One of the challenges in a larger, multi-staff church, is the potential for even greater separation between the student ministry and the rest of the church. I know for myself my schedule in some ways is more demanding and blocked out than it was in the smaller churches. It’s not that it’s more work in a larger church – it’s just a different set of demands, which makes it much more of a challenge to broaden a pastoral circle of influence outside of the area hired to.
At the same time, I believe it’s critical for students to be building connections with other pastors and areas of ministry in the church. I really value the rest of the pastoral staff being approachable for students – it’s incredibly important for their own feeling of being a part of the church as a whole (as opposed to just feeling like they’re part of the student ministry, something they’ll eventually outgrow).
For our program, I think the win has been in finding ways to create opportunities for the other pastors to have meaningful connections and interactions with students that don’t create a burden of preparation or work on their part. Set them up to succeed in a way that doesn’t add stress to their crowded schedules. Which means doing it in different ways with the different pastors. Our senior pastor is probably the hardest working guy in our church, but a huge hit has been inviting him to Student Quest on a Sunday morning when he’s not preaching and let him just do a Q&A time with the students. It’s no prep for him, but great nonetheless. They come up with great questions about faith, doctrine, or even just about his own life, and he’s amazing on the fly. He’s also amazing with names, so he’s able to call on them by name almost 100% of the time. It’s a big win.
Our teaching pastor also has a crazy schedule; but he’s a snowboarder. So he comes on our ski trip every year; it’s just one night, but he has a blast tearing it up on the slopes with his snowboard, and the students LOVE that the guy they normally see behind the pulpit is an adventure sports kind of guy. The best part from my perspective is that it’s just one night, but he spends hours just hanging out, playing games, and shooting the breeze with a bunch of our high school kids in the lodge. Very, very cool. When it comes to our worship pastor, it’s a different connection point. He’ll come participate in some of our worship times, coach some of our teens, and this year is actually coming on one of our mission teams. Unlike most of the adults going, he won’t have the heavy prep load – his schedule is already insane – but on the trip itself he’ll be a huge part of the worship times at night and connecting with students. From my perspective, it’s a win because this particular trip is one that is mostly 7th-9th grade students, so he’ll be building bridges with kids who will be around for quite a while.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I really do believe that the burden of work or prep in these kinds of things should fall to me or my team. I want students to have a great experience with other pastors, and I want the other pastors to really enjoy their experiences with student ministry – and want to have more.
I’d love to know how other youth pastors are creating connections between their students and fellow pastors – where have you found wins?