You Aren’t The Only One Who Cares
Like many of you, I like to stay connected to other youth pastors. Whether it’s through local networks or online communities, I like to be in the know about what other people are doing. It’s fun to hear about what God is doing in the lives of teenagers in areas other than suburban Philadelphia and it’s fun to read about creative and innovative ways other ministries are trying to reach the next generation of students and their families. As someone who is passionate about students and absolutely feels called to what I’m doing, having these conversations with other men and women in youth ministry who have the same passion and calling, whether it be at a local coffee shop, Chick-Fil-A, or on a Facebook group, is invigorating and life-giving to me. These conversations fill my tank, so if you have ever contributed, I thank you.
However, as someone who has only been in full-time ministry for three years, one thing I’ve noticed to be commonplace in these conversations and threads is the burnout conversation, particularly as it relates to youth pastor’s relationships with their senior pastors and elders. It’s not uncommon for me to read something along the lines of “The elder board/senior pastor is not on board with what I want to do, and it’s causing me to question being here.” I’ve felt that way. I’m a passionate guy. I get fired up and at times can communicate my passion and fired-upness (yep, a new word I just made up) in ways that can be disrespectful and inappropriate for certain contexts. As I’ve been praying through my own sinfulness in regards to this issue, here are some things I’ve learned.
1. Discouragement is a blessing in disguise.
As James puts it,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4.
Perseverance produces maturity. Anybody can quit when they feel discouraged. Current hardship paves the way for future success, but only if you allow it to. Current hardship and discouragement paves the way for nothing if you give up. Success in your ministry, however you define it, will only come after perseverance through seasons of discouragement.
[bctt tweet=”Current hardship paves the way for future success, but only if you allow it to. Current hardship and discouragement paves the way for nothing if you give up.” username=”ys_scoop”]
2. Just because a senior leader disagrees with you does not mean they care less than you.
I’ve made this mistake many, many times. My natural disposition of thinking is that if someone disagrees with me on something, whether it be on a philosophical level, programmatic level, or any level for that matter, then they aren’t as passionate as I am about student ministries. I’ve learned that this is not only disrespectful towards my senior leaders to think this way, but it’s just dead wrong. My senior leaders want student ministries to be as successful as I do. They at times push back on some of my thoughts and ideas, but that’s because they are wiser and more knowledgeable about my church context than I, as they have all worked here way, way, way, way longer than I have.
3. Be careful what you say about your senior leaders publically.
I’ve said things out of frustration I wish I could take back, as I’m sure many of you have. But if you just got out of a tense meeting with your senior pastor, don’t immediately run to Facebook to post about it, even if it is “just” in a private group. Are there times to seek counsel? Absolutely. But my observation is that many of us use “seeking counsel” as an excuse to spew frustration and toxic words towards those in leadership over us. Is an online forum, whether it be Facebook or something else, the most appropriate place to seek counsel about very church sensitive, leadership-centric issues? I would argue that it’s not (but I’m willing to be disagreed with on this. See what I did there…).
4. Pray for your senior leaders daily.
Seems obvious, right? Unfortunately, I don’t think it is. We, as youth pastors, have big jobs. Real big jobs. Hard jobs. At times, annoying jobs. Discouraging jobs. Exhausting jobs. I get it. I’m in the same boat. But my senior leader oversees way more than I do. He deals with way more difficult situations than I do. He deals with way more annoying things than I do. He has way more potential for exhaustion than I do. We need to affirm the bigness of our senior leaders’ jobs and pray for them daily. We are on their team. They have reasons for disagreeing with some of the things we want to do. They don’t hate us. They don’t care less than us. Prayer softens hearts, allows for greater understanding, and paves the way for reconciliation where it’s needed. If you don’t pray for your senior leaders every day, it’s time to start.
[bctt tweet=”Prayer softens hearts, allows for greater understanding, and paves the way for reconciliation where it’s needed.” username=”ys_scoop”]
This isn’t a catch-all. Some people are very difficult to work for, I get it. Some churches are toxic. I get it. But your pastor isn’t difficult to work for because he disagrees with you. It isn’t time to leave because another one of your ideas was vetoed. Your current hardship will pave the way for your future success. Persevere. Protect your pastor online. Pray.
Jason Lollar is the Junior High Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton, Pennsylvania. His favorite things include, but are not limited to, coffee, reading, his wife Melissa, and Liverpool FC. You can connect with him on Instagram at Lollar_16 or on Twitter at jlollar16.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.