In Focus: Leading Up: Building A Healthy Relationship with Your Senior Pastor

by Brian Dollar

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. After all, a healthy relationship with the senior pastor is essential for a kids ministry leader to succeed.

Often, I have found that kids ministry leaders expect their senior pastor to do all the work when it comes to building and maintaining that relationship. They say, “He’s the boss. It’s his job to connect with me.” That statement could not be more wrong. Every relationship is a two way street.

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 to my senior pastor, and I recommend every kids’ leader make them in this important relationship:

• I pray for my pastor and his family daily.

I’ve made a commitment to pray every day for him: for his walk with God, for wisdom in leading our church, and for the spiritual vitality of his family. I pray for God’s protection for him as he steps out to make a difference in our church, our city, and the world. Praying for him causes me to appreciate him even more.

• I own my pastor’s vision.

It’s important not only to understand your pastor’s vision, but also to own it, emotionally and voluntarily. For our Kids Ministry to play a vital part in our church, I need to be in step with my pastor’s heart and take the initiative to coordinate everything we do with his vision for the church.

• I 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. Look for ways to take any part of his load off his shoulders that you can.

• I offer accountability instead of forcing my pastor to require it.

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.

• I’m committed to be open to correction.

For years, my insecurity caused me to struggle with being defensive. Under the hurt feelings and protests is a deep sense that I’m not adequate, personally or professionally—or both. No one is above correction, and we can all learn to handle it with grace.

• I need to keep my frustration quiet.

Whining to a sympathetic ear feels good for the moment, but it causes a lot of damage to everyone involved. I’ve seen it too many times, so I’ve made a commitment to communicate my frustrations only and always to the appropriate person. When I have a complaint, I go directly to Pastor Rod and talk to him. I don’t talk to board members, parents, volunteers, or other staff members.

• I express heartfelt appreciation.

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. Don’t just be thankful—express it in a way that communicates your heart.

So, what do I do?

If you are struggling in your relationship with your pastor, take some time for an accurate diagnosis. First ask, “Is it me? Am I contributing to the problem in some way? If I am, what am I doing that’s causing the problem?” Look over the principles in this article and give yourself a grade to see how you’re doing—and don’t grade on a curve! Be ruthlessly honest with God and with yourself about what you see in your response to your pastor.

Take the initiative to talk to your pastor about his perception of his vision, your role, and how you can work together more effectively. Your fundamental question is “Pastor, how can I help you more?” If a significant, long-term problem exists, you might then say, “Pastor, it seems that our relationship isn’t as strong as it should be. I feel disconnected. Is that just me, or do you feel the same way?” Let him answer. You might find out that he thinks everything is going great, or you may realize he feels just as distant in the relationship.

Before you meet, ask God to give you ears to hear and patience to listen. Don’t accuse and don’t demand. Listen to his heart as well as his words. You may find that you’ve missed each other for a long time, and this conversation gets you back on the same (or close to the same) wavelength.

All of us need to try our best to resolve difficulties in this relationship. No situation is perfect. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on your pastor or the church. We don’t need perfect leaders or churches, but we need situations where we can serve God with all our hearts. Learn to overlook some things, communicate well and often, and give everything you’ve got to the Lord, the kids, the parents, and the volunteers in your ministry. And God will smile.

For more information on this subject, read Brian’s book, I Blew It! available at www.highvoltage-kids.com

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