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Beyond Preaching: The Necessity Of Mentoring Staff

By David Raley

The large church has ministry staff that come alongside the senior pastor to help him shepherd the congregation. Many young people are called into ministry and desire to help their pastors. Yet, they feel lost in their work. These young pastors often feel like hirelings.

The void in the lives of younger staff pastors, especially youth pastors, is not for larger salaries or better facilities. They are not troubled by the size or location of the congregations they serve. Their greatest need is for the senior pastor to speak into their lives. They need and desire a pastor, not a boss. They know the senior pastor is in charge and respect his position, but they need an older peer to mentor them in ministry.

When young Bible college students graduate, they have big dreams of giving their lives to full-ministry. But most are in need of mentoring. When the senior pastor brings on a youth pastor, for example, he will not have less work to do. Hiring additional staff creates more work. When computers came on the scene, everyone was excited and thought about how much more work people would accomplish with them. People are getting more work done, but not at fewer man hours. The same is true when staff pastors are brought into a church. More work may get done, but time is still required to do it.

Building Relationships

As the senior pastor, when you hire additional staff, you need to invest time in them. You need to take time to talk and develop relationships with your staff. If you want to get the best out of your staff, your staff must feel you care about them. This is true in the secular job force, but even more so in the church. If you only develop relationships with your staff at church services or weekly staff meetings, you will not get the best out of your team.

A guest speaker ministered in my church. He was a wonderful man of God, but he missed it on relationships. He offered his counsel concerning my relationship with my youth pastor. He thought my relationship with him was too close and too friendly. I asked why he felt that way, and he responded, “You should only build professional relationships with your staff. Otherwise, they will begin to think they are your equal.”

I did not argue or debate with him, but I could not accept his advice. Because a staff person is younger or less experienced does not make him different from the senior pastor. This youth pastor was one of my best friends and continues to be a great friend to this day. Yes, he made mistakes as all young people do. And because I loved him, it was sometimes difficult to discipline him and guide his development. But I loved him enough to help him become a good leader.

Later, when I served in the district office, I heard this same logic. I was in a committee meeting and someone said, “Youth pastors think they should go to lunch with the guest speaker just like the pastor.” When I heard this, I wondered where such thinking came from. There may be times when it is not appropriate for staff to share a meal with a guest speaker, but there is nothing wrong with bringing a young pastor along to build relationships.

As the senior pastor, you are busy and have limited time to invest. But one of the greatest ways to invest your time is building relationships with your inexperienced, younger staff pastors. A staff pastor who has a strong relationship with the senior pastor will better represent the senior pastor to his congregation. People will treat staff pastors with the same level of respect they sense the senior pastor gives those leaders. If the congregation senses that the senior pastor does not respect his staff, they cannot be expected to respect the staff or the pastor. If the congregation senses that the senior pastor loves and respects his staff, they will love and respect the staff and the pastor even more. The pastor models before his congregation how to treat others who are in different roles.

Building Openness

A young staff pastor needs to be able to ask the senior pastor questions about church life. He will not understand every decision you make. There will be times when you cannot give information and the staff pastor will need to trust your leadership. But it helps young pastors to process church difficulties when they understand why and how certain decisions are made. Your competency as the senior pastor is not challenged when your staff asks you questions. When staff pastors feel free to ask you questions, it helps them better represent you publicly.

Occasionally a young staff pastor will not know how to represent you because you did not dialogue with him. If you create openness, you will find you staff pastors relaxing and sharing with you. Take a break from the office for coffee or a soda. Take your youth pastor to a ballgame or event where he can spend time talking about anything other than church business.

I often took a staff pastor with me when ministering outside the church. The time traveling can be spent visiting. It also provides opportunity for staff to observe their senior pastor in a setting other than the church. If you have multiple staff members, you will need to plan how best to include each one. Showing kindness to a staff member by taking him on an outing does not require much, but small efforts return great dividends.

Conclusion

Mentoring the staff pastors God gives the church is a great trust. These people go on to represent the kingdom of God using the training their senior pastors give them. Staff pastors are in the senior pastor’s hands and in God’s hands. It is sobering to think that a senior pastor’s hands are on those whom God has called to ministry.

As a senior pastor, you are given the opportunity to mold and train young recruits into ministers of the gospel. Programs may not last long and buildings will eventually be torn down, but investing in your staff produces disciples who will last beyond your life and ministry. The relationships you build with your staff today will be your ministry’s lasting legacy.

David Raley, a former senior pastor, serves as Speed the Light director, national Youth Ministries, Springfield, Missouri.

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