“What do I do when the former youth pastor is still attending our church?”
I get this question from time to time and have actually had to work in this environment in both of the churches I’ve served in over the past 20 years. A couple days ago I talked about how thankful I am for the supportive role of the former youth pastor at my church, Doug Fields, and how life-giving his role is to me. I hope to be the same way someday when someone succeeds me.
But what do you do when things aren’t so great? What do you do if the former youth pastor is NOT supportive of you or how you run the youth ministry? Glad you’re back for more!
Realize the difficult situation they are in
It is easy to focus on yourself in this situation – but take a second to think about them! They gave up leading something they loved and potentially had some success in. They moved on (maybe promoted, burned out or were asked to leave the role) but a piece of them stayed behind. Maybe they aren’t so happy in their new role in the church, or didn’t want to go in the first place. They are in a tough position and a wise person will empathize with their situation and not just focus completely on yourself.
Involve them in the youth ministry
Consider putting them in an advisory role in the ministry. Consider asking them to “consult” with you once a month over coffee or a Coke. A relationship is key to building a bridge between the two administrations. Communication is critical to head off problems at the pass. Ask yourself what could be done to minimize the competition and comparisons between the two of you?
Ask directly for their support
I think building bridges is key to bringing someone to your side. Someone has to make the first move! If you’re not ready to bring them onto your team (I get that!) at least reach out and ask for their support in where you’re taking the ministry. Remember that reconciling a situation like this speaks volume to your leadership, humility and is certainly going to be eagerly watched and modeled to your youth group kids.
Have the difficult conversation
Sometimes you just have to have a face-to-face dialogue about the tension. You might be a long ways from consulting with them and maybe asking for support has been a dead end. Time for a conversation, possibly mediated by your supervisor or the senior pastor. This is a tough one, but things that need to be said are better said in front of each others faces rather than behind backs.
Honor their legacy
Pay for their kids to go to camp. Give him or her special access and the VIP treatment. Talk highly of them no matter what. Focus on the here and now rather than the old and wrong past. Besides, someone is going to follow you someday, too, and you want them to do the same!
Know it takes time to let go
This is going to take time. There’s no quick fix. Hang in there!
Had a hard time with this? What did you learn? Share in the comments and help someone in the middle of this difficult journey, too.