I was absolutely clueless in my first three jobs as a youth pastor. Maybe that’s why I was let go from two of them. I did’t do an any thing wrong, I just couldn’t the signs that I was screwing up. Part of that screwing up was my inability to detect what my pastor wanted. My EQ (emotional quotient) was very low so I couldn’t pick up the vibes my pastor was sending me; and because of that it was like I could hear Ted Allen saying, “You’ve been chopped.”
What could I have done better? I could have listed to what my pastors were really saying instead of assuming a defensive posture. I was always trying to defend myself and the youth ministry instead of hearing what was actually being said.
Following those three churches I finally got a clue and here’s what I learned about what they really wanted from me.
They wanted me to be a self starter
I was looking for mentorship but the pastors who let me go weren’t the mentoring type. Frankly, they were insecure men, like me, who just wanted to build the church. They wanted me to just do my job, that’s why they hired me.
I still had lots of questions but I didn’t want the associate pastor to answer them, I wanted the lead pastor to answer them. I didn’t understand roles very well so I kept crossing invisible lines into territory that made them question my ability to function on my own.
Pastors, don’t want to have to do my job and theirs, that’s why they hired me. to take things off their plate.
They wanted me to be loyal
This one I understood. Loyalty is a character trait I value very highly from people in my circles so I try to emulate loyalty, almost to a fault in my own life.
In several ministries I was given a book called Armor Bearers, it was a book about how to be the armor bearer to your pastors. This is a great book for understanding our role in the team dynamics. There are battles our pastor will face that we are shielded from and there will be times we need to come along side them with encouragement and resolve.
I do not follow leadership blindly, but there are times where, if we like our jobs, we have to follow our pastors to places we do not understand, are uncomfortable and sometimes against our own best judgement.
In times of distress concerning my leader, I always tried to remember David and Saul, David could not even cut a piece of his clothing without feeling like he subverted Saul’s leadership as King.
See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you. I Samuel 24:11-13
I never openly criticized my pastor, except to my wife, for without her I would have gone stark raving mad. Even after I left the churches I was let go from, I did not speak against the pastor because I thought it was wrong to do so. These pastors were not living in sin, they may have been poor leaders but to criticize would have made me look small and am not small of heart.
They wanted me to be a peacemaker and a problem solver
I was not one to shy away from an argument, if was worth the time (or not); but it didn’t help me or my Pastor. My Pastor did not need me ticking people off, he had enough problems of his own.
The phrase that changed my behavior was,
“You’re known for the problems you solve or the problems you create”
I cared about my reputation, the reputation of the youth ministry and eventually the reputation of my pastor and the church. I took my role as peacemaker seriously and tried my best to work the right channels, not make abrupt changes or with any kids leaders about the state of the shared youth room.
Crisis and chaos for kicks and giggle is immature. I was a rebel in all the wrong ways (some were right, but mostly wrong). Every pastor needs a staff who can make peace and solve problems so the the Kingdom, as well las the local church can be built.
They wanted me to bring value
I can remember whining about what I did not have in order to create a great youth ministry. I was selfish in that regard. What I figure out was, that if I wanted to get that I wanted (needed) I needed to help others get what they wanted and needed.
I started using my staff time to solve problems, bring ideas to the table, and offer whatever gifts I had to make something happen. I looked for the right opportunities and not just any opportunities lest I get my time used and abused.
Building a great youth ministry would come if I put others first, and it did. Most churches I worked in, the youth dept. had no budget but If I asked for it, and the money was there, they gave it to me. Why? I was bringing value not to just the youth ministry but every ministry.
They wanted me to love Jesus and others
Above all things, most of my pastors wanted me to have a vibrant faith. Keeping a solid devotion time, participating in worship etc, were all part of having healthy disciplines, but it is what those disciplines produced that was most important.
Ministry is difficult because people are difficult. If I was not cultivating my spiritual life, ministering would not only by hard but it would be drudgery. Keeping myself in Christ, on the daily, was the only I could have handled the difficult situations.
Loving Jesus and loving others is not a marketing tool and it’s not in your job description. Loving Jesus and others is not a show. Loving Jesus and others should be a natural flow of receiving God’s grace and deciding that if God loves people, even at the worst, so will I.
Churches and pastors need youth pastors who understand their role and who want to be a part of a team so that other people can find Jesus and growing in him. If you’re a youth pastor and you have not made a commitment to supporting your church and pastor, make a fresh commitment today.
If you’re a youth pastor and are looking for some additional coaching to become the best youth pastor/staff member you can be;My Ministry Mind coaching group has three spots open.