as a youth pastor, good communication with your senior pastor (or direct report) is always wise and helpful, but there are definitely situations where a time-sensitive heads up is critical. i learned alongside another youth pastor who was always great at this – it was always important to him that the lead guy never got blindsided by something under his area of leadership.
here are the top 5 types of situations i’ve learned where “the heads up” is pretty much automatic if i want to save myself and my ministry from future pain. the types of situations may definitely vary from church to church, and i’m sure i’ve missed some… so feel free to leave them in the comments!
WHEN A CHURCH MEMBER OR INFLUENTIAL PERSON MIGHT LEAVE THE CHURCH BECAUSE OF A DECISION YOU MADE. leaders make decisions, and there’s no way to always keep everyone happy. from time to time, i’ve had to make an unpopular decision, and though it always bugs me that some church-goers’ commitment to a church is relatively fragile, it doesn’t help your ministry if the lead guy finds out about it from somewhere else before you. their side of the story usually isn’t balanced, and the teeter totter certainly isn’t leaning towards your side of the playground. let your pastor know what your decision was, the reasoning behind it, and offer to help bring clarity through any of the tough conversations to come.
WHEN IT’S TIME TO “RELEASE” A YOUTH LEADER TO A DIFFERENT MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH. it always stinks, but not everyone that makes it on the team is a good fit. no matter how hard you try to help them transition into a different serving role in the church, conflict often emerges from these conversations. i still remember the youth leader i had recruited with seemingly good intentions, to later find out they were just trying to keep tabs on their own kids. it was a tough situation to navigate because they made me force them out, and out of it i remember learning how much easier it is to say no to someone who wants on than to kick someone off. let your senior pastor know you’re moving them off the team before the conversation happens.
WHEN A PARENT ISN’T JUST UPSET, BUT HOT AND ANGRY AT YOU OR YOUR MINISTRY. again, conflict is inevitable in leadership, but many times angry parents can be the worst because their protective emotions can fuel extra anger. unfortunately the immature will look to go over your head and take it up with your boss rather than dealing directly with you… and it will help you immensely to let your lead guy know in advance if you see it coming. give him the facts, let him know what you could have done to avoid the situation, and assure him that you’re taking steps to resolve the conflict. i remember a situation like this a few years ago. it still totally sucked, but at least i knew my senior pastor had my back the whole way through.
WHEN A STUDENT IS IN DANGER AND YOU HAVE TO INTERVENE. of all the things we do in student ministry, pacing with hurting students through messy situations is both sacred and scary. as pastors we are mandatory reporters, and from time to time we have to get the authorities involved. before calling CPS or setting up a 1AM meeting with the parents, get your senior pastor clued in on the important details. you don’t have to break confidentiality, but you do have to give him enough info to know you’re on it and doing your best to see it through responsibly. he’s probably got a lot of wisdom to offer in situations like this as well, and you can earn points by coming in with humility and glean from his experience.
WHEN YOU THINK YOU SHOULD BUT YOU’RE NOT 100% SURE. just do it anyways. i’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to over-communicate and have him tell you to keep it to yourself than to under-communicate and leave him grasping for answers when everything hits the fan. to make matters worse, the one time he DOES call asking for an explanation you’ll be out with a student at starbucks and your phone battery will be dead… or you’ll be snowtubing down a mountain and it’ll go to voicemail. no matter how “covered” you are in the situation, you WILL lose credibility points and make the situation worse.
what did i miss?