underappreciatedIt’s been my experience that most staff members in churches feel under-appreciated.

Feel free to correct me.

What you may not know is how it feels from the other side of the desk.

As a Lead Pastor, I often struggle with limited resources to make our church’s paid and volunteer teams feel loved on. It’s honestly less about me feeling appreciated and more about how restrained I feel in being able to love on leaders.

Sometimes saying “thank you” needs to be felt and not just heard.

appreciationSteven Furtick (pastor of Elevation Church) wrote an inspiring article early in his ministry about the lengths he wanted his church to go to appreciate its staff.

The various values he proposed at the time include:

  • Provide lunch for the families of Directional Staff every Sunday. “It’s a long and grueling day, and since many of these couples rarely get to sit together in a worship experience, the least we can do is ensure that they don’t have to worry about what to cook when they get home.”
  • Pay all expenses for each couple to attend a marriage conference. “An investment in the marriage of our leaders is an investment in the health of our church.”
  • An attorney provided estate planning for all Directional Staff families. He did this “to make sure that the leaders of the church have their houses in order, at no expense.”
  • All staff are required (not advised) to take one Sunday off from their ministry areas per quarter. “This helps refresh perspective and reenergize performance.”
  • We pay well. “We bonus generously based on performance. We offer great benefits and retirement plan options. We resource well, via books, conference budgets, etc. We celebrate a lot, finding as many ways to reward the sacrifice of these leaders as possible.”

Does anything remotely happen like this for you?

On the other end, how are you appreciating others around you in every direction – those above you, below you and side-to-side in how your ministry plays out?

What do you think it looks like to appreciate each other on a budget?

Thoughts? Reactions?

frozenThere is no shortage of parodies surrounding the movie “Frozen.” 

You’ve likely seen your share.

I apologize for sharing another one.

The leadership team at this church came together to create their own, all related to a pastor who is working on his sermon and won’t come out of his study.


Cheesy? Sure.

Unnecessary? Perhaps.

I do have a few questions of my own, though:

  • How do you think the church reacted after seeing this on a Sunday?
  • Why?
  • What in your church/ministry could elicit a similar reaction?

My opinion? Without knowing this church, I see a snapshot of leaders who love doing life together. Everyone got involved… and I can only assume you felt that, too. I wonder how they’re nurturing that.

Any applications or desires for your ministry?

I love my wife.

family_smallShe’s the real deal, whether in one moment she’s genuinely at the top of everything on her list, or in the next moment pausing to find her footing before it all implodes. She isn’t “the pastor’s wife” – she’s my wife, and I happen to be a pastor.

Imagine how hard it is when she sees me privately endure something I can’t tell her the details of. (Yes, not all senior pastors make sure their spouse knows everything.)

Picture the angst in your spirit when she wants to say what is on her heart, but doesn’t want to contradict people hearing what’s on God’s heart. (Yes, not all senior pastors have spouses who believe they’re the co-pastor of the church.)

I came across a great article that reminded me of what a unique woman my wife is… not only in who she is individually, but also given how the dynamics of my job affects our household. Here’s a quote:

The top of the list of one seasoned pastor’s wife simply read, “I deleted my number 1.” Some secrets are so difficult to share, even the promise of complete confidence is not enough to bring them out.

This is worth a read regarding what a pastor’s spouse/family sorts out on a regular basis, and a moment of your time to pray for spouses/families of anyone who is involved in something significant.

Click here for the article, but feel free to chime in here for any insights it affords you.

In fact, here’s my question for you -

As a youth worker, what do you know… and what do you need to know… about your senior pastor’s spouse/family?

Feel free to invert that, too… what do you wish they knew about yours?


middleI think I’ve seen and heard it all.

Keep in mind, I think I’ve seen and heard it all.

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?

It’s difficult to forget the smell of carpet that you’ve wept into.

My family had moved in with my in-laws—into a small modular home while trying to figure out my next step in ministry. The pastor at the church I’d just left said I hadn’t grown the youth group fast enough: his goal was 200 within two years… I’d only nurtured it from 35 students to 179 in that time. Apparently that was a failure, and I was now jobless.

To add fuel to the fire, I’d experienced a significant letdown in ministry three years before that. I was forced to resign from a church because I didn’t vote for a new senior pastor who’d forced his way into leadership from his staff role. Between both experiences, I had a lot of reasons to hate the idea of church, and ministry in general.

So why was I weeping?

carpetI’d just received a phone call from a friend who served at the church where the senior pastor had nudged me out years earlier. He shared how they were in an unexpected crisis since the senior pastor had just been mandated to take a leave of absence due to an addiction issue he’d been hiding. The church hoped he’d be personally and professionally restored, but had an immediate need for someone to fill the pulpit. My friend asked if I’d be willing to be a guest speaker for a few weeks.

