Written by Jacob Burgei
The final words of Malachi’s prophecy say the hearts of the fathers will turn to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. The church is at its best when we see that Scripture being lived out among the generations in our local congregations. It isn’t easy with a widening generation gap in a rapidly changing society. But it can happen when it’s modeled within church leadership.
As a youth pastor, I know I’m able to lead a younger generation toward God because of the people who paved the way for me, believed in me and gave me a chance despite my failures. I’ve been blessed to have a great relationship with my senior pastor, David T. Demola, who taught me the true meaning of ministry.
Working closely with my senior pastor has been instrumental in my growth as a leader and the success of our youth ministry. In order to see our churches—composed of older and younger generations—thrive, there must be a thriving, working relationship between the senior pastor and youth pastor. Here are some tips for senior pastors and youth pastors to strengthen their bond and support one another.
What Youth Pastors Need From Senior Pastors
- Encouragement. Youth pastors want their leader to believe in them. They need encouragement from their pastoral covering to push them toward their vision. There have been times when I was struggling and feeling down, and my pastor would say a word of encouragement or send me an uplifting text message.
If youth pastors are not getting encouragement, they tend to feel isolated and as if no one understands what they are going through. Youth ministry is full of ups and downs. My pastor reminds me that the down seasons are a part of ministry. He’s been real and vulnerable with me, sharing about the times he’s felt the same struggle. Knowing that he overcame the same roadblocks I’m facing is encouraging.
The enemy wants youth pastors detached from their senior leaders. Pastors, do not let your youth leader be isolated. Your uplifting words will encourage him.
- Accountability. Senior pastors, you have already been down the road your youth pastor is traveling. He needs you to steer him from the traps you may have fallen into. There have been many times I’ve sat down with my pastor for guidance on certain issues. Being able to go to him and not being afraid to share the issues I’m dealing with has helped.
- Trust. The most important part of my relationship with my senior pastor is trust. We developed trust from the beginning, allowing our relationship to flourish. He trusts me even when I’ve failed.
Allow your youth pastors to fail forward. As you have made mistakes in the ministry, your youth pastors will also make mistakes. My senior pastor has led me with grace, allowing me to learn from my mistakes.
- Communication. Know the vision of the youth ministry. Know where the ministry is and where it is heading. It’s important for senior pastors to have their finger on the pulse of their youth church, and that comes through communication. I make sure my pastor knows what’s happening with our young people. He doesn’t want to know all the details, but he wants to know any major happenings.
How Youth Pastors Can Improve Pastoral Relationships
- Believe in your pastor’s vision before pursuing yours. You are under the covering of your senior pastor. If you are not submitted to his vision first, how can God bless your vision? Once you take on your leader’s vision and fulfill your role in carrying it out, God will bless your vision. A youth pastor’s vision must align with the corporate vision of the local church.
- Know how to submit even when you disagree. There will be many times when you disagree with your senior pastor, but you must submit to his leadership. Trust his wisdom. He has made mistakes and wants to protect you from repeating them. You must learn to do what’s right, even when you don’t understand.
- Help your pastor understand your vision. You must clearly communicate the vision in your heart to your pastor. Once he knows the direction you want to go, he’ll be able to correct you when you get off course. Once he sees fruit in what you’re doing, he’s more apt to talk about it before the church and support what you’re doing.
Jacob Burgei is the student pastor at Faith Fellowship Ministries in Sayreville, N.J.