Having people serve in significant roles under a senior pastor’s leadership is necessary, beneficial, and biblical. A senior pastor needs these key staff members to help equip others to do the work of the ministry. The time and conversations that senior pastors have with these individuals is crucial. But sometimes there are thoughts these staff members have that go unsaid. Pastor Brad Deetscreek is a veteran youth pastor with three important things that senior pastors may need to hear!
I have a small confession. I’m biased. I think youth ministry is one of the best places for an individual to give their life. I have had the great privilege of working with the students for nearly twenty years and it has been incredible. I have seen God do amazing things through students and I have seen the realities of the fallen world smack me in the face.
I’m also biased because I love the local church and I believe that God’s plan is to use the local church as the vehicle to reach the world. In the local church there is a relationship that, when working well, can bring great synergy and effectiveness to reach the church’s community. This relationship is also one that, when not done well, can lead to division and ineffectiveness. This is the relationship between the senior pastor (or maybe the title is lead pastor, head pastor, big man on campus, main dude or whatever is trendy now) and the youth pastor (director, student ministry pastor, guy who hangs with the kids, youth guy/girl, etc.). I understand there are a ton of different titles and frameworks for each local church context, so please adapt this however you can to your own context.
I have never been a senior pastor so I can only speak from the side of the aisle of those working with teenagers. In my experience I have often thought it would be good if they knew this or that, so I thought I’d write down a few observations from my perspective of the three things every youth pastor would like their senior pastor to know.
All youth pastors aren’t mavericks
Many youth pastors have a reputation for not being team players and for only caring about their ministry. Though sometimes there are reasons for this stereotype, I do believe we all aren’t individuals who think we know how to do it better than you or anyone else or who think about only doing it our way. Many of us want to be led and want to be part of something bigger. We will yield and submit so please give us a reason to do so. Be a good teammate and bring me alongside you and let’s see what God will do.
We have great things to bring to the table to help a senior pastor
We are people who constantly have to change and adapt. Think about how versatile a youth pastor can be. Within the youth ministry, we lead a small group ministry, organize trips, train people and put them on mission, run effective outreach programs, work with all of the students and their parents. We do all this while trying to stay current so that we can understand how to apply the never-changing Word of God to this rapidly, hormonal, changing culture.
Be a good teammate. Use me and my strengths. Seek my input on how to preach to a younger audience and apply the Scripture. Give me opportunities to share my heart with the rest of the church. But not just on weeks when you are on vacation or on the weekends when the people are on vacation. (The week after Christmas, 4th of July, Labor Day, etc.) Seek my input about trends. You have an in-house cultural researcher at your disposal every day. Put me to work.
I need a mentor
Though I have energy and ideas, a lot of times I’m lacking in experience. If I’m newer to ministry, I might not know I need help or might think I have everything figured out, but I’m learning here. Take me along with you as you prepare a funeral, plan a wedding, visit a family, or on a retreat/conference. If I have been in the game a while, I still need a mentor but it might look more like a listening ear or a friend. I spend a lot of time with teenagers and their parents. I can forget about the big picture and sometimes I need perspective.
These are just some thoughts, take them or leave them, but know I understand how difficult the job you have is and I’m thankful for all of you that God has called to lead the local church. We youth guys have your back. Let’s go!
Three experienced pastors talk about reaching the younger generation in this article and video.