Seems people are once again asking, “how come Youth Pastors don’t stick around very long?” Depending on which expert you ask, the national average for a Youth Pastor tenure at a church is anywhere from seven months to four years. In my own research/guesstimations I’d put the “average” at about 3 years. Yes, there are those who are only at a church for six months, but there are many who stick for 8-10 (or even more) years.
I’m not so interested in knowing the exact “average,” I’m more concerned with the initial question slightly re-phrased, “why do Youth Pastors leave?” Well, as a person who did leave, I had a variety of contributing factors for leaving, as most do. However, the most common issue I find among the departed is some sort of issue they had/felt/ignored with someone in authority. Quite often that authority is/was the Senior Pastor.
So today, readers of the SMS blog series, I’d like to tackle the issue of the Senior Pastor and Youth Pastor relationship. Namely, I’d like to give a little bit of advice to the Youth Pastor on how he/she may help this relationship and perhaps lead to longevity in the Youth Pastorate. After all, ultimately it is the kids who are getting hurt the most with the turnover rate. With this hurt, it leads to questions… leaving the students, parents and others with one person to blame–the Youth Pastor for leaving. Which then leads the ex-Youth Pastor with a tough choice… “do I try to leave on the high road even though I am being pelted by this bus I’ve been thrown under or do I ‘expose the truth?'” First piece of advice: TAKE THE HIGH ROAD (shut your mouth, smile a lot and bless the people you’re close to on your way out)! The bride of Christ (the Church) and her reputation is worth much more than the few people you are trying to get to think better of you.
Okay, now that that rant is over, how do you, Youth Leader, attempt to build or improve the relationship with the authority in your life? Here are a couple ways I’d suggest (NOTE: for the sake of writing, I am using the generic “him” for the authority role)…
- Have His Back. Don’t even need to get into the Bible-lessons we could all preach about gossip and slander, but you should be the first to not entertain gossip about your Senior Pastor. Believer you-me, you’ll have the opportunity to hear it, but please do run from it, you’ll be blessed because you did. Know this–you will not agree with everything he does, but this does not mean that you have license to share that with others or to entertain those conversations with others. If/when those conversations are brought up (when slander is being hurled or when gossip being disguised as a “prayer request” comes knocking at your door) be quick to show and share of your support of the authority figure. Take the complaining one with you to the pastor and begin with the posture of support for your Pastor.* Again, though you may not agree with everything philosophically, theologically or even methodologically, you can still be united in purpose and protection of one another. You make the first move and be his biggest support outside of his family! *Note, when a serious accusation is being made or when you know of a specific sin area in the life of the Pastor, please do follow Scripture in the Biblical manor of confrontation (Matthew 18, 1 Tim. 5:19, Titus 2, etc.)
- Bless Him the Way You Would Like To Be Blessed! He probably makes more money than you, he probably has a bigger expense account and he probably already receives more “thank you” notes than you. So what?!? You love it when someone takes you out to lunch, you are appreciative of the note of encouragement and you may very well love it when words of affirmation are spoken of you… The problem, these don’t happen all that often. Having been around a lot of Youth Pastors and Pastors alike, I know that both are typically under appreciated (I do celebrate that there are some churches that truly get it and do love and appreciate their leadership well). Bottom line, look to bless the way that you’d like to be blessed. Look to do this with no-gain in mind, other than the blessing of being a blessing. This will go miles (or Kilometers for my friends all over the world) in your relationship.
- Stay on His Radar. Because many Youth Pastors are not all that administrative, this could take a little extra effort, but do your best to keep your life in front of him. In other words, communicate well. What I typically did (not just for the Pastor, but for the office staff as well) was shoot off my rough/estimated weekly calendar each Monday. This was something they didn’t need to live by, but if they needed to reference it later, it was there. If the Pastor seems to think you’re communicating too much, he’ll let you know, otherwise, just continue to shoot him a copy of your email to your staff (include him as a bcc), include him in occasional youth ministry informational meetings and invite him to key events–not because you want him to do anything, just so he knows he’s welcome and wanted. It goes a long way for the youth as well to know that the two of you are close, trust each other and want each other involved in one-another’s ministries.
Too often there is a disconnect between Youth Pastor and Pastor. My hope is that Youth Pastors can be proactive in this relationship and really work on the small things like great communication, occasional blessings and protection from the nay-sayers.
Soon I’ll reverse this and perhaps take a crack at writing a blog “How to have a good relationship with your Youth Pastor”… Then you make sure someone, besides you, of course, gets the Senior Pastor to read it! Stay tuned!