Then out of nowhere, I watch these loving brothers and sisters of mine called the Church end up arguing over something completely short-sighted. I’ve been on the receiving end of it, as well as stuck in the middle of it – whether I was a youth worker, staff member or lead pastor. It happens in churches of varying sizes, demographics and more.
For all of our efforts to put vision statements on walls and catch phrases on t-shirts, some days we don’t keep the Main Thing the main thing.
Maybe that’s why when I saw this picture, I realized how much I identified with it.
You probably think you’ve seen and heard it all, too. Maybe that’s why it hurts that much more when something goes south and chaos happens:
A volunteer/peer in ministry says something that makes you look foolish
A parent tells you that their kid won’t go on a trip if/unless another kid is going.
A service project becomes about how it makes us feel versus how it makes others/Jesus feel.
A building project becomes less about ministry and more about the carpet/decor.
Take your pick. Think of some more.
I’d like to learn from you on this, especially since one of my roles as a senior pastor is trying to help us stay focused on what’s most important.
What are the things you have found yourself getting into dumb arguments about in your church?
What do you wish your senior pastor would do (or would have done) differently to help things?
A couple of weeks ago this tweet came across my phone:
93 years Ago today the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Sadly the church still has a way to go on recognizing women leaders.
— Pete Wilson (@pwilson)
What was interesting to me was the slew of comments that followed. There were all sorts of ideas about whether or not women should be pastors, or follow “culture” or if this idea of women in church leadership was “Biblical.” Pete’s responses were gracious and void of malice. My favorite response was this one:
Nope. Not sure how you came to that conclusion from one tweet. Esteeming women and their God given purpose is a Biblical value.
The whole exchange really sat in the back of my brain. It’s interesting that Pastor Wilson was not making a stand as to whether or not he felt women should take the pulpit or be in charge, he was saying that if God has put a call on your life, and you happen to be a woman you shouldn’t be looked over. (The idea that we draw conclusions from 140 characters is another post all together.) I want to make it clear this post is not meant to be a theological debate. I have heard very solid Biblically based arguments for all sides of where women should sit (or stand) in church leadership. All I can give are some thoughts from a woman who has been in family ministry for 22 or so years.
Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a purpose and a plan for our lives. A plan for good and hope to prosper and not harm us. That plan might include marriage. Or not. It might include children. Or not. It might include being called into “paid” ministry. Or not. It might mean that plan is to become an international missionary, or be the first person to swim from Cuba to America. What I know is that whatever this plan is, it does not go away. It’s inclusive to all the seasons we go through. Yet, somehow our culture often dictates for women in ministry it is supposed to “look” a particular way. If it does not work out that way, something it “wrong.” Too often we are talking about our opinions and not the Bible at all.
I know that when I look at my daughters, Moms, women and girls growing up in my ministry, I want them to know how much Christ loves them. When they grasp how high, wide and deep that love truly is my prayer is that the greatest cry of their heart would be to love and serve Him. Then I pray the Lord would help them understand that as we do everything for the Lord, as we serve, we lead. It will mean a variety of things wherever God places them. They may or may not be celebrated for it here on earth, and that has nothing to do with gender. However, this journey with Jesus is the most important one we have. For me he broke my heart for the least, the lost and the last. I long to see families who are falling apart, put back together. In this he has given me places where I lead. I also agree with Pete’s original tweet, and I could tell you stories of ways I have been pushed down, stereotyped, and that people- who love Jesus- have been down right mean. When I look at my girls, the ones in my home, the ones in my youth group, my greatest desire is that they are willing to walk this life with Christ. I trust He is big enough to lead them correctly and they will know when they seek him with their whole hearts. Sometimes, I think we as people need to get out of His way.
I would love to hear from other women in ministry, what are your thoughts?
You probably got into ministry for all the right reasons.
I may not know you, but I do know myself. If we’re at all alike, there’s a good chance something else is true of you.
Some days you’re in ministry for all the wrong reasons.
Maybe it’s not as obvious as you’d think.
You serve God.
You rearrange your schedule for students.
You bend over backward for parents.
You lobby before your church leadership in all the right ways.
You’re not trying to trick people out of their money.
You don’t attempt to be the “sexier” youth group in town.
It’s as if every time people see what you’re doing, you’re caught living out the best template for ministry you can think of.
The problem is you can be doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.
There’s a situation in my life right now with a disgruntled group of people who have found joy in being disgruntled together. They’re people I’ve loved and invested some of my best energy into, from teens I mentored and took on mission trips to adults I scrambled to serve. One of the louder households left our church and began complaining “sideways” – subtle enough to go unnoticed by most, but potent enough to create a funk that I’m still not sure what to do with. It’s as if no matter how hard I try to live out some of the most basic principles in Matthew 18 on reconciliation I’m met with misunderstanding, evasiveness and slander.
I’m doing all the right things.
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
What I eventually realized is that some days it’s for all the wrong reasons.
There are moments that I want to be vindicated.
I want to work out the misunderstanding, because I hate having people say things about me that aren’t true- especially when I have put so much energy into doing the right things. If I dove into the reason why I do so, it is my human pride wanting to assert itself. I have to make clear that the door to reconciliation is open, but if they never walk through it or continue to group up on this then a part of me needs to turn this over to God.
Humans have a desire to be vindicated individually by their behavior. (Job 13:18)
People who watch us will notice our desire to be vindicated and may assume the worst. (Job 11:1-2)
Jesus was vindicated by the Spirit – not other people. (1 Timothy 3:16)
We will only experience real vindication when we spend time face to face with God. (Psalm 17:15)
If you don’t get this right, then all of the serving you do will come across as ministry perfume and not the genuine scent of Jesus Christ.
