Everybody wants to be "in" with the boss. Nobody wants to be on the outside looking into the boss' inner-circle. You want to be someone he trusts. You want to be someone your boss will call on when he needs feedback, when he has a new initiative he wants to start, or when he wants to bounce off a new idea.
As a Children's Pastor, it is so important to me that I have a strong personal relationship with my boss - my Senior Pastor. I think that is something that every staff pastor would want. The problem is, we often behave as if it is "the boss' job" to make sure our relationship is strong and healthy. We don't always look at what WE need to do in order to make that happen. For years, I depended on my pastor to be the one to initiate contact and to feed our working and personal relationship. That was a huge mistake.
As I travel around the country, speaking to kids’ pastors and volunteers, I hear some of them say, “My senior pastor doesn’t get me,” “I’d love to do some big things for our kids’ ministry, but my pastor doesn’t share my vision,” or “If it weren’t for my senior pastor, I’d love serving at my church.” These statements concern me and break my heart, but they also make me wonder if these kids’ ministry leaders are making the same mistake I made.
Senior Pastors don’t come in “one size fits all.” They have different life experiences, different gifts, different personalities, and different visions for their churches. But in regards to their relationships with kids’ ministry leaders, some principles apply in virtually all cases. Here are some commitments I’ve made, and I recommend every kids’ leader make them in this important relationship:
1) LOOK for opportunities to serve
It’s a mistake to sit on the sidelines and demand that your pastor take the initiative to get you involved in other aspects of church life. If your pastor is anything like mine, he’ll seldom ask for your help because he doesn’t want to burden you. There are, however, plenty of needs in the church that could use your expertise and help. He would appreciate you volunteering to help, especially if it’s in an area that has nothing to do with kids’ ministry.
When I travel with my pastor, I listen and watch to see if I can help in any way. I can carry some of his bags, make a quick call to check on our next meeting, or help with travel arrangements. I’m not "brown-nosing" to earn points. I do these things so that he can focus on more important things.
2) OFFER accountability instead of forcing him to require it
I don’t know of any senior pastor who enjoys tracking down any member of his staff to check on him or confront him when there’s a problem. In my relationship with Pastor Rod, I was determined to offer accountability instead of forcing him to demand it from me.
When I came to First Assembly, Pastor Rod asked me to email him any time I had a problem of any kind that needed his attention. In my pride and self-protection, I didn’t want to admit that I had any problems (at all), so I didn’t send him any emails about needs or difficulties. One day, he found out about an incident in the Kids Ministry. He was perplexed to hear about it from someone besides me. When he called me into his office, he had to be an investigator, trying to find out what happened, instead of a partner, helping to resolve it. My silence had forced him into this role.
Don’t make your pastor play CSI. Take the initiative to tell him anytime there’s a problem he needs to know about. When you’re going to be late, call. When something goes wrong, tell him. When there’s a problem that’s going to affect other ministries, give him a heads up.
3) Disagree in private, but never in public
In any working relationship, people have different opinions and plans. It’s happened plenty of times in my relationship with Pastor Rod. At one point, we talked about a problem in our Girls Club Ministry. I believed we needed to do one thing, but he saw it a different way. He patiently listened to my point of view, but it was his decision, and he didn’t pick my solution. When I walked out the door and into the meeting with the Girls Club Coordinator, I didn’t say, “Hey, here’s the decision, but it’s Pastor Rod’s, not mine. Actually, I was on your side. I wanted to help you, but Pastor Rod insisted we do it his way.” Instead, I represented the decision as ours. I said, “This is what we decided is the best course of action.”
Don’t throw your senior pastor under the bus just to earn points with others.
4) Express heartfelt appreciation
Some kids’ ministry leaders tell me they really enjoy working in their church with their pastor. I ask, “When was the last time you told him?” For some, it’s very recent, but others admit it’s been a long time.
Don’t just be thankful—express it in a way that communicates your heart.
For appreciation to be received, it must be sincere. Don’t just go through the motions and hope it works out okay. If you’re not feeling thankful, take time to pray. Ask God for eyes to see what He sees so you can overlook some of the difficulties and really appreciate the phenomenal opportunity to reach kids for Christ in your church.
In the past few years, I’ve tried to make gratitude a normal part of my communication. I send Pastor Rod thank you notes for all kinds of things and, even more, for being a terrific leader and friend. Sometimes, I give him small gifts to show my appreciation. I want him to know that I don’t take him for granted. Notes, words, and gifts let him know I’m very thankful for him, and these things help keep our relationship strong.
How about you? Which of these four practices do you need to do better? Which do you do really well? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section of this post.