Pastor, Can I Speak Outside Our Church?
“I want to get my pastor’s permission to do some speaking next year. How should I go about it?”
That was the question waiting on my voicemail when I landed in Tampa from my latest speaking engagement. Here’s what I told that youth pastor when I called him back.
A Great Question
Interestingly, this was the very first time I’d been asked that particular question. Usually, when I speak at an event, all youth pastors want to know is, “How do I get into speaking?” It showed strategy and discernment on the youth pastor’s part, so I was eager to call him back to discuss his question.
Now, I should probably confess that I left youth ministry several years ago. However, I still do lots of speaking at youth ministry events around the nation because I love teenagers, it’s a ton of fun, and God uses me in that capacity in spite of my many shortcomings. Additionally, it’s great to hang out with youth leaders, witness their sacrifice on behalf of young people, and experience their infectious curiosity. This youth pastor knew he’d be having a conversation with a guy in my position who’s responsible for the operation of the whole church and wanted to know what concerns he should address.
In case you’re considering a similar conversation, here’s what I shared with him.
Make sure you’re doing a great job in your ministry.
If your youth ministry is healthy and thriving, then your pastor probably won’t have an issue with you taking on additional responsibilities…even additional responsibilities “outside” the church. If you’ve proven yourself faithful in your primary obligations, your pastor won’t see much risk in giving you permission to be gone. However, if your ministry is in disarray – on any front – you’d be wise to get everything in order before asking for any favors. In fact, you should get everything in order, regardless. Did you just get a positive annual evaluation? Has attendance just taken a positive bump? Are your adult volunteers getting the training they need to fulfill their roles? Are more students serving in the church? If those kinds of questions get a “no” answer, now may not be the right time to ask. Get those answers to a “yes” for your pastor so you will get a “yes” from your pastor.
Determine a frequency you want to speak…and communicate it clearly.
Know what you’re asking before you start the conversation with your pastor. Trust me, your pastor will definitely hear the difference between, “I want to do some speaking next year,” and “I would like to speak at two events next year.” The first is nebulous and will likely lead to raised eyebrows. But the second communicates a defined and concrete set of conditions that can then be discussed. Make sure your request is reasonable – in other words, don’t expect your pastor to give you permission to be gone one weekend per month! You can probably convince your pastor that two speaking engagements per year is not too much. Whatever frequency you choose, communicate it clearly, then stick to it.
Emphasize the importance of a Kingdom mentality.
No, this isn’t just “spiritual ammo” to help you get what you want from your pastor. In reality, it’s why your church does mission trips, disaster response, and denominational giving. Deep down, your pastor knows that the church is only a small part of the Kingdom of God, but it’s very easy for that reality to get lost amongst budget meetings, hospital visits, personnel management, and everything else that goes into the job. Tactfully state that you’re trying to serve the Body of Christ…even though it’s located in another area code. If you can strengthen the youth group across town or across the country, the Kingdom wins!
Frame your request as a way to further develop your preaching/teaching gifts.
Of course, this assumes that God has specifically blessed you with these kinds of gifts. (NOTE: Just because you like to talk a lot or be in front of others doesn’t mean you’ve been gifted by God; you may simply have an issue with the sin of pride.) One way to determine if you’ve been blessed with this gift is to observe the fruit God bears in your life as a result of your speaking. If God uses you in that capacity, then know this: you actually have a biblical obligation to use your gift. In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul tells his young protégé “to fan into flame the gift of God” he’d received from the Holy Spirit. The seasoned apostle was telling Timothy to try and grow his gift from a spark into an open flame. We’re obligated to do the same. Maybe a speaking engagement is another way for you to do that.
Learn something that will make you more valuable upon your return.
As I travel on speaking engagements, I’m constantly looking to learn something that will make me a better leader when I get back home. Maybe it’s as simple as a new piece of software; maybe it’s a great tip for running a more effective staff meeting. Regardless, I want to bring something back that will be a blessing to the people who sent me. You should strive to do the same. In your position, it might be a better way to attract adult volunteers. Or maybe you discover an online resource you can use to save money in your budget. No matter what it is, diligently search for something you can bring back that will make your youth ministry better.
Closing the Conversation
I’m confident this particular youth pastor will get a “yes” from his pastor when they speak because his heart is in the right place. It’s likely you will, too, if you employ the points outlined above. However, if you do get a “no” it’s important to find out why. Ask your pastor what would need to change for you to get a “yes” to your request.
Regardless of the final decision, make sure to thank your pastor for taking the time to hear your idea. That gesture will pave the way for future requests with your pastor.
What about you? What have you learned about communicating with your pastor about speaking outside your church?
David R. Smith is the author of Ministry By Teenagers and Christianity… It’s Like This. A 15-year youth ministry veteran, David speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, specializing in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He is the Director of Content Development at TheSource4YouthMinistry.com and provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son outside of Tampa, Florida.
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.