why there's no room for selfishness in youth ministry
Does your pastor ever remind you of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) from the Office? You know, the Michael Scott who describes his job description as follows:
"I'm a friend first, and a boss second, and probably an entertainer third."
From my experience, I think that describes the pastor/youth pastor relationship in many churches. Many times, the pastor's posture toward the youth worker is, "We are going to be buddies. I may occasionally have to be your boss. And I love telling you tons of stories from my past ministry experience to entertain you." Obviously, this is not about my pastor (in case he's reading this), but other pastors in churches. If we're honest, many of us feel like we can do better than the pastor over us. I find this attitude rampant in youth ministry. Maybe we believe our theology to be more grounded, or our innovation more up to date. Maybe we feel more personally involved with the congregation, or more organized. Sometimes as the zealous youth guy, we have lots of ideas, have read tons of books, and podcasted far too many sermons. I think everyone finds the temptation to think, "I could do that better."
But this is selfishness speaking. And there is no room for this attitude in youth ministry.
Next time you are around children at play, listen for this phrase, as it will almost inevitably be uttered: "You're not the boss of me!" At an early age we begin to act out of our selfishness, our innate sense of fierce individuality. This behavior becomes manifested as we grow older. As youth pastors we have to resist the temptation of pride and selfish superiority. We are called to submit to both the leaders we like and those we don't like. The temptation to disrespect and buck against leaders is as old as time (Exodus 16:2-3, Heb. 13:17). When Christ tells us to be submissive to our leaders, He has a picture of love and unity in mind to show a lost and chaotic world how Christ's body should function. Now, this post cannot cover everything about authority, but here are four things to remember if you have a pastor who you find challenging to submissively serve under.
Biblical submission will make your pastor a better leader.
Giving your respectful obedience to your pastor will align you with Christ. Philippians 2 paints such a great picture of Christ's attitude. We should emulate His humility, as He "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped," but instead emptied Himself (Phil. 2:6-8).
Be your pastor's biggest advocate in public and address concerns in private.
As a youth pastor, you are called to equip and train students to make disciples of Christ, not make disciples of criticism. Reserve any discussion with your pastor for a one on one time, first praying for God to be glorified. Oh, and don't forget: before you bring any issue before him, remember Christ's teaching about the plank in your own eye.
Trust God's Sovereignty
Have you ever thought that maybe God, by his predetermined will, put you where you are so you can spread the light of the Gospel to those who are deprived from it? Trust in a Sovereign God who has placed you under the pastor you serve alongside.
Flee an abusive leader if you can
If your pastor abuses his authority, it may be time to think about an exit strategy. Paul writes to slaves, "If you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity" (1 Cor. 7:21). Obviously, we are to obey Christ first. We are never to submit to our pastor's disobedience. You do not need to support work that is heretical, manipulative, or otherwise dishonest. If you are sensing something wrong, getting counsel from one or two trusted mentors, or other wise council, ideally from outside of your church. You may be misperceiving things. Be humble and pray for discernment. Submission to authority goes against so much of what our sin nature seeks to accomplish within us. With the Spirit's empowerment, and a willing heart, we can all become more focused on leading in humility and servanthood.