Top 10 Ways to Turn Your Pastor into the Biggest Advocate of Student Ministry: The truth is that very few senior pastors are passionate about student ministry. If they were, they would be student ministry pastors. God has given them a heart and calling to shepherd the entire church, in which student ministry is only a part. If you want them to become a big fan and advocate for student ministry, then it begins with having them become big fan of you. Here are 10 practical ways to build heart strands with your pastor and helps them become a fan of you and student ministry.
8. Professionalism is Key:
For as long as there has been youth ministry there have been youth workers who are fully living into their glorified adolescence. Rather than embrace the decades of hard work by the youth workers who have gone before to elevate this calling to an actual calling that is respected by the church at large, many choose to live into the Peter Pan mythology that youth ministry is an isolated ministry and a unique calling that should be respected no matter what. And when we are called on the carpet for being sloppy and a hack, we push back and think it is so sad that these adults have lost their edge and don't care about the lost. But the truth is that professionalism is key when gaining respect among your pastor and your parents. And if you want them to be an advocate for you and your ministry you have to play ball.
Your Pastor is a Professional:
Believe it or not, your pastor is a professional. Leading and shepherding this congregation is their call, and it is also their career. They have decades of experience, costly degrees, pensions, and have paid their dues. Pastors are the CEO's of the organization known as the church. Check out their office, it is really fancy with lots of important looking books. If you look closer you will see pictures and memorabilia from a career in ministry. They have worked hard to be a respected voice in the congregation, elder board, and the community. And to do this in our context is to live into the role of professional.
You are expected to be a professional too:
The fact that you have a paid position doing youth ministry means that people before you have convinced your congregation that it is a worthwhile investment to pay for someone to care for the students of the church and the community. But you were not called to be a free agent in the community, you were hired to play ball in a particular context. Since your pastor is a professional and most people on your elder boards are professionals, then the way in which you interact with them should be professional as well. Here are a couple of tips to live with being a professional.
1) Play by their rules:
Every board and pastor has a set of expectations, some verbal and others not. You must find out what they are and meet them. If there is a dress code for church or the office, then get some new clothes. If they want reports, write them. If they ask you to have measurable goals, then figure out what that means and then complete them.
2) You are a cross-cultural missionary:
Usually, we only think of this as having to do with the students we work with. But the truth is that we must also be cross-culturally sensitive when we deal with those of us. Many adults at our church will be very impressed with the ways we can relate to students. And they will be very unimpressed when you speak to them this way. How you talk to your traditional service is different than at youth group, or at least it should be. Impress your elders and pastor at how well you understand your context and live well in each one.
3) Get your head around the corporate direction the church is going:
Many young youth workers are hanging on to an Acts 2 version of the church with no hierarchy or power struggles and only love and grace. But the truth is that every church everywhere in the world functions in ways that make sense to its particular culture. In our culture, the model that reigns is the corporation. This is the language that is used, it is what forms their expectations for us, and it is how we are judged and evaluated. If you would like to continue to be employed by a church and especially if you would like to be employed by another one in the future, then you need to live into this reality.
4) Being professional doesn't take away from being spiritual:
Many people seem to think that corporate and spirit are mutually exclusive. Corporate is simply the model in which ministry is done, it is the model that creates the framework for our positions, it is the framework that determines if we get raises or fired. In no way does it take away from our God-given calling and the task of ministry we are to do. It is just the rules of the yard. Instead of fighting for a first century Palestinian model of anything, we need to be aware that we live in a particular context and called to do ministry in that context. For those employed by a church, this means playing by their rules. If you don't like that reality, then do true ministry by being a tentmaker and do whatever you would like :)
May God continue to be gracious with us youth workers as we strive to honor God, reach students, and play ball with the church, and somehow do it all in a way that honors Jesus.