Unifying the Body One Pastor at a Time
A.C.’s post below is a great reminder of just how important it is for youth workers to gather together. Join us at the National Youth Workers Convention this fall in Cincinnati, OH to connect with and learn from the full family of youth workers.
I’ve spent the last few years praying to see God’s Spirit stir in the hearts of students and begin to transform our city. I long to see news broadcasts of high school students doing mass acts of service around the city. I would love to see camp attendances reach levels so high that lines of buses exit the city to head north and west, filling facilities to capacity. I want teens to have a larger view of the church—a view that extends far beyond the boundaries of the youth room and the sanctuary. I want teens to see all believers as an intricate and beautiful family of God’s children working to have an impact in this world through the power of the gospel.
Unfortunately, there’s a tendency for churches in the same city to become competitive—this is perhaps especially true among youth ministries. Rather than work together to impact each school and student, we compete for the attention of students who seem to bounce from church to church. I know the sinking feeling that comes when students leave our group for the church down the street, and I know the guilt that comes when we gain students from that same church.
However, I believe this sense of competition is diminishing. I continue to meet youth pastors who no longer see the success of another’s ministry as a threat to their own—instead, they have a vision for ministering with other youth pastors in order to build the kingdom. Leaders like these long to work together, envisioning ministries that are able to reach more students through partnership. They share ideas, responsibilities, and resources to unite teenagers in their cities with the mission of the gospel and the love of Christ. The first step to building these kinds of ministries is establishing relationships with other leaders. If we want our students to band together in the body of Christ, then we need to model those kinds of relationships. Here are three key factors to fostering relationships with other youth pastors:
When pastors get together, often the temptation is to run through the stats: group size, budget size, baptisms, or whatever else highlights how good we are at something. The reality is that no matter the size of the ministry, each pastor has unique gifts God has equipped him or her with to use in ministry. One pastor may lead a smaller ministry but have exceptional skill in building long-lasting relationships with students. Another might be gifted in developing other leaders to lead a larger ministry, but he or she may struggle to build personal relationships with students. Each of us has been called to a specific ministry and is gifted to lead that ministry. If we’re trying to network with other pastors, our first motivation can never be to show others how much we know, how talented we are, or how much they’ll gain by knowing us. It’s also prideful to pursue a relationship with a leader who has skills we want to improve if we don’t also consider how we might serve that leader. We’re all gifted in different ways, and we must let humility be the foundation of exploring how we can work together.
I’ve met a lot of other pastors who have a similar vision for reaching their cities. At camps, mission trips, and conferences I’ve met pastors who want to see more camaraderie and partnership between churches. But because of busy schedules, elder boards, and any social life, the biggest barrier to building connections with other pastors is that first step. Setting aside the time to grab coffee with another pastor seems daunting. But the key to fostering these relationships is being the one willing to initiate them. I’ve spent the last two years trying to be that guy. Every time I meet someone in youth ministry, I make it a point to say I want to get together with that person later. Then I follow up with an e-mail or text that suggests places and times. I try to be flexible and work with others’ schedules to make it happen. I don’t schedule fifty meetings in a week, I take it one meeting at a time, and I have a long-term goal of meeting with each youth leader. I make the effort to build these relationships.
The final key to fostering these relationships is being relational. I know that sounds basic, but too often the conversations between pastors and other church leaders are focused on ministry methods and teaching plans. If we want to build the body of Christ in our cities, we need to start by building the connections between leaders. The only way to do that is to build intimate relationships with each other. When I meet with other leaders, we absolutely talk about ministry—but it’s not the only thing we talk about. We talk about family, we talk about girlfriends or wives, we talk about hobbies and interests. I try to build friendships with them. I genuinely care about the people sitting across from me, and I want to know more about them. The more they believe that, the more they’ll want to do the same with me. And when we begin to see that other church leaders aren’t our competition but are brothers and sisters working for the same goal, then the power of the unified body of Christ will begin to impact our ministries, our cities, our country, and our world.
A.C. Caswell is the Pastor of Student Ministries at Camelback Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ. He has passions for reaching students with the Gospel and for developing more leaders to work together in this mission. You can connect with him on Twitter @elsietevii.
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.