It’s very easy in the (often) touchy-feely world of ministry to overlook common frameworks that serve a vast number of businesses and non-profit organizations worldwide. One example of this is line management, or a lack thereof, within the church. When a church employs a youth pastor, the pastor, elders or board essentially become that person’s ‘boss.’ This is often not reflected in how a youth pastor’s time or workload is managed. This may not be the pastor’s primary role within the context of their wider church responsibilities, but it is a very important role. If overlooked, it can lead to job dissatisfaction by the youth pastor or frustration on the part of the pastor or wider church body.
Common Complaints by Youth Pastors
- I don’t have any help from anyone within the church, they expect me to run all the youth programs- but I need volunteers to grow the programs!
- The pastor gives me correction based on hearsay from a member of the congregation, instead of asking me first for my side of the story and trying to talk it out.
- There is little or no budget for youth programs, much less for my own training, development or attendance at youth work conferences where I can get new ideas and resources.
Common Complaints from Pastors about Youth Pastors
- What do they do all day? They are either playing games or on Facebook.
- They are constantly trying to change the main service- isn’t it enough that they have a youth Sunday?
- Their office is always a mess and I never feel like I really know what’s going on with the programs we offer to our congregation and the community.
Pastors, the following three basic line management strategies will help address all of these frustrations (and others) on both side of the working relationship:
- Set up regular meetings, with the expectation that there will be time for both ministry and management. During these meetings, spend time in prayer and fellowship, but also spend time reviewing workloads, sharing and listening to issues regarding volunteers, parents and youth, setting goals and deadlines and reviewing upcoming plans, in both the youth ministry and the wider church calendar.
- Value professional development by budgeting for the occasional youth ministry conference, new curriculum or coffee reimbursement for when youth pastors meet together in your local area. If you are having a hard time funding the youth ministry, explore options for a focused giving day for your congregation, applying for grants or doing fundraisers. The youth might also like to get involved in youth fundraising.
- Find the balance between trusting your youth pastor has everything in hand and needs no help and/or supervision and micro-managing every aspect of their day. This includes learning to trust that they have their finger on the pulse of youth culture, and a day spent on the internet or a suggestion about the service may reflect the changing activities and needs of the youth in your programming. You may find that someone new to youth ministry needs more of your attention at the start of their employment and ministry, but that over time you can release more responsibilities to them.
By implementing these three small changes (and you can even start with them one at a time and build up as you master each one) you will have a better idea of what is happening with the youth and in the life and work of your youth pastor.
Youth pastors, you may find that by adding this little bit of structure to your work schedule you feel less overwhelmed and more valued, creative and invested in the youth ministry. You will also find that these principles benefit you when applied to volunteer management.
Question: What is one change you would make to improve the line management relationship between pastors and youth pastors?