6 Steps to Improve Your Relationship with Your Lead Pastor

Are you killing this important relationship?

Too often student ministry pastors don’t work on their relationship with the lead pastor.  If you’re not careful you may miss these important steps to develop a growing and healthy relationship.  The lead pastor can be your biggest ally, advocate, and supporter! Like any relationship, this one needs to be developed. It is going to take time, understanding and trust. Here are the 6 steps I’ve found the most useful.

Building Bridge or Setting Up Barricades?

During my years working in the local church, I’ve worked under a wide variety of lead pastors.  Each one was different in their personalities, approach to ministry and style of running the church.

While the youth pastor may not always agree and have different points of view on ministry, it’s important that a youth pastor values and honors the lead pastor in their position.  There are times when the two may not see eye-to-eye and the relationship becomes strained and damaged.

I‘ve had friends in ministry who’ve have been in the position where the relationship between them and the lead pastor has been strained to the point where they have left the church.

The following are some ways that the relationship between the youth pastor and lead pastor can be strengthened for the betterment of themselves and the church.

1. Clear up Expectations

Have a clear understanding of the expectations and role as youth pastor.  This should be set at the beginning of accepting the position.  It’s important that the youth pastor and lead pastor learn how to work together effectively.  If this is understood at the beginning, other misunderstandings or communication can be avoided.

2. Communicate

Communicate with the lead pastor clearly and on a regular basis.  This may be different for each person, it is important that a youth pastor learn what is the best way to communicate with their lead pastor.  This may be in the form of email or face to face communication.  I remember an incidence where there was an altercation between a student and leader at a youth retreat.  The issue was initially dealt with at the retreat then on Monday morning I went into the lead pastor’s office and informed him of what happened and we worked together on a solution.  No one likes to be blindsided, so make sure that when anything serious happens the lead pastor is informed. Regular check ins also keep the lead pastor informed and up to date on what is happening within the youth ministry.

3. Be Prepared

Make sure when you meet you are prepared.  Their time is valuable, so if you have set up a meeting make you that you are prepared.  Not only does this show a level of professionalism, when you value the lead pastor’s time, you find that you are able to get more of it in the future.  In addition to this, it is important to keep the lead pastor informed of any and all major decisions in the youth ministry.  Seek their advice and input when it comes to decision making.  They have they whole church to think about, not just one ministry.

4. Make Invitations

Invite him/her to the youth ministry events.  It is important that the students see the lead pastor outside of Sunday services.  If/when you do this, be strategic and think through in what ways the lead pastor can be a contributing factor.  I have had the lead pastor come and do a Q&A with the students.  It was always a way to for the students to see them in a different light.  Make sure you are mindful of their time, they are busy people.

5. Get Personal

Connect with them relationally. Look for opportunities for you and the lead pastor to connect to strengthen your relationship.  Find out what they like and use that as a bridge.  One lead pastor I worked for liked to play foosball.  My office was off the youth room and he would come and challenge me.  While I didn’t want to hurt his ego, I “let” him win.  This was a great way that our relationship was strengthened.

6. Develop Empathy for your Leader

Remember that the lead pastor is human too.  Like us they have good days and bad days in ministry.  They can face a lot of criticism, and as I already stated, the whole church is under their care. They will make mistakes, they will be tired, they will be frustrated, and they may also feel failure.  Just as we need it, they need grace and support.

Get Started

You may have been nodding your head as you read these points. Why pick one of these and work on it this week. I’d love to know how things turn out!

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Matt is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has over 20 years of student ministry experience all over the country. He has 3 kids. His 2 girls are in their teen years so he has lots of opportunity to put his student ministry years to good use at home everyday. He's completing a Masters in Adolescent and Family Counseling.