“Absolutely,” I replied without thinking about it. As we hung up the phone, though, I found myself sitting in silence for a few moments.

  • I expected to feel justified.
  • I expected to feel judgmental.
  • I expected to feel like a Savior.

Crumbling to the carpet, I instead began to weep from a place deep inside of me that was surprisingly broken in all the right places. Even though I hadn’t been a part of this flock for at least three years, I felt its pain.

Apparently, I was having my own crisis.

During the three years that had passed (and including what had happened at the church I’d just left), I’d realized some things:

  • You can’t always control how other people respond to you, but you can control how you will respond to them: If another Christian chooses to act with immaturity or selfishness, that’s his/her sin; if I choose to hold resentment or gossip about it instead of work it out in accordance with Matthew 18, that’s my sin. It’s why I eventually had conversations with both pastors from those churches to resolve past issues.
  • Immaturity that you see in others may keep you from seeing immaturity in you: As I shared in last week’s post, it’s easy to become so self-righteous about what matters most that you become blinded to what actually matters most. Who really calls you out on your blind spots?
  • The local church is a part of the Church: Any Christ-centered congregation is a mixture of “God and humanity,” which means it has all the positive potential of God and all the negative potential of humanity. You have to choose which piece you will nurture. I get the sense the Lord loves it when we help his Bride stand up after she’s fallen over.

I showed up for my first week of teaching and loved on people. I did this again the second and third weeks. By that point, the former senior pastor gave every indication he wasn’t going to return. The church asked if I would be its interim senior pastor—a ministry that I took on for nine months. There was talk at one point about offering me the role of senior pastor, but I excused myself from that discussion to help clean the slate for someone else.

After that experience, another church called me up and asked me to serve them as an interim pastor. They had their own crisis and heard how I’d helped the other congregation. I served them for six months and watched God grow my heart even more for His Church and its future.

battlefieldmedicThere will be seasons of your life that you are a battlefield medic for the Church.

You may yearn to be a specialist who gets a nice office or a padded paycheck, or even a volunteer who finds worth in never going anywhere. Sometimes God simply wants you running from one random explosion to another in order to tend to the wounded and raise them back up to health. This is full of stress, but if that’s where you’re needed then that’s where you’re needed… whether you’re directly working with teenagers, or simply helping the Church itself have a healthier future.

That’s the ironic ending to this story for me… a new beginning. I’m now a Lead Pastor intent on helping adults care about students, while at the same time volunteering in my church under our youth pastor’s leadership in order to still personally impact teenagers. Your story may not end up as mine did, but I wonder if it will end up as you’re planning it to.

Let the next crisis break you in all the right places… even if it means you end up smelling Jesus in the carpet.

Thank you for loving students!


Psst! He’s also a breakout session leader extraordinaire at Simply Youth Ministry Conference



I’ve been feeling something for a while now.

Maybe you have, too.

It’s something I’ve even “prayed” about… like how Christians say they pray about things, but really just conclude something they hope God’s okay with.

closedpulpitI plan to leave my church.

I’ll stand in front of my congregation and say,

“I’m going to attend elsewhere. Things don’t feel like they used to. There’s another congregation that seems more put-together and exciting. They even somehow seem more ‘biblical’ over there, too. You guys just aren’t feeding me anymore.”

Such a plan only lasts for a nano-second.

(Translation: I’m not actually planning on leaving my church. I’m confessing a temptation I feel every now and then… maybe you have, too.)

I’m supposed to be mature.

I need to think bigger than that. You need to think bigger than that.

We need to think bigger than that.

As a lead pastor, I do get emails from people who do this almost every season. It’s like the changing weather makes people change their church.

Thankfully, there always seems to be a remnant through God’s grace – a core group who understands things at a healthier level. These are the “for better or for worse” servant-leaders who get it and push through spiritual walls for the sake of what God is doing in them and through them.

The problem is on a general, church-wide scale it feels like when people aren’t “feeling it” they’re eventually gone:

  • “The worship team doesn’t play the songs I like.”
  • “I purposefully didn’t come for weeks as a test. No one from the church called me. Never mind that I’m not in a small group… the point is…”
  • “The building campaign should be run this way…. instead of that way.”
  • “I showed up for an event and it wasn’t what I expected.”
  • “It’s not how it was when I first started attending.”
  • “I’m just not feeling fed.”

It’s the last one that grinds me the most… not because I believe I’m a great preacher, but if God’s Word is the foundation of a message the only reason people couldn’t feel “fed” is if they closed their “mouths.” According to Jesus, God’s seed is good – it’s the soil that has the problem. Maybe it’s just easier to blame a preacher or church than personally own that.

Why am I posting this here?