Wrestle with this. Consider what you’re doing to get people to think or say better things about you. Give someone else permission to point out when you build a case against a case someone has built against you.
Otherwise, it will leak out. To quote William Ury, “When you are angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”
Laura Ortberg Turner, daughter of John and Nancy Ortberg, has some great thoughts on what it means to be (but not really be) known as a “Pastor’s Kid.” One takeaway is the framework she felt her parents placed her and her siblings into. Turner writes:
“Had we not gotten freedom from our parents to be the people we were—to grow and learn for ourselves and even occasionally embarrass our parents, as good children do (a famed family incident at a church in Southern California that involves my then-5-year-old brother lying on his back, thrusting his pelvis to a children’s worship song called ‘Jumping Bean,’ comes to mind)—we would likely have ended up feeling like our only two possibilities in life were becoming the mantle-bearer or the rebel.”
I’ve spent a lot of energy making sure people know the first names of my family members aren’t “The Pastor’s wife” or “The Pastor’s kids.” So much of that can be overturned by a well-meaning youth leader who isn’t conscious about unconscious behavior.
Consider how we help or hinder this in youth group circles:
Do you unconsciously think it means more if a senior/staff pastor’s kids do/don’t attend the youth group?
When a “PK” acts up, are you quick to share about it with volunteers, in staff meetings or at home?
Are you eyeballing such students for the moment when they either declare their own calling to ministry or rebel like a pop star?
How often do you make sure we mention them as the “pastor’s kid” to new youth workers who jump in?
The list of negatives can go on, so let’s brainstorm some positives:
Let them be known for who they are versus who their parents are.
Allow them the chance to share their own stories and journey versus assuming things from illustrations shared from the pulpit.
Try not to put them in positions where they’re a secretary for you or one of their parents. (i.e. “Can you pass this key along to your dad?”)
Give them a safe ear to share their questions (or even disinterest) in spiritual things, even if it means moving your schedule around to meet with them in private.
(Maybe we should apply each of these to every other kid in the youth group, too.)
A healthy relationship with your senior pastor is a core part of a healthy youth ministry.
It doesn’t matter if your church is large, medium, small or a start-up – your roles can powerfully complement each other if you each discern how to powerfully compliment each other.
A lot gets in the way of that, and it isn’t just about ego or insecurities. Sometimes you both become so busy that a disconnect happens over time. The good news is you can nurture something healthier, starting today.
Here are four questions you need to ask your senior pastor to get the ball rolling:
“How often do you want to meet, and what for?”
In one church I served in, my senior pastor wanted to meet each week so we could synergize our efforts together. It was full of great encouragement and brainstorming. I instigated that pattern in the next church I served in, only that senior pastor found it annoying to meet every week. It ultimately degraded our relationship as he assumed I didn’t know how to do my job and needed extensive coaching. Make sure you both know how often you need to meet and what the purpose of that time will be.
“Do you need a safe place to just vent?”
When I made the transition to become a senior pastor, I suddenly became aware of perspective I was clueless about as a youth worker. This space is too small to list it all, but I will simply say that it adds up and isn’t always something you can debrief with your spouse about. Offer your senior pastor the chance to dump out what they’re sorting out, be it as a spiritual leader, parent, organizational boss or a human being. Honor that with confidentially and prayers.
“How can I serve you this week?”
You’ll likely be surprised by the answers you hear and don’t hear to this question. As I asked this of my senior pastors I’d sometimes get a quick response, such as “I really need someone to teach this class for me. Can you do it?” Other times I had to pull out something of them by saying, “It seems like you and your wife haven’t had a date night in ages. Can I watch your kids on Friday so you can go out?”
“Who can I confront or encourage to help you out?”
This may be the most awkward question you ask, but it can be the most therapeutic. Your senior pastor has a network of relationships that are similar-yet-larger than yours. You can help pour water on flames that need to be put out and gasoline on the fires that need to grow. Be willing to confront a critic or help spur on the most recent volunteer.
This is obviously not a comprehensive list, but maybe it gets you started. It also helps you better live out Hebrews 13:7: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
What are some questions you’ve identified that we all need to be asking?
R UR CHURCH LEADERS OUTTA CONTROL (about your ministry)?
Fourth of a five part series. This one?? Church leaders who oversee the youth ministry.? Does any of this sound all too familiar?
1) Instead of heading out for coffee after a church council meeting, u head straight for the Pepto.
2) Church bylaws are quoted more often than Scripture.
3) You get a phone call from the pastor and his/her first words sound like that famous line from Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem.”
4)? U keep a set of empty uhaul boxes in ur office just in case.?
5) Does the phrase “torch wielding villagers” mean anything to u? (Yes, I carried this over from the “parents” list. Still fits. Sad.)
What to do?
Pray. Ignore the negative stuff (politely) except for the direct leaders? u report to.? Be accused of over-communicating. Pray some more. Know the bylaws, but use Scripture instead – its hard to shoot the Word? down. Come to meetings rested and fed. Don’t negotiate with terrorists (the leaders who threaten you). Don’t be afraid to apologize. Don’t throw other people under the bus.? ?
My #1 piece of advice? When u have one of those days, get out ur box of cards/letters/notes from people who DO like you, think ur doing God’s work? and read urself right back into joy.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry