How do I get my Senior Pastor to understand my vision?

It seems that many youth pastors or youth ministry coordinators wish that the senior leaders in their church would have a better understanding of the needs and vision of the youth in their church.  In fact a common complaint in youth ministry is a “lack of support” from the church council or board of elders.  As I read many youth ministry books it is a topic that has been around for decades.  So what is my response to the question:

“How do I get my Senior Pastor/Vicar or Parish Priest to understand my vision for the Youth Ministry?”

Before I get into my answer I want to share the answer of three “mega-church” youth pastors who have now become Senior Pastors.  A few years ago I was attending the youth ministry forum at a conference where this question was put to three famous “mega-church” Youth Pastors:

  • Judah Smith had just taken over from his father at City Church in Seattle after running a youth ministry that was reported to have over 2000 members.
  • Phil Dooley had just started the Capetown Campus of the Hillsong church after running a youth ministry that was reported to have 5000 youth across three campuses in Sydney.
  • Carl Lentz had just started the New York campus of the Hillsong church after running a very successful youth and young adult ministry in Florida.

When this question was put to the three of them sitting on stage in front of 250 youth ministry workers, most of us were hoping for a little support.  In fact they gave the opposite view, that there should be no separate youth ministry vision.  Judah Smith stated that it was the job of the youth ministry leaders to implement the overall vision of the church in the youth ministry.  Judah said that he told his father, who was the senior pastor, don’t try to make the vision sound “youthy” that is our job.  These three leaders all suggested that the youth ministry should try to understand the senior leaders vision for their church.

Now you might think that these three leaders are in a league of their own so their statements don’t apply to you.  But how many youth would be “big enough” to have a separate vision for the youth ministry?  One could argue that having a youth ministry of over 2000 people could be big enough to have a unique vision but it may lead the youth ministry to drift away from the rest of the church.  If however you want your youth ministry to be part of the church then why not adopt the vision of the church you wish to be a part of.  If 2000 people was not “big enough” for these three leaders to have a separate vision then why is 20-50 youth be “enough” to have a separate vision?

In my opinion the youth ministry and the young adult ministry should serve the rest of the church by sharing and supporting the vision and mission of their church.  So here are a few tips to help you deal with this question in your situation:

  1. Talk to your Senior Pastor/Vicar/Parish Priest – help him understand the ideas that you have for the youth ministry and work with him to fit them into the vision and mission of your church.
  2. Get involved with the Church Board/Council/Elders – don’t wait until the vision is set in stone to have your say in the formation of the strategic direction.  Attend meetings and put youth issues on the agenda, don’t wait to be asked for your opinion.
  3. Raise your concerns or thoughts behind close doors and support the vision publicly – once you have had your say then support the team.  Remember it is not your ministry but the ministry of your church so support the senior leaders in public.
  4. Help young people understand the vision – use the vision and mission statement of your church in your ministry.  Perhaps you need a few youth relevant images or stories but don’t change the meaning of the mission and vision.

To put things into perspective for most of us (i.e those who are not “mega-church” youth pastors) check out this great blog post 10 easy steps to make your pastor love student ministry by Benjamin Kerns at Average Youth Ministry.

And for those who might say “isn’t the Bible our vision and mission statement?”, yes it is but you only have to check out the thousands of mission and vision statements on church websites to see why this is an issue.

How have you worked with the leadership in your church to align the vision and mission of the youth ministry with the rest of your church?  Please leave a comment

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