Home > Leadership, Youth Ministry > Pastors Say the Darnedest Things

Pastors Say the Darnedest Things

Over the past 16 years of ministry, I have had 6 different senior pastors at my various churches.  As the Executive Director of the CYMT, I have now worked with 25+ pastors as they supervise our students.  As a YMA consultant, I had the privilege of working intently alongside 6 churches and pastors during times of transition.  Throw in all the stories I know from my youth ministry friends about their pastors including one I heard this week which inspired this post where I simply want to say, pastors say the darnedest things.

Seminary is an interesting place.  Pastors and youth pastors spend years learning theology and studying the Bible.  They learn pastoral care including what to say at a funeral.  But they do not learn how to supervise!  I know seminaries are getting better at offering leadership training, but most of the pastors we work with had no leadership training.

Denominations and churches look to call individuals with pastoral gifts – discernment, teaching, preaching, caring.  They do look for leadership gifts, but let’s be honest not all pastors where created equal in the leadership arena.  Therefore, they say the darnedest things like:

  • “You could add hospital visitations to your responsibilities.” (Yes, when you add high school lunch visitations to yours)
  • “What is the average salary for a youth minister?  Would you be willing to do it for ??” (Just above the poverty line to many times, unfortunately yes because God calls)
  • “Can the kids set up for the ??? Can you cut your budget by $5,000? You could just have another fundraiser.”
  • “You’ve got 25 kids coming to youth group.  Why can’t you get them to Bible Study?”  (Good question, why can’t you get everyone who comes to worship to Bible Study or Sunday School)
  • “Do we need a full-time youth director? Couldn’t we get them to operate the recreation program too?”
  • “You don’t want to be a youth minister, you want to be a pastor.”  (No, it is just not as much fun; nor is it what God has called me to do!)
  • “Why can’t you get the kids to come to worship?”
  • To a veteran youth minister: “We may have to cut you from the staff for financial reasons.  We feel like we can get someone to do your job for less.”

Feel free to add your own.  I’m tempted to go on for awhile.  But the point of my post is to give some encouragement and advice.  There is nothing more frustrating to me than being held accountable for information that I did not have.  The truth is they often say these things off offhandedly.  Which is sad, because they hate when that happens to them.

The truth is that many pastors need to be educated about youth ministry and even about the youth ministry at your church.  The seminaries are not going to do it, the denominations are not doing it, we need to take some responsibility to help educate our pastors for our benefit and for the benefit of future youth directors that will work under them.

Since most of you are young youth directors, I know that some of what I’m going to suggest is hard because of your age and experience; but it is important.  Things to do when your pastor says the darnedest thing:

1. Step Back – back away from the situation and look for the truth in what was said.  He/She may be wrong, but we have to remember that it may be the truth based on the information they have available to them.  Take time to breathe and think about why your pastor may have said whatever they said.

2. Communicate – after you have processed, you need to respond.  You need to acknowledge the truth in what they have said and be honest about how it has made you feel and what course of action you plan to take.

3. Inform – You need to inform your pastor where information is lacking.  Don’t hold them accountable for information they did not know.  You can hold them accountable for not seeking out more information.  Seek to have a conversation not an argument.

4. Follow up – have a follow up conversation in the future to make sure that you are on the same page.

Here are some things I have observed to be helpful in avoiding your pastor saying the darnedest things:

1. Meet regularly with your pastor.  The church staff meeting is important, but it only builds relationships at the surface level.  Go to lunch with him/her so that you can keep them informed, they can get to know you, and so that you can share your dreams and visions for the youth ministry.  Take advantage of this time to get to know them as well.

2. Invite them to participate.  Find ways to get your pastor interacting with the youth ministry so that they can see first hand the impact your ministry is having.  Invite them on a missions trip.  The dividends paid by pastoral interaction with the youth and youth ministry will be multiplying.  If they never intersect with your ministry, then they will have little investment.  Similar to folks who only give money to a charity versus getting involved.  When pastors get involved, then the youth ministry becomes personal.

3. Educate them.  Help them understand the bigger picture of what is happening in youth ministry and young adult ministry.  A great starting place is reading Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVires with them.  Other ways would be keeping them abreast of youth ministry research and how that is shaping your approach to ministry and how it might need to impact the ministry of the church.

But if nothing else, please realize that every pastor I know has said one of the darnedest things about youth ministry at least once.  If your pastor said something to you, please realize that you are in good company.  Find a youth ministry friend who can listen and help you process how you should respond, because the truth is we are all in this together.  “Don’t pastors only work on Sundays?”

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