5 Simple Ways to Gain Respect from Your Church Leaders

youth pastor sr pastor tension

Having been a youth minister for well over a decade now, I think I have heard all of the ridiculous statements and stereotypes about youth ministers. We are lazy, disorganized, and never take anything seriously. We only work on Sundays. All we do is play games and order pizza. And my personal favorite: when we “grow up,” we might “get our own church.”

While I’m not certain where these stereotypes originated, the crop of youth ministers I interact with regularly just don’t fit that mold. Almost every youth minister I connect with regularly is working hard, giving and sacrificing time, energy, and resources, and thoroughly thinking through ways to improve the ministry God has entrusted them with.

Despite this trend, we constantly see youth ministers in the YouthMin Facebook group that are struggling to gain the respect of church leaders. So we created a list of some simple, fool-proof ways to gain respect from your church leaders. These won’t solve every problem, but they will till the soil so respect and admiration can grow.

1.  Work hard
One of the easiest ways to communicate your passion for youth ministry is to be a workhorse. Show up early, be prepared, go the extra mile, be available, and churn out great content. If people can’t find you during office hours, you are chronically unprepared, and regularly on the golf course, someone WILL question your work ethic. One of the most respected players in any locker room is the guy who shows up first and leaves last. Be that guy!

2.  Communicate…a lot
Leaders generally don’t like to be surprised, especially by an angry parent or concerned member. The best way to endear yourself to your leaders is to keep them informed. When I respond to a parent, I often carbon copy my ministry elder or senior minister. When I have a confrontation at church or an issue arises, I email my elders. When I taught on sex, love, and romance last week, I told the parents ahead of time and made sure to have a couple elders in the room as I spoke. Communication breeds trust.

3.  Be a great teammate
The hallmarks of a great teammate are loyalty, communication, respect, honesty, trust, and commitment. By being a great teammate to your fellow staff members and elders, you will receive respect in return. NEVER put down an elder or staff member to a person in your church. NEVER lie or stretch the truth to your teammates. Hold the nitty gritty details of meetings in the strictest confidence. Be loyal to a fault.

4.  Be consistent
Consistency breeds trust. When you are consistent in your dealings with people, how you plan and execute events, and the ways you communicate, trust will naturally follow. On our staff at Hazelwood, we have a Senior Minister who has led for 35 years. Other staff members have been in their positions for 14 years, 13 years, and 7 years. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to work in an environment where there is so much consistency. We know how our teammates operate, how we respond to criticism, and we know that loyalty is the norm. Consistency pays huge dividends, so make it a priority.

5.  Stick around for a long time
There are so many benefits of longevity that I can’t enumerate all of them here, but trust, respect, and added responsibility are certainly among them. When I came to Hazelwood as a 22-year old youth minister fresh out of college, parents and leaders questioned me a lot…and I don’t blame them. I was young, inexperienced, and learning on the fly. Having been here for 13+ years now, I am often given the benefit of the doubt instead of a barrage of questions. Our staff, elders, parents, and students know I’m here to stay, and that leads to a lot of trust.

As I stated above, this list won’t save you from every difficult situation or tough conversation, but you might be surprised how far they will take you when it comes to gaining the respect of your leaders. What would you add to the list?

Why your Youth Ministry should be more like Apple

youth ministry planning

One of the things I love about Apple, that I believe (because they tell me this to be true) makes their products that much superior, is their patience. They have plenty of ideas for things that could make the iPhone or iPad better, but they don’t rush the product, and until they can make that idea the best idea, they won’t put it in the phone. Read More

Kill The Program Now!

When was the last time your youth ministry program led someone to Christ?

When I was in high school, I didn’t know Jesus.  Actually, up until grade 9 I had never been in a church building.  I was always the skater punk who didn’t want anything to do with religion.  Especially, those weird Christians.  I knew about Christians, but I never really knew about the God they followed.  I knew all the rules of things I couldn’t do, but I never really heard about Christ.

It all changed when one summer, a youth worker started to hangout at the skatepark with me and my friends.  This youth worker spend days and nights with us hanging out, drinking slurpees, and having a blast.  Over those months we built a relationship that allowed this youth worker tremendous influence into my life.  Looking back, it was the turning point in my life.  It brought down the walls that held me back from knowing and following Christ.

Looking back on my life, I had to have a relationship with the youth worker before I was willing to check out the program.  This youth worker realized that the program wasn’t the goal, the relationship was.

I often look at my own relationships and wonder if I am emphasizing the program for the relationships.  It is easier to invest time and money into a program; It is difficult to invest in people, especially teenagers.  Teenagers are messy, and crazy, but they need Jesus just like the rest of us.  They also need relationships like the rest of us.

Over the summer, it is a time of reflecting for me, and my youth ministry.  It is a season where we destroy the program.  That means we do no programs!  We hangout with people instead.  There is no hours invested in planning events for students to attend, and what we do is invite students to hangout with us.  We destroy the program and build relationships.

It is a season that always helps clarify the reason why I do youth ministry.

What does your summer look like?

Do you shift gears?  or do you create more programs and more events?

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus’ disciples were asking him what was the most important command, and he said this, ”

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  

Did you notice he didn’t say build more programs?  He said, “Love God, and Love People”.  Why is it so hard to do these two things?

When I get stuck in the program mode for too long I realize that my ministry has become about me and the numbers that follow a programatic ministry.  When was the last time you shut down the program for an extended period of time?  How did you feel during that time?  How did people respond?

Looking back to when I was a teenager.  I am thankful that someone shut the program down for the summer.  I am thankful that they spent time with me.  I am thankful that they spend time investing into my life to share Jesus with me.  I am thankful that God used that youth worker to change my life.

What is Spiritual Formation in Youth Ministry?

In a recent post, I discussed the current lack of spiritual formation occurring in student ministries. The average student ministry engine is running good with bigger and better events while the hook of church consumerism sets deeper into our students’ throats. No, I am not anti-fun or even anti-event, rather I believe we need a change in emphasis and focus. I am calling for student pastors to center their ministry cycle on the process of spiritual formation.

Spiritual formation is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, so it’s important you know what I mean when I say ‘spiritual formation.’ Spiritual formation describes the process of a believer’s spiritual maturation through the continual sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, in which the believer is transformed more and more to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19). This process is not accomplished solely on hard work and due diligence absent of dependence on the Spirit, but rather spiritual formation is the process in which we balance our human responsibility with the Spirit’s promise to continue His work in us (Rom. 8:28-30; Phil. 1:6). The definition used in this research then is that spiritual formation is the Spirit empowered process in which the believer’s life is conformed to that of Christ’s (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27) through the grace-empowered submission of his life to God’s will (Rom. 12:1-2), and in the context of biblical community. The result of spiritual formation should be a life entirely transformed by the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual formation is the Spirit empowered process in which the believer’s life is conformed to that of Christ’s (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27) through the grace-empowered submission of his life to God’s will (Rom. 12:1-2), and in the context of biblical community.

Spiritual formation is far too often a discussion that leads to strategies, disciplines, or rules on how to effectively take the reins of your own formation. Although these discussions and strategies are not inherently bad, the line between grace-empowered transformation and human ‘hunker-down’ obedience must be walked with a prayerful balance. Therefore, I am not here to propose a 7-part strategy to grow your students quicker and better, rather historically the Church has broken the spiritual formation process down into three practices; corporate worship, doing life together, and serving others. It is when we understand and emphasize these practices in our ministries that we are able to navigate away from the production of church consumers and toward forming mature Christ followers. In the coming days, I’ll expound more on these three important practices.

Can you look back to a season in the past school year where you saw the greatest amount of spiritual growth in students? What created that environment?


This guest post was submitted by Jonathan Holmes believer of the gospel of Jesus Christ, husband to Amber Holmes, student pastor at Wildwood Church, ThM graduate of Dallas Seminary, Co-founder of NYW Hub, collector of books, lover of technology, typer of thoughts