Whether you call them senior, lead, brother, apostle, bishop, El Jefe or prophet, the primary leader of your church can embrace or alienate the youth in a few small steps. Clearly the pastor is to care for the entire flock, and we sheep will never know all that is involved.
Yet a busy pastor can make consistent small investments in the lives of students that will yield great fruit.
1. Come to a mission trip/retreat send off to pray for us and stay behind to tell our moms that it’s all gonna be ok.
2. Tell stories from your teenage years as you preach.
3. Stop saying, “In the Hebrew this really means…” or “a better translation of this is…” When you do that from the pulpit, you take the Bible out of the hands of the teenager and add to the distrust of Scripture.
4. Come to four youth gatherings a year. Don’t just go and speak, but allow the students to ask you questions. This not only builds trust with students, but the youth ministry staff and volunteers as well.
5. Randomly pop in to a youth gathering. Interrupt the program quickly to bless the youth minister and volunteers in front of the kids.
6. Get on the bus! While going with the youth on a week long mission trip can be tough, I know a pastor who rides on the bus with the kids to camp and then flies back the next day. This builds incredible social capital.
7. Teenagers don’t want to hear just how you did it right. They want to know how you messed up and then they need to hear how you moved forward.
That said, I need to address my youth worker friends with two thoughts:
1) We have a great role in playing the “agent” in this necessary endeavor. As we look down the road at our calendars, let us find ways for our pastor to spend time with our young people so that the interaction builds trust and yields fruit.
2) At heart, lead pastors are either theologians, missionaries, evangelists or youth pastors. So we must be aware some pastors will be as nervous coming to youth group as home-schooled 6th grade girl. Teenagers intimidate people. We as youth workers can lessen the intimidation.
What have you seen pastors do to bridge the gap between them and the students of the church?
Nate Stratman is a youth pastor in Colorado Springs and blogs at www.natestratman.com.