I have had my share of challenging experiences in ministry. But the one challenge I have not experienced is having to deal with a difficult Senior Minister or Pastor. I have experience working with plenty of challenging elders, deacons, ministers, parents and adults but never a difficult relationship with a Senior Minister or Pastor--really!
My current senior pastor is Rick Atchley and he is a Magic Man.
His magic is not the kind that pulls rabbits from hats or saws people in half (he may want to try that last trick with some of us he works with) and he certainly does not dabble in dark arts (even though his golf buddies may think differently). My Pastor has a gift to communicate the Word of God with clarity and purpose on a remarkably consistent basis. But, in my opinion, the magic is found in his ability to connect in ministry across generational lines. Young and old are drawn to his teachings and blessed by his frequent visits to their "spaces". Let me put it this way, senior pastors are suppose to hang out in adult classes, lobby's, foyers and pot luck type settings. They are not known for hanging out in youth areas and student classrooms. Get this, Rick not only hangs out in youth spaces but is listed as a student ministry volunteer!
"Wait a minute--volunteer," you ask?
Rick and his wife Jamie have served as small group leaders, mission trip sponsors and mentor's for a countless number of students and adult volunteers in our youth ministry. He reminds the youth ministry staff, at least twice a year, that he would "really like to speak" to the students if we gave him the opportunity. Crazy--I know! The Senior Pastor is asking a Youth Minister for a speaking opportunity!
Rick Atchley is that kind of man and has that kind of respect for youth ministry. I like to say to him, "Rick, you are a big deal in the youth ministry world!" Even though he down plays my words, it's a reality. Those who know and witness his support of youth ministry think he's a rock star. He wants each child and student in our church family to see themselves as fully functioning members of his flock.
So, when Rick speaks, our student's listen and are blessed.
Let me interrupt this post with an important side bar: Our students hear from our adults, ministers and members, frequently! It is one of the simplest ways to create intergenerational community opportunities. Oh, they don't come to "preach" but to "share" their faith journey. Any preaching arises naturally from the power of their own story of faith. Now, back to our regularly scheduled post.
Recently, in our very diverse Wednesday night High School Worship, we had Ask Preacher Rick Night and the magic happened.
With the use of personal stories of failure and success, Pastor Rick clearly communicated the point that The Fear of Man is defeated by a deep and abiding Love of God. The truth is simple and has been taught on many occasions.
Why was this night different?
Here's the answer. It was clear in word and action. Rick wanted to spend time with our students. On this night, this was his flock of students. For this hour, they were his first and only thought. And the students knew it--magic.
So...I love working with my Senior Pastor.
Here are a couple of practical things you can do with this blog:
- Get your Senior Pastor to read it so they can get an idea of how they can effectively interact with the youth ministry (you may need to be sneaky and simply "share the link" on facebook or something--be smart) (Note: if you are a senior pastor reading this blog because someone shared a link with you...um...they must really like you and want to share you with the students)
- Share this blog with other parents, adults and youth ministers so they can get an idea of how to get their senior pastor into their youth ministry "space."
- If you are a student that rarely sees their Senior Pastor or Minister, ask them to come to a youth event, teach a class or attend some other youth activity. I bet if you ask them, they would be more willing to come.