Improving Your Relationship with Your Lead Pastor

We know youth ministry is all about relationships. We build a relationship with the students who come through our doors. We build relationships with their parents, and with our youth ministry team of volunteers. We usually invest a lot of energy and attention in building these relationships which is necessary. If we aren’t creating and investing in these relationships then why are we in youth ministry?

However, there are some relationships that we often minimize at best or overlook at worst, and that’s the relationship with senior leadership. In this post, I want to look at three ways we can build a great relationship with our Lead Pastor and one surefire way to wreck it every time. While it may not seem like a big deal, one of the most important relationships we can invest in is with our lead pastor.

Relationship Builder 1:

Our job is to make sure our vision for the youth ministry is in alignment with their vision for the church.

That might seem pretty straightforward and simplistic, but it’s crucial. Every pastor in the world wants to see people come to know, love, and follow Christ. It’s why we all answered the call on our lives. The problem arises when two different visions are competing for how that will happen. As youth workers, our job is to be onboard with the vision God has given our lead pastor. We then take that vision and ask God to help us align with what we’re doing as a ministry that will support the overall vision for the church. For example, if we decide that we need to be event heavy as a youth ministry and the only way to reach people is a constant barrage of events and the lead pastor’s vision is few but highly relational and intentional activities, we’re going to have a problem and over time our relationship will be stressed.

Relationship Builder 2:

We need to build and extend trust.

In every relationship trust is crucial. We understand this. I know early on in my career, I took this for granted with my lead pastor and did not do my best to build and extend trust. See both are necessary as we invest in our relationship with our lead pastor. Just a few ideas on how to develop and extend trust: Don’t let them be caught off-guard by something you do. They need to be the first to know what is going on. A lead pastor once told me that as long as my lead knew what was happening, he could keep me under the umbrella. It is when I don’t communicate with him that it makes it challenging to protect me concerning problems. Communicate often and in detail with your lead. Keep them in the loop.

Be open to critique. This one is tough. No one likes to be called out on something that is wrong or poorly done. There are times though that we need to have our lead pastor offer a helpful critique so that we can become better. My natural reaction is to shut down when individuals start pointing out problems or places I could have done better. This is never helpful, and I almost never learn anything about myself when I do this. My current lead pastor offers useful critiques on a regular basis. Not because he wants me to feel micromanaged or controlled but to help me improve in my role. Be open to the review that comes and at times, ask how you could be doing better.

Which leads to the next idea on trust, ask lots of questions. Ask how you can help, how they are doing, how you can pray for them and their family. Ask if there’s anything you can do for them. Ask lots of questions. This is crucial, and it lets your lead pastor know you are fully engaged in the success of their vision.

Finally, offer the trust to them that you want for yourself. Yes, trust is earned, but it has to start somewhere, and our lead pastors have a lot of plates spinning when it comes to the life of the church. Trust that they’re doing the best they can with the knowledge and energy they have even when it doesn’t seem to make sense to you or what benefits your ministry area.

Relationship Builder 3:

Learn to think ahead.

This one is tougher and one that has come with time. I will admit that my current lead pastor is one of my best friends and I have had the privilege of knowing and working with him for many years. If you can learn how your pastor thinks and operates it’s possible that you can begin to anticipate some of their moves. Our role as staff is to support our lead as much as we possibly can. The more we ask questions and build the trust, the more we can begin to anticipate what is needed. If you can get to this place in your relationship with your lead pastor, it changes everything, and the trust you want will come quickly. Over the past several years, I have learned to read my lead pastor’s tone, body language and have a deep understanding of his vision that it makes this one much more manageable.

The one surefire way to kill this relationship…do the opposite of everything above. Don’t keep your pastor in the loop. Don’t build or extend trust. Don’t learn to think ahead. This will make your tenure short and your frustration level high. I’m a firm believer that we as youth pastors can be one of the greatest team players and support to our lead pastors. We get it more so than most who sit in the pews on a weekly basis. While it’s important that we build relationships with students and parents, the relationship we have with our lead pastor is by far one of the most important relationships, in which we can invest.

Robb Gossen
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