3 things generations pastors need from their senior pastor

So, you’ve hired (or inherited) a Children’s Pastor, or a Youth Coordinator or an Associate Pastor for Generations (or any version of a Generations staffer) – what do you do next? One of the most significant relationships that will shape ministry effectiveness and a truly generational culture in your faith community is the relationship between the Senior Pastor and key leaders in the Generational ministries.

1. Access

Leaders immersed in ministry to emerging generations (or who are ’emerging’ themselves) will place a very high value on relational connection. Your time, your encouragement, your wisdom and experience, your clear articulation of the church’s vision or direction and the provision of a sounding board for innovative thinking and problem solving will all happen best through growing relational connection.

The offer of an open door is a start – a genuine invitation to come to you whenever they might need to process something, gain approval or seek advice that is supported by the reception they receive when they do.

Better still, a regularly scheduled meeting time communicates a high value from you. It also provides the consistency of contact and interaction that is necessary for a relationship of trust, open dialogue and true understanding to be fostered. Personally, I would be wary of employing someone who was unwilling to meet regularly with me. Just as I would be equally cautious about working for someone who didn’t appear willing to invest the time and intentional development into me as a leader.

Action points: Make space in your schedule for a regular time with your Generations pastor/leader – it doesn’t have to be hours and it doesn’t have to be too frequent – it just needs to be regular and it needs to be locked in to your calendars as an event (saying ‘we should catch up some’ time really doesn’t count!). Invest time to know your staff personally.

2. Awareness (& accountability)

Generational ministry finds a great deal of its expression outside of regular work or office hours. Youth pastors are doing some of their most intense hours on a Friday (or other) night, Kids Ministry workers are often squirreled away in largely unseen rooms, Young Adult small groups and events happen in evenings or on weekends, team meetings are scheduled outside regular hours to accommodate the volunteers that serve on them and, on top of all that, many Generations leaders are only working part-time hours. Left unchecked, it is easy for Generations workers to operate off the grid for large amounts of time. This is, of course, entirely practical but it is also fodder for doubt or mistrust to form when there are too many times when other staff or members of the church community ask, “Where is Sarah or Josh?” and no one can answer.

This can also extend to the question of ‘what’ – “What are they doing in Kids Ministry?” “What are the Youth studying this term?” “What is the strategy for connecting with families?”. Again, the more times the answer is ‘I’m not sure’ the more disconnected and untethered those Generational ministries can appear. And in time, that appearance can translate to reality.

In the context of regular access and strong relational links, a Senior Leader can be abreast of enough information to feel confidently aware as well as being able to communicate that awareness and confidence to other staff and members of the church community. This also provides a level of accountability to Generations staff as they are required to account for the spend of their time. In this way, they can also be monitored for ‘over-working’ – something that is easily done if their unseen hours aren’t being considered in their work-life rhythm.

Action points: Create a visual or open-access system of sign in/sign out and a way of communicating when staff can be next expected in the office. This is useful for all staff – particularly in environments when many are working part time or irregular hours. (And speaking as a person who lives alone, I like the idea that my work place might notice if I’m not there and check on me at some point!! 🙂 )
Ask for copies of term plans for Generations ministries. Dates of events, themes of study or any other broad information about the activity of a ministry area will help you to ask informed questions when you are speaking with Generations staff.

3. Advocacy

Generations ministry leaders are on the front line of feedback and engagement. Parents love their kids and are often quite zealous in their desire to see programs and opportunities meet their individual needs and expectations. Many people have opinions about how these ministries should operate and will be quick to vocalise them to anyone they deem able to influence a ministry’s direction.

Your Generations Pastors need to know that you have their back. They need to be confident in your confidence in them. They need to be assured that complaints or criticisms are not being entertained by you without you seeking out the full information and without you doing anything to undermine their authority or currency amongst those they minister to.

Raging fan in public – honest critic in private.” This is the mantra of Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church staff culture. They covenant to always support one another publically – in the moment of leadership activity and/or to anyone who might take an opportunity to question or challenge. “I’m sure they have a good reason for that decision or action, let me find out what it is and get back to you.” Assuming the best of your leaders is the only way to nurture a trust-infused environment that allows innovation and personal development to take place. Through that lens of trust and belief, honest questions of critique or concern can be processed in healthy and helpful ways.

Action points: Resolve to always have your staff’s back as they lead and when others might come to you to ‘complain’. Affirm the Biblical practice of resolving conflict directly with the person involved rather than permitting a climate of back talking or conflict avoidance. Ensure your Generations leader knows they have your full support in all things and the guarantee of your honest review and feedback. Knowing that no news truly is good news will give them greater confidence to lead boldly. Speak plainly to your Generations pastors about areas of work and create a grace-filled way back after failure or misfire.

***

Of course, all of these actions and ideas won’t guarantee a successful ministry tenure for your Generations leader – but the absence of these things will make it all the more improbable! When a Generations Leader can rely on their Senior Pastor (or up-line) to be available to them, to be aware of their ministry movements and personal development trajectory, and to advocate for them they are best positioned to thrive in their role. And everyone wins when that happens. Senior leadership, the Generational culture of the church (and the many families and young people impacted for the Kingdom) and the Generations Pastor themselves.

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