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?

What would happen to your Youth Ministry if you left?

Yesterday, one of our contributors, Frank Gil, posted this

He’s not alone, and I know many Youth Pastors are planning beyond their Fall Calendars and are thinking about the entire ministry year that lays ahead of us, and if you haven’t started that process yet, you should.

Last year around this time, I was coming home from our annual vacation at the end of the ministry year and starting that process, and laid out a ton of great plans, from what topics we would cover in our sermon series to our Middle School small group curriculum and High School bible studies, and the events we would plan. Quite honestly, this is one of my favorite things about Youth Ministry, planning out where we hope our students will be after a year of ministry and how we can actually get them there.

Proverbs 19:21 tells us that

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will prevail.

Last July, I laid out plans for our 2013-2014 school year and felt it was going to be an incredible year in our ministry, and after the awesome spring semester and Middle School camp we had just had, I was so pumped for what was coming. But then in January I had a conversation with my Sr. Pastor that concluded with the resolution that my wife and I would be leaving by June 1st, if we didn’t find a new ministry sooner. I could go on and on about that experience, and may do that in other posts, but the short of it is this:

In all my planning for the ministry year, I never planned that in 12 months I wouldn’t be leading that ministry.

But no one ever really does, do they? God acts swiftly and decisively, and though it may sometimes take longer than we want for him to work, we don’t know what he is going to do over the next 12 hours  let alone the next 12 months. But through this experience I got to go through, I was fortunate enough to have that long of a timeline to work with, knowing where our students were, where our leaders were, and what would be coming after I left. Though there was a lot more I wish I could have accomplished in my time at Trinity, and there were many more things I could have done in even my last 6 months, I enjoyed the challenge of being able to plan for sustainable health and success in the ministry without me in it.

Ultimately, I think that should be one of our tasks every year as we plan out our ministry calendars. Youth Pastors aren’t planning on leaving, you may be praying about something, God may be doing something with you over the next few weeks and/or months, but Youth Pastors rarely plan to leave 12 months out. But this summer, as you make your plans for the next year, challenge yourself to plan a ministry that you aren’t involved with.

If you knew that in 12 months you would be leaving your ministry and they would be without a “Youth Pastor,” what would you change about the way you operated in your ministry during that time? What training would you give to your volunteers? What lessons would you discuss in your small groups to ensure the students had a foundation that wasn’t reliant on one teacher? What would you pass off to volunteers to coach them in to be able to do without you there?

I hope you see my heart behind these questions. I don’t mean them to create an egotistical view of yourself in Youth Ministry, of all the things you are needed for, and I don’t mean to encourage you to leave your ministry. But wouldn’t you like to know that if God does change your plans this year, you’ve cultivated a ministry that doesn’t rely on you? With the added bonus that if you are still there 12 months from now, you’ve got a much deeper volunteer base, as well.

 

Hang In There!

Over the past few weeks, our YouthMin.org Facebook group has been littered with discouraged and hurting Youth Ministers.  Whether dealing with criticism, divorce, unrealistic expectations, or other sources of discouragement, many of our comrades are struggling to navigate these difficulties.  Questions of identity, purpose, calling, and even value seem to be waging war against many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  In addition, many are asking the question, “Do I even want to be in Youth Ministry anymore?”

Maybe you’re reading this article right now because you are discouraged, burnt out, tired, or contemplating leaving the ministry or your church.  While I know every context is different, and that sometimes God calls us to different places and new seasons, I want to encourage you to HANG IN THERE!

Sure, ministry is hard.  Sure, people are critical.  Sure, staff conflict can eat away at you every day.  But HANG IN THERE!  To encourage you to stick with it, here are some reasons I think you should HANG IN THERE!

HANG IN THERE because:

  1. You believed at one point that God called you to this, and at your core, you still do.
  2. Watching students come to love Jesus is the greatest thing IN THE WORLD!
  3. The church, while imperfect, is still the Bride of Christ and the vessel He has chosen for changing the world.
  4. This season will pass.  We all go through difficult stretches, but there is a better season coming!
  5. You know these students and these parents – and you can help them grow in Christ.
  6. God has never failed anyone in the past – he’s not going to start today with you.  He’s with you!
  7. You are the only You there is – you have unique gifts that can shape and mold people where you are.
  8. God is the One who changes lives, not you!  Trust in Him and rely on His power to get you through.
  9. God called you here and He can still use you here!
  10. There are TONS of benefits with longevity!  Press on – the good stuff is coming!
  11. Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

So, HANG IN THERE!

Hang In There!

