“What do I do when the former youth pastor is still attending our church?”
I get this question from time to time and have actually had to work in this environment in both of the churches I’ve served in over the past 20 years.
Sometimes the former youth pastor takes a promotion and ends up a worship pastor or the director of a regional campus. Maybe they were a key volunteer holding together the ministry during transition until you stepped into the role.
In larger churches, he or she might have been promoted to the student ministries pastor and you take over a junior high or high school ministry. In any case, contending with the former head of a youth ministry you are now charged to lead can be unsettling, challenging or even painful.
I wanted to share a few thoughts today to help you as you process and live in this situation.
I had the privilege of serving under Doug Fields when he was the student ministries pastor at our church. Now I get to carry on his legacy as the high-school pastor.
People always talk about the “big shoes” I have to fill and the pressure of following him. Doug has an incredible intuition—in just a few minutes, he can spot weaknesses and offer ideas on how to come up with creative solutions to them. He is honest with me, he loves me and I know he makes our ministry better.
That’s why I hang on every word he says—because of that relationship, I know he cares about me as a leader, he cares about our high school ministry, and he wants what’s best for us both. At the same time, he wants me to break the rules, challenge the methods of the past and move the ministry forward. He values what I value even if I do it a different way than the way he did it.
A supportive former youth pastor who remains engaged can still be intimidating and challenging, but it is one of the best gifts you can be given as a leader. Having a cheerleader and a fresh set of outside eyes is invaluable, as you rarely look up from the trenches of day-to-day ministry. Being set up to win by the youth pastor who went before you is affirming and legacy-building. Thank God if you have one of these loving men or women in your church today.
If the youth pastor is not supportive … check back next week for part 2.
Josh Griffin has been in youth ministry for 16-plus years in one small church and one big church. He currently serves as the high-school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. His original blogs can be found at morethandodgeball.com.
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