The call to be a senior pastor is a heavy one. Rarely are two days the same. “Ministry” can happen at a moment’s notice and can suck up several days. Any one day can include emergency visits to the hospital, marriage counseling, funeral preparation, denominational meetings, sermon preparation, wedding preparation, business meetings, building maintenance, an impromptu counseling in the canned goods aisle of the grocery store, or even finding food and shelter for a family in need.
The above list is long and doesn’t include time for spouse and children! In the midst of this “ministry,” it is easy for us to miss the tyranny of the upcoming Sunday when your senior pastor will stand and speak for God. That is a load. And it is a lot.
As a supporting staff member for many (many) years, I have stumbled upon (and have been driven to) ways to be a supportive teammate to my senior pastor. These guidelines run on “two rails” of proactive communication and proper expectations.
When given the opportunity to share ministry reports, youth pastors often want to outline the goals and results of the entire youth ministry program. I have found it helpful instead to communicate in short bursts, like 140 character Tweets. Give anecdotal evidence that they can share when someone asks your senior pastor, “What is the youth ministry doing these days?” Say something like, “We just had registration for winter retreat and attendance is up by 10 over last year!” Or, “we just had a long-term youth visitor accept Christ last night.” These help the pastor know that things are proceeding well and enable her to communicate effectively.
Be an Early Warning System
Have you noticed a family missing from worship for a couple weeks or more? Mention it to your pastor. Was there an accident where a youth was hurt during a group game? Mention it to your pastor. Is a parent unhappy about a decision you made regarding the youth ministry? Mention it to the pastor. Did a volunteer make an unwise comment that has the youth talking? Mention it to the pastor
In all these cases, you need to be the FIRST to mention it to the pastor.
Years ago, a ministry mentor described senior pastors (in a nice way) as horses…easily startled! That advice has shaped my proactive communication with my senior pastor. I do not wish for my senior pastor to be blindsided by information I should have communicated. Part of the youth pastor’s job is helping the ENTIRE ministry succeed as we proactively share important information with one another.
If your senior pastor does not ask for ministry updates often, don’t jump to the conclusion that they do not care about your ministry. Senior pastors have different management styles—some need weekly or monthly check-ins; and some do not. Some senior pastors prefer lengthy staff meetings, and some prefer “stand up” meetings in the hall. You must learn how they prefer to receive information regarding ministry. If this cannot be discerned, just ask.
I once served a large church where the senior pastor stuck his head in my office twice in three years! It would have been easy to conclude that he was not interested in my ministry. However, the opposite was actually true. He completely trusted my ministry team and me and often shared with others his pleasure at watching our ministry grow and shape disciples.
If you find you need more time communicating or seeking direction for your ministry, seek a monthly check-in appointment with your senior pastor. Your proactive approach will likely be well-received.
Keep Your Work on Your Desk
If your work continues to end up on your senior pastor’s desk, you can be assured that communication will become swift and clear! The details of your ministry need to be just that, YOUR details. There is nothing worse than a visit to the pastor’s office because you didn’t follow through on daily details or because long-term planning has fallen apart. Proactive planning. Anticipating problems. Double-checking details. These are the things that your senior pastor (and any boss) should expect from a staffer.
Healthy staff relationships bear fruit when we pursue clear communication and expectations. These relationships remove unnecessary distractions and allow us the focus we need as we encounter the natural obstacles of ministry. Unfortunately, confusion and discord follow when we do not.
Be the kind of teammate who proactively pursues clarity.
TONY AKERS has been in ministry to youth and families in large and small churches for 25 years. He is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and just entered his 12th year serving as the Minister to Youth and Families at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Tony also serves as a youth ministry coach and writes fairly frequently at WWW.STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM