Having some frustrations with your boss or supervisor? This won’t come as a shock for most youth workers that have been in it for any length of time – about the #1 complaint or challenge I hear from youth workers is difficulty with the senior pastor or supervisor. So how can you help make progress in this relationship? Hopefully these words will be helpful even if you’re working well with your boss:

1) Figure out when they typically communicate and be available
This may take some time, but figure out what tools they use to communicate. Determine what they value most – long conversations over email, passing conversations in the hallway, texting all of the time – there is no wrong answer here, just try to figure them out!

2) Respond quickly as much as possible
Add your boss/supervisor to your VIP list on your iPhone or your “coworkers” tab in Outlook so their emails always get priority and a special callout in your inbox. Respond thoughtfully but as quickly as possible.

3) Use the method they prefer
It doesn’t matter if you’re a texting guy or someone who loves Facebook – use the method they prefer! If they are a phone person, become a phone person to them. If they love email, you love email. If they don’t have a Facebook – delete your … wait a minute – just don’t use Facebook or you’ll only hear back from them 2x a year.

Want to get some quick wins with your supervisor? Value what they value and communicate how they communicate.


Just Believe

 —  April 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

article.2013.04.02This is the time of year many youth workers get disillusioned with their ministry. Another job opportunity piques interest or the thought of working a simple 9-5 becomes a little intoxicating to think about. The fun of the fall kickoff is in the rear view mirror; the big events have died down while students hunker down for the last couple months of the school year. The grass looks greener everywhere else, and you start to get down on yourself or look for a way out.

Feel familiar? If it does, read on and find some hope to fight the Spring-time itch:

Believe in your calling.
You are called to do ministry you are made for this! You stand shoulder to shoulder in the long line of incredible men and women God has used to further his kingdom. Satan is an expert at kicking us while we’re down, and he will also try to kick us during the down times of the ministry season.

I (Kurt) have found that the early spring is often the time of the year that I find myself a little frustrated in ministry; and it’s in these times Satan likes to kick me. Reminding myself of my calling and thanking God for allowing me to play a role in his kingdom is the best way to kick back.

Believe in your church.
You are called to your church maybe not for the rest of your life, but don’t let anyone else know that. Serve like you will be there for the rest of your life. When something happens to make you question that calling (maybe an unsupportive leader or discouraged pastor) make sure you get it all out on the table so it doesn’t fester inside and eventually cause damage. Maybe take some time today to reflect on the early days of hope and joy when you first started working with these students and believe again.

Believe in your people.
You have the right people in your church to build a great team of youth workers. Believe in them enough to value their time, encourage them well and train them for the challenges of working with students. Pray for your leadership team before you delete this email, and send them an encouraging note letting them know you did!

Believe in students.
Students are young and immature sometimes they say things quickly that sting or hurt you with their na’ve words, unaware of the verbal damage they have caused. There may need to be a confrontation or a challenge to maturity, but chances are they need a leader who will love them and be long-suffering in his/her guidance over the long haul. Believe God has given you the right students to change your community for him.

I (Josh) started a fantastic spring tradition in our ministry a few years ago: For five weeks in a row our students are in charge of every aspect of our church services. Seeing them rise to the occasion always renews my belief in the teenagers God has called me to serve.

Not sure what you’re facing this Spring or maybe we just needed to say some things to ourselves today. Just believe.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.


Simple little trick I learned from a great boss years ago: have a file on your desktop called “Talk to Boss” that gives you quick access to what you need to talk to your senior pastor/supervisor about that week. Time with your leader is rare (the larger the church, the less the time for sure) and you need to make the most of it. If they send you an agenda item, drop it in there, too!


Sometimes you are going to be called on to rise to the occasion. To take a few swings in the Major League. To step up to the plate. To pinch hit. Maybe you are asked to speak in big church while the senior pastor is on vacation. Guest post on a highly-trafficked blog. Contribute to a new book or resource. Guest lecture at a local Bible college. Teach a workshop at a denominational gathering.

Something outside of your normal tasks and wheelhouse is handed to you. YOU! You know it is going to challenge you like nothing before, so you rise to the occasion. You furiously work harder, study more and deliver what is asked knowing there isn’t margin for failure and giving up isn’t an option. In the end, it wasn’t easy but you delivered. You totally came though – people loved your sermon, the discussions were incredible after your class, the article turned out great.

So rise to the occasion this week. Be the guy who comes through. When you are called on to do something above your pay grade this week, stand and deliver. But when you go back to normal life, be careful.

  • Be careful the applause didn’t go to your head
  • Be careful that you don’t ignore menial tasks
  • Be careful not to become “that guy”
  • Be careful not to undermine your senior pastor
  • Be careful not to short-change what you are actually paid/called to do

The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!‘ -Matthew 25:23



For a long time in our shared calling we’ve made a big deal about being a “youth ministry lifer” – someone who does youth ministry until they’re super old. There certainly was good reason for that when the average stay of a youth worker in a church was less than a year and people recklessly used the position as a stepping stone to become a real pastor.

But here’s what I started thinking this morning: we need more youth workers in other parts of the church, too. We need more youth workers to become senior pastors. We need more leaders of businesses, organizations and non-profits to think like and care like youth workers. Why do we guilt people into staying when God is calling them on? Maybe it is a good thing that many don’t stay in youth ministry their whole life – I just want them to still think, serve and love like a youth pastor when they move on.

I’m not planning on going anywhere – so you’re hearing this from the heart of a youth ministry lifer: if you’re dropping out of youth ministry, always be a youth pastor, even if you’re title changes a little bit.


Every few weeks, I hear about youth workers who need new jobs.

  • Sometimes they leave because they want to
  • Sometimes they’re asked to leave. We call this a forced resignation.
  • Other times, they’re outright fired

When I started to learn about how devastating the effects of youth worker turnover are for the local church, I started doing some research. I discovered several themes – the easiest and most common factors that cause good youth workers lose or leave their jobs. Make sure you’re not one of them

If you want to stay in youth ministry for the long haul, don’t do these five things:

1. Mismanage budgeted money. Depending on your theology, it’s either God’s money or other people’s money. Either way, it’s not your money. You’ve been given the responsibility to be a good steward of some of your church’s resources. You might not know what you’re doing yet, but you’ll need to figure it out soon. (This link contains all kinds of good information about managing your church’s money better.)

2. Fight with your Senior Pastor – especially publicly. One problem with working in the Church is that many of your friends will come from the congregation. We all like to vent about our bosses, but if you’re venting to a fellow pew-sitter, you’re in the wrong. If you’re in the business of creating division in the Church, you won’t be a staff member for very long.

3. Show up late for your own events. Parents have their own jobs with their own responsibilities. They know exactly what would happen to them if they slept through their alarm more than once. You can expect the same thing to happen to you.

4. Work way too hard and never, ever take a break. Your own soul care ought to be a top priority. When you’re worn down and hurting, you’ll be less effective as a youth worker. Less effective youth workers frequently become baristas. Besides that, a lack of soul care is the easiest way to make sure you run yourself out of youth ministry. The church doesn’t have to fire you if you get exhausted and quit.

5. Refuse to participate in the larger life of the congregation. You’ll appear much more dispensable if the rest of the congregation never sees you – or your youth group.

Find ways for you and your students to become a crucial part of everything the congregation does. Crucial people are much more difficult to fire.

Now it’s your chance to be the teacher. What is one of the money mistakes you’ve made? How did you fix it?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

Developing a spiritual growth plan for students sounds like a great idea, but its execution can be difficult. I’ve talked to some youth workers whose experience actually rivaled an execution. But don’t give up–it is possible. Part 1 in this series emphasized creating a healthy ministry environment parents can support, and part 2 offered strategies on how to overcome the challenges in doing so. This post features many of the additional questions that arise from the process:

How do I generate an interest in discipleship?
You don’t. Only God’s Spirit can truly cause people to desire to grow in their faith. You can, however, whet their appetite. Cast vision constantly for what a faith-filled life looks like. The ideal examples should come from your team and others in your church. Tell stories of what God is doing in your life, but be sure to include plenty of failure stories. You want to give students a picture of what to strive for, but we all know you’re not a super hero. So let someone else massage your ego and help students know how a Spirit-filled believer responds to failure. Everyone identifies with failure. You want students saying, “God can even use him? There’s hope for me after all!”

What do I do when my pastor doesn’t like my spiritual growth plan?
Be careful on this one, from two perspectives. First, are you sure your pastor doesn’t like it, or are you disappointed because he/she challenged a few areas? There’s a difference. Second, use this as an opportunity to discuss spiritual growth with your pastor. Is there already a plan in place for the church? How can you support that? If not, ask your pastor if you can run a pilot program with the students.

What do I do when parents ignore my efforts to disciple their kids?
Parents want the best for their kids. That’s why they yell and scream and argue with referees at games. (Also likely why they may have yelled and screamed at you.) Don’t assume their disinterest in your program means they don’t care. It’s possible they just don’t understand what you want from them or their student. They might also be intimidated. While you’d expect parents to be excited to see their kids grow spiritually, it might also threaten them, as that’s one area for which they have no control. The best response is dialogue with the family. Find out what they think of the spiritual growth plan and whether or not they have feedback.

What is spiritual maturity?
Ah, an excellent question! Always good to define terms; otherwise, we’re aiming at a moving target. I’m a big fan of a book called Personal Disciplemaking by Chris Adsit. He offers the following definition for a Christian disciple:

“A disciple is a person-in-process who is eager to learn and apply the truths that Jesus Christ teaches him, which will result in ever-deepening commitments to a Christ-like lifestyle.”

I like it. Short and sweet. You’ll find a variety of definitions but for me two key phrases are “person-in-process” and “eager to learn.” We’ll never be done. We’ll always be growing, or have areas in which we can grow. But take time to identify the one or two or nine key areas you want to develop in the lives of students.

I’m the only youth worker. How can I disciple all the students by myself?
You can’t. Don’t even try. Love and encourage all the students, but focus on 1 or 2. Talk to people in your church. They may not be ready to commitment to being part of the youth team, but they might agree to invest in the lives of one or two students. Pray for additional teammates, and don’t be afraid to invite people you work with or live near to be part of your team. It’s not easy being the only person, but you’ve got a vital ministry.

There are many more questions to be asked. Is there a youth worker network in your area? Take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people. There are more questions about ministry than there are answers, so don’t be afraid to ask them. And there’s never a perfect answer, so learn all you can, pray like crazy, and do you best. Thank you for your investment in the lives of students and their families!

Gregg Farah is the Student Ministry Pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, NY. He’s excited to be back in student ministry after his 7-year journey as a church planter in New York City. Prior to his church planting days, Gregg served as youth pastor for 9 years in the suburbs of Seattle, WA and Orange County, CA. Be sure to visit his blog for much more, including a way to help finance his new line of books he is writing!

One of the biggest sources of tension in anyone’s job will be the relationship they have with their boss.  It doesn’t matter that your boss is your pastor, there are going to be things that he does that will frustrate, anger, disappoint and drive you crazy, after all they are only human.  But, the relationship you have with your pastor is one of the most important ones you can have as a youth minister, it not only dictates the tenure of your ministry, but the health of the overall church as well.

It would be nice to have some type of fool proof process where you are matched up with the perfect pastor; however, life happens and relationships will always face obstacles.  The tendency is to give up, blame them and move on; however, that’s not always the wisest thing to do.  In fact if you want a healthy relationship with your pastor it’s important to:

Serve Up – Submitting to authority is a humbling experience because it means letting go of your own thoughts and opinions.  However, if you want to influence your pastor you need to show him that you are willing to follow him, even if it means you disagree.  What you do is build trust, so that when a situation comes along where you strongly disagree you now have the clout to be heard.

Have Their Back – Biggest pet peeve of mine is when other ministers publicly bash their pastor.  Not saying you have to like everything that your pastor does; however, if you have a problem with something he does keep it private.  Yes, if it’s something immoral or illegal bring it to the proper authorities; however, when you sound off in public you not only break his trust, but the trust of others around you.  Any issues you have with him, you need to bring to him.  If you need accountability from others do it with a trusted group of individuals, to act as your sounding board.

Be Open – Your pastor doesn’t have to be your best friend, he doesn’t even have to be your mentor; however, if you feel like you have to keep the relationship superficial, you’ll only find yourself building resentment when he doesn’t understand your needs.  There are going to be times when you need to tell him you are frustrated, tired, burned out and disappointed.  You can’t expect your pastor to serve you or help you if he doesn’t know you.  Build a relationship and make sure the foundation is full of trust, open communication and respect.

Communicate About The Relationship – Don’t be afraid to discuss the status of your relationship.  It might seem awkward but make sure he knows that you value the trust and health of the relationship.  If talking candidly about it is difficult write it up in a review, call them check-in meetings but again stress how much you value healthy and open communication between the two of you.

There will be situations where the relationship between you and him just doesn’t work.  Maybe the tension is due to clashing personalities, a difference in philosophies or an unfortunate change in events.  If you have to leave your church do it as peaceful and respectful as possible.  You don’t want to be burning any bridges.  If you find yourself in this situation be sure to consult a veteran youth worker or someone you trust to guide you through this emotional process.  In the end it’s about trusting and respecting one another.  As your relationship grows stronger, so will the leadership of the church.

What tips or steps would you suggest taking to improve the relationship you have with your pastor?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.