Over the past few weeks, our YouthMin.org Facebook group has been littered with discouraged and hurting Youth Ministers.  Whether dealing with criticism, divorce, unrealistic expectations, or other sources of discouragement, many of our comrades are struggling to navigate these difficulties.  Questions of identity, purpose, calling, and even value seem to be waging war against many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  In addition, many are asking the question, “Do I even want to be in Youth Ministry anymore?”

Maybe you’re reading this article right now because you are discouraged, burnt out, tired, or contemplating leaving the ministry or your church.  While I know every context is different, and that sometimes God calls us to different places and new seasons, I want to encourage you to HANG IN THERE!

Sure, ministry is hard.  Sure, people are critical.  Sure, staff conflict can eat away at you every day.  But HANG IN THERE!  To encourage you to stick with it, here are some reasons I think you should HANG IN THERE!

HANG IN THERE because:

  1. You believed at one point that God called you to this, and at your core, you still do.
  2. Watching students come to love Jesus is the greatest thing IN THE WORLD!
  3. The church, while imperfect, is still the Bride of Christ and the vessel He has chosen for changing the world.
  4. This season will pass.  We all go through difficult stretches, but there is a better season coming!
  5. You know these students and these parents – and you can help them grow in Christ.
  6. God has never failed anyone in the past – he’s not going to start today with you.  He’s with you!
  7. You are the only You there is – you have unique gifts that can shape and mold people where you are.
  8. God is the One who changes lives, not you!  Trust in Him and rely on His power to get you through.
  9. God called you here and He can still use you here!
  10. There are TONS of benefits with longevity!  Press on – the good stuff is coming!
  11. Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

So, HANG IN THERE!

What Do I Do All Week?

You probably get this question at least once a semester. That one kid who is known for his sarcasm and snakiness comes up to you and asks, “What do you even do all week?”

Don’t get upset. I know you want to snap back with something snarky and a little condescending but don’t. This could be an opportunity to show your students an inside look of pastoral ministry. Here is my week in a nutshell:

Monday:

I come in around 8:30 am where I spend sometime in prayer for the week ahead and start responding to emails and messages. After that I always use Mondays as my long term project days. I make phone calls and emails for upcoming events. I do administration for summer camp and the upcoming mission trip. I also use Mondays as a day to meet with students or people in the church for counseling or to work on various things. Overall, Monday is my day for visioning, planning, and administration. My day usually ends around 4:30 pm.

Tuesday:

This is when I grind out my message. Back when I made my calendar for the semester I already planned out the Bible Verses, Theme, and overall subject I will be talking on. So all I need to do on Tuesday is spend the day studying, praying, and writing my message. I try not to do anything else on Tuesdays except maybe go out to lunch with a student or volunteer. Sometimes the message just comes to me and I can crank one out by 1:30 pm. Sometimes it will take me until 6:00 at night. My wife already knows that Tuesdays are sermon writing days so she knows not to expect me at a certain time.

Wednesday: 

When I come in the morning I look over my message. If I am happy with it I will format it for preaching and print it. Then I start doing all the extras. Layout the PowerPoint for my message, text my worship leader for what the songs will be, type up and print out the student sheets, look up a funny video for the beginning of the night and a serious video the intro my message. The last thing I do (and dread) is find a game. Right now I switch from a physical game and a upfront mental game every other week. I go on and practice with the worship team and by 6:15 kids start rolling in and the night begins. I am out of the church by 8:30 pm.

Thursday:

This is catch up day. Respond to any emails or phone calls I missed (or avoided). I put my message from the night before online. Every other week there is a staff meeting that I attend. I also set up meetings for this day as well. Any mass communication that needs to be done goes out that day and I prep for Sunday School and our Core Groups (Small Groups) the rest of the day. If I go home early any day, it would be Thursday. However, recently I have been going home early to a house full of students playing my Xbox One and drinking coffee with my wife.

Friday:

My day off. I protect this day. Unless there is a youth event or High School football game. Then I don’t complain.

Saturday:

Another day off but there are youth events that go on occasionally. Also, College Football is big here.

Sunday:

I get to the church an hour before it begins. Print off the student sheets for Sunday School that I made on Thursday. Teach Sunday School for an hour and then run off to service for worship. I then spend time with my wife until we have to be back at the church around 4:30 where our student drama team meets for practice and then at 5:30 our version of small groups meet. I then grab dinner and watch The Walking Dead.

My week in a nutshell. Things change if I have to preach in “Big Church” or have to travel. How does your week look? Do you have Mondays off or Fridays off? How flexible are your hours? What show do you watch that you consider is part of your weekly schedule?