By Zac Workun and Chad Higgins
The text came in on a Sunday evening.
“Tuesday morning. 7 a.m. First Watch.”
I froze. Only three months into this new role, and I was already getting scolded? What did I do wrong?
What became a series of early morning meetings with my senior pastor were, at first, a pause for concern.
“What are we meeting about?”
“What did I do wrong?”
These were the only questions I could think to ask, but I learned there were other questions about the work that didn’t involve the job. It was in these quarterly coffee meetings, however, that I began to see my senior pastor as not only my boss, but as a mentor and guide.
One of the recurring messages we’ve heard from youth pastors all across the country is that they’d like to have a closer relationship with their senior pastor.
The mentorship gap
There’s a gap between the current relationship many youth pastors have with their senior leadership and what they’re actually seeking. We believe this gap is a contributing factor to job performance stress and ministry burnout.
They want to be known and to know they’re doing a good work for the church, for the team, and for you, pastor.
For the last 15 years, we’ve led in local youth ministries, interviewed youth ministry leaders from across the globe, and networked with hundreds of youth ministers from across the continent.
Here’s what we’ve learned from them about their greatest needs from their senior pastor.
1. Most student minister are afraid to admit they’re stressed out.
The stress of serving on staff is best known by fellow leadership team members.
Your experience at both the local church and with a longer tenure in ministry are valuable assets for young ministers who want to give their all but are unsure of how to establish boundaries.
2. They need time with you beyond the staff meeting.
At the end of the day your staff and leadership team are your first team, and there should be space for deepening relationships. Much of the feedback that helps make sense of the work in staff meetings come from clarifying conversations before and after those meetings.
It’s important to not stuff all of the work and life into a staff meeting but provide opportunities for your staff to treat each other with as much grace and compassion as they would treat a member of your congregation.
One of the things we often hear is that youth pastors are hungry for mentorship. They need regular time with you beyond the scheduled staff meeting to share both personally and professionally.
They’re relationally driven, are often young leaders, and they greatly value your experience. Personal meetings give tremendous worth.
It’s in these spaces that we can begin to see each other beyond the boxes of roles, titles, or positions. There’s something deeply humanizing and ministerial about opening up about the work just beyond the office.
3. They need your ear.
Active listening is perhaps the most luxurious gift you can give to your youth minister. The work we do for the church is highly relational, and knowing your leader invests relational energy in you is life-giving.
Pastor, you’re busy; they know it. And being busy sometimes means it can be hard to know where to start. It’s critical you listen closely to your student pastor so you can begin the right kind of conversations. Download this conversation guide to get started.
Committed to the journey of growth
The key to becoming a great minister is a lifelong journey, a commitment to learn from those who have gone before. There’s a sacred trust to the continuation and training of youth pastors and young pastors.
In the same way you’re a pastor in progress, so are they. Your wisdom and experience are great gifts, but so too is your whole self a willing example of the journey of growth.
Who was the pastoral figure who shaped your call, defined the role, and encouraged you to keep at the work God had called you to? Tell us in the comments.
ZAC WORKUN (@zacworkun) is the student ministry specialist for Lifeway and co-founder of Youth Ministry Booster. He has served the local church in various youth ministry roles for 15 years. CHAD HIGGINS (@chadhiggins) is the co-founder of Youth Ministry Booster, consultant for student ministry for Lifeway and home group pastor at Summit Church Oklahoma. He has over 18 years of combined ministry experience.
At Youth Ministry Booster we partner with youth ministry leaders to provide the peer support they need to expand their network of ideas and collaborate towards healthy and successful ministries that benefit every local church. Our annual memberships are season-long efforts to enrich and equip your youth pastor by surrounding them with intentional support and accountability for their plans and efforts.