Pastor vs. Youth Pastor

Not getting along? Here are four habits that will strengthen the relationship between pastor and youth pastor.

I don't have a problem! You're the problem!" she shouted. As the new youth pastor, I had stepped in to resolve a conflict started by a "church boss." That was a mistake. The boss turned on me. My reply was less than pastoral.

"Ma'am, you obviously have a problem," I stated in monotone logic reminiscent of Star Trek's Spock. That's when I got the "problem" speech. My so-called honeymoon was officially over.

The next day, my senior pastor called me into his office to discuss what happened. I just knew I was going to be fired. Instead, I was mentored, affirmed and taught how to handle myself better in the line of fire.

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This pastor demonstrated two habits every pastor should develop in relating to a youth pastor: the ability to "go organic" and "get real." Let's take a closer look at these and other habits that will strengthen the relationship between pastor and youth pastor and release greater ministry.

Habit No. 1: Go organic. Organizations are hierarchical in structure. Organisms have a flattened structure with every element working toward a common goal according to individual design and abilities. Which model are you laboring in?

The bottom line is, most youth pastors don't want a boss or a manager, but they would love to have a mentor and a friend. They value your input--and they long for you to value theirs. They want to feel like a crucial part of the team. They hate feeling like second-rate ministers.

Habit No. 2: Get real. If you are the type of pastor who is a mystery to everyone except your wife and dog, then you can forget keeping a youth pastor for very long. Young adults want others with whom they can genuinely connect. Put an end to the "Super Pastor" myth by admitting you aren't always perfect, happy and full of faith. You'll earn their respect and loyalty a million times over by being honest about who you are and encouraging them to do the same.

Habit No. 3: Think 'Napster.' One of the most influential technologies to hit the Web has been a file-trading software called Napster. In a matter of months, Napster took a long-standing and heavily guarded fortress called copyright law and turned it into a legal chaos that will forever change the way we do business.

It was a college student who invented Napster. He saw holes in the copyright code. He saw opportunities in the world around him. He hacked the system.

Most youth pastors are just like the guy who invented Napster--practical, problem solvers, hackers. They can easily become impatient and disheartened when "obvious" problems aren't fixed quickly. And--right or wrong--they'll hack any code to find a solution.

So, if you treasure your policies and procedures as second in importance only to the Levitical laws, there could be trouble. An easy solution is to give your youth pastor the freedom to explore the code, look for holes and develop a solution. Who knows, the result could be a new way of thinking that revolutionizes the way your church does kingdom work.

Habit No. 4: Encourage innovation. Youth pastors are visionaries and dreamers. They haven't had the "privilege" of having to deal with 20 years' worth of dream-killers and "it can't be done" elders. So instead of throwing wet blankets on their fires, learn to stoke the fires. Challenge them to embrace the dreams God gives them (and be there to help them if they blow it).

This may not seem like much, but to a youth pastor, these simple "habits of relating" can make all the difference in the world. As a pastor, practicing these habits is one of the best ways to impact the next generation.

Eric Wilbanks is the managing editor of and ProFiles e-journal for youth pastors.

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