I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn't believe the island I had found myself on, and the lack of awareness for where I was spiritually. The well was dry, and the rains had come. Yet, someone had forgotten to remove the roof which was redirecting all the water. I had failed to communicate.
Being a youth pastor comes with a great supply of support. But sometimes, we can't help but notice we're always in the shadow of the person above us, The Pastor. Thankfully I had an amazing partner (past tense because of his recent calling to a new location) to spend over two years growing with and mentoring alongside, so I'm allowed to use that categorical strong word.
My experience has taught me that the challenge isn't always relating to the lead pastor. I have heard horror stories about the poor relationship between pastor and colleagues, but those issues usually stem from where either individual happens to be personally. The challenge is the awareness which others happen to have about the church's program. Church leadership, and congregational members alike, forget that there are entirely different arms of a local body, and unless they're directly involved (through the student or leadership), their support for you as an individual can be lacking.
Our challenge as youth pastors isn't to simply lobby for the support of our positions. We must be agents of communication, use every opportunity which presents itself to share with where your students are – spiritually, emotionally, or contextually. Use resources (newsletters, websites, Facebook) to share with congregational members what the students are up to. But most importantly, never hide from yourself.
Never compromise your spiritual, emotional, and physical health for the protection of a program. Yes, the program has everything to do with the church, with God, but that doesn't differ my belief that the youth pastor is a leader and exemplar of who and what the program should become. A healthy youth pastor quite often means a healthy program. And a healthy program is one that is communicated well the to congregation, it's leaders, and it's members.
Leading in the shadow of a pastor will sometimes make you feel lonely because the congregation can be very aware of who he/she is, and what he/she is doing. But our roles are different, and we must find ways to communicate the importance of our students. The importance of our students translates to a future of our church.
- What practices are you doing to raise awareness about your program?
- What ways does your congregation go out of it's way to show it's love and support?
- As congregational members, what can you do to include the youth pastor more intentionally?