit and learn from your leader. Be interested. Ask questions. Write things down, take notes and implement some of the wisdom that will come your way!
I pray that as you take time to invest in these seven principles, that your relationship with your Lead Pastor would become far more than you ever imagined that it could be!