There’s a reason why your senior pastor seems worn down some daysit’s because your senior pastor is worn down some days.

Senior pastors often feel like plate spinners who are trying to keep things healthy so people stay happy. It’s not our job, but it somehow becomes our job. It ultimately makes us want to work somewhere where people demonstrate long-term commitment and patronage… like their favorite ice cream store. (Sadly, that comparison is truer than we’d like to admit.)

Right now, go reaffirm a “for better or for worse” commitment to your church and its senior leadership. While you’re at it, dare others to do the same.

Feed up… before he or she gets fed up.

What are some of the “reasons” you’ve heard someone left a church? Share a comment. (Maybe by confessing some of the insanity we’ll better recognize it before it comes out of us.)

female pastorSince my last post was a shot in the arm for youth workers, I thought it only fair to return the favor for senior pastors. Theirs’ is a tough job and made tougher by the challenges of a small church setting. Many joys and plusses, yes – but the trials are escalated in a smaller setting. The voices of church politics or that four-generation family (“We’ve been attending this church since it was built in 1894!”) are louder in a smaller setting and harder to tune out.

So here’s a list to keep in mind, youth worker, to make your pastor’s job easier:

1) Be aware of the politics: I’m not saying you have to kowtow to the situation but don’t make it all harder by stepping on egg shells or toes every where you go.

2) CC your pastor on all youth ministry email: Unless he/she hates this idea, its a good way to keep them in the loop and you accountable for everything you say and plan. All the pastor has to do is drag it to a folder and read when necessary. Even I do this with my Ministry Architects emails: I cc my supervisor and ministry buddy, Jeff Dunn-Rankin, on everything. Gives me pause about what I write since I know he’ll eventually read it. Plus, he gives me great coaching and feedback.

3) Your youth ministry lima beans are not the only yucky vegetable on the pastor’s plate: Remember that a pastor in a small church is juggling several jobs which are often shared by multiple people in a larger church setting. She/he is often the pastor, chaplain, janitor, admin, media tech, etc. So patience on your part is a virtue. (I hate lima beans!)

4) Never let your SP be surprised by a problem: Your first phone call at even a hint of a problem is to the SP. That way, they’ll be there to support and advise. Its when you wait to inform them of an issue that will get you in the most trouble. Don’t ask me how I know this; let’s just leave it at a lesson well-learned!

5) Give them the grace you need: Remember that they’re human, they don’t know it all, some of this youth stuff is new to them also…and they’re still feeling their way along in your working relationship.

6) Oh, and just like you want space after a trip, retreat, or vacay? They need the same space. Let them have their turn basking in the glow. Give them a week or so on non-crazy issues and at least 48 hours for the nutty stuff.

Senior pastors out there: any you would like to add?


Senior-Pastor-Friend-or-Foe_718_245x169Dear Senior Pastor, Yours is a tough job. The responsibility buck stops with you and I get that totally. So the list you’re about to read is said with love, familiarity with both “pairs of shoes” and its nothing new, really. I’m just slipping it across your virtual desk as a reminder.

1) Give loving feedback EARLY on: Don’t wait till staff review time or a board meeting 6 months later to let your youth worker know you weren’t happy with something. How can they improve if the expectations are unknown? Make sure there aren’t any unspoken/invisible rules.

2) Make sure your YP has a thorough job description from the get-go: I’m still surprised how many youth workers, whether paid or volunteer, are working without a job description. Isn’t that a little like giving them a foreign car but not the manual? Some stuff comes easy, but a guide is necessary when its time to fix things that don’t come instinctually.

3) You weren’t always so organized, either: Along the way in your early years, I bet a church secretary or the CE person took you under his/her wing and set you straight about deadlines, etc. Don’t get frustrated; just teach your expectation and create a framework that helps the youth worker succeed. Systems and processes are important in successful youth ministries. Read Mark DeVries’ “Sustainable Youth Ministry” – SOLID stuff!

4) Don’t wait till after the big summer event/trip to tell them they’re moving on: Maybe this is just my personal pet peeve…but I’ve known more churches who waited till a few days after the summer mission trip to let the YP go when the truth turns out they’d been unhappy for a long time. Truthfully? It feels like the YP was a little used so they would go on the trip and the board members didn’t have to. Not cool.

5) Wait 3 days after a retreat/7 days after a trip with any complaints: Just today I saw a post from a youth worker ON their mission trip who was asking for prayer because the church board wanted a meeting the day after he gets back “with problems.” Remember your last mission trip and how long it took you to recover? Your YP needs some time to rest plus a few days to “bask in the afterglow” of the amazing things God did while they were on the trip.

6) Catch them doing good work: For every one complaint or problem you have to bring up, catch your youth worker doing 10 things right. Share it with them…and everyone else while you’re at it.

OK, all for now…but what would you add?