Tick. tick, tick… The secret agent nervously holds the wires of the explosive, silently pondering which to cut, hoping it’ll save his life. All the while, the red digital numbers on the detonator relentlessly count down toward zero. He finally selects the green—no wait—the red wire, reaches for the pliers, closes his eyes, and slowly squeezes the handles…
For many children’s ministry leaders, discerning their relationship with their senior pastor is a lot like the secret agent disarming a bomb: One wrong move and everything blows up. Maybe your senior pastor doesn’t seem to have time for you or support your ministry. Or maybe you’re intimidated by his or her gifts (or frustrated at the lack thereof). It’s true—churches all over the country are full of dysfunctional relationships.
You can’t afford to fall into the dysfunctional category—either for the sake of your ministry or for your career. That’s because neither will ever reach its full potential if you have an unhealthy relationship with your senior pastor.
But what does a healthy and productive relationship look like? It’s a two-way street built on the foundation of understanding that your two ministries aren’t mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, dependent on each other. As one goes, so does the other. With that truth in mind, here’s how to build a healthy relationship.
Know your role. As a staff minister, you’re an armor bearer. That means one of your most important goals is to support your senior pastor. Your children’s ministry success is your entire church’s success. You are a team. When you get hung up on who gets credit for what, or you start making sure everyone knows that the senior pastor’s great idea was actually your great idea, you’re on a slippery slope.
Instead, be more concerned that the church and your ministry is moving in the direction God wants it to, and less concerned about your status in the leadership hierarchy. You know what you contribute each week, and you know that it’s a priceless part of the equation that makes your church work. Embrace your role as an armor bearer. And know that when you take this approach, a good senior pastor will honor you and your ministry whenever possible.
Grab hold of the vision. A growing children’s ministry is probably the largest single ministry in a church both from the standpoint of staffing needs and the number of people it influences. As such, hopefully your senior pastor has a vision for the children’s ministry’s success and its impact on the entire church. To be effective in your role, focus on understanding and embracing that vision as your own.
Have candid conversations with your senior pastor about your church’s vision for children. Be prepared for those conversations with a list of questions that’ll help you do your job better, such as, “What are your priorities for the children’s ministry?” Work together to formalize this vision into a philosophy. Write a cheat sheet with all the filters, standards, and priorities you’ve outlined with your senior pastor. Keep this cheat sheet where you can refer to it easily. Embrace your role as the implementer of the vision, and demonstrate your support for the vision through your words and actions. Again, this isn’t about credit or influence it’s about seeing your ministry to its highest level of success.
Communicate fully. Most senior pastors have a take on what children’s ministry needs to be. The only way to discover that viewpoint is to talk about it. Regularly that means at least monthly update your senior pastor on what’s happening in your ministry, where it’s going, how it fits into the church’s overall vision, how you’re doing as a leader, and so on. Develop candor with your senior pastor that allows you to have tough conversations and express divergent opinions, but still work through a solution together. By doing so, you establish yourself as a dedicated leader who’s willing to work hard when it comes to making your ministry work while supporting the entire church.
You may be thinking, That’s great, but my senior pastor barely knows I exist. As long as I don’t burn the building down, he could care less about what I do with the kids.
I’ve been there. I once served in a church where I was lucky to talk with my pastor once a week—and we were the only two people on staff! But take this to heart: Most senior pastors highly value their staff and want a good relation-ship, they just don’t know where to begin.
Take the initiative. Don’t allow a dysfunctional relationship to wither your ministry or paint you as a disconnected, glory-grabbing leader in the eyes of your senior pastor. Make the effort—starting today—to build a healthier relationship that’ll lead to a more effective, exciting, and life-giving ministry for the families of your church.
The above article, “Mission Impossible” is written by Bill Anderson. The article was excerpted from www.childrensministry.com/leaders website.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”