Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Don't Leave Your Garbage on the Pastor's Desk

Pastor of Everything Else
Don't Leave Your Garbage on the Senior Pastor’s Desk

As associate pastors, we need to be careful not to create messes for our senior pastors to clean up. Our pastors hope that we will advance the work of the church and relieve some of the work load. When we create messes they need to clean up, they must set aside their own tasks to smooth over hurt feelings or offended sensibilities. This creates extra work and strains relationships.

Steve was asked to speak at a regional youth event. During the Q&A following his talk, a youth asked him why older people in his church didn’t like the new music. Steve responded by saying that he shouldn’t worry about the old people since they would die in ten years anyway. By the next morning Steve’s pastor was taking calls and answering emails from upset youth leaders and parents.

Ben wanted the youth to become comfortable in the church’s worship service so he planned group games in the sanctuary. Unfortunately, a deacon walked through as the youth played beach ball volleyball over the pews. He and some parents were upset and called the pastor. Since Ben’s senior pastor didn’t know about his plans for games in the sanctuary, all he could do was promise to look into the matter. For the next several weeks they put out spot fires in the congregation over the incident, which came up again during the next Board meeting.

Its not that we intend to cause problems. Sometimes our best plans don’t work out the way we thought. Misunderstandings happen. Some good ideas aren’t. If we have enough good will stored up, we will survive the experience, but if good will is lacking people trust us less and suspect us more. If my pastor is looking over my shoulder more and giving me less responsibility, it may be because I am leaving garbage on his desk for him to clean up.

After learning a few times the hard way, I began to find people with good judgement who could help me. Or, rather, they began to suggest ways to help me and I noticed. One set of parents helped me decide whether to travel during inclement weather. If they suggested parents would be uncomfortable, I listened because I knew others felt the same way, even if I disagreed.

I have learned that it helps when I clean up my own messes. After the church furnace room was vandalized during a youth group meeting, that night I called the chairs of my Christian Ed and Property boards to report the damage. By the next morning I was able tell my pastor about the problem, why it happened, what we would do differently, and that the appropriate people were taking care of the clean-up. 

I have found that it helps to report problems sooner instead of later. When I avoid telling my pastor , I may make the problem worse, causing even more harm or loss of confidence. During a discipleship campaign, I was taking money for books and keeping it temporarily in an envelope in my desk. Following a worship service, I discovered the money was missing. I was nervous as I told our secretary first, and then the pastor. Despite the problem, it helped my pastor to know I would come to him as soon as possible with an issue.

I also discovered that when I report problems sooner that my senior pastor often has possible solutions. I was once able to recruit two additional middle school leaders because he knew that they were open to the possibility. He told me about them when I mentioned our need, and I followed up. I know that I can’t bring every little thing to him, but I have also learned not to try solving everything myself.

May 2, 2012 Rev. Troy Dennis (BA, MDiv., MA, Arrow Leadership) is Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church in Moncton NB Canada. Ordained in 1995, he served in associate, solo and senior pastor positions before coming back to associate ministry in 2008.

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