I remember when I first heard the term “partnering with parents.” It was at an Orange Conference in 2009. It was revolutionary for me personally as I saw parents for what the Scripture had always described them. Parents are the primary means God uses in the life of a child to come to an understanding the gospel in the context of relationship. Jump forward several years and I am still personally wrestling through what does that look like for me as a dad and for the church I serve? It was just two weeks ago I had this conversation with several other kids pastors we were discussing how to make this commonly shared understanding a reality. I really want to thank Reggie and his team for bringing the family to the forefront of the mission and vision of so many churches. The fact we could have that conversation about how to practically partner with parents only happened because we all assume it’s necessary.
Rather than me telling you partnering with parents is necessary, because I assume that we both agree it is. Let me ask you a question.
What does Partnering with Parents mean to you? In your church what do you do to leverage the influence parents have in the lives of their kids?
For me partnering with parents used to mean tools and information. Today it means discipleship. The longer I serve in the same church and the more I follow Christ what I become aware of more keenly is my need to follow and to lead others to do the same. To partner with parents isn’t about programs and tools although it uses those means from time to time. To help parents spiritual lead their kids and families, parents need to be disciples and know how to make disciples. As kids pastors, we need to take a collective step backward and figure out how we can equip, disciple and train parents so they understand and can use the tools we are so eager to hand out.
What does that mean for us?
There is no more fundamental description of what the role of a pastor should be than the role of a shepherd. There was a season of life where I was only reading leadership books. They have great advice and fantastic insight they can help you be a better leader which we should all strive to be. The fundamental flaw in being a pastor who strives to be a CEO versus a pastor as a shepherd is the focus of what you do and the motivations behind what you do.
A CEO is driven by the need for efficiency and measurable outcomes. They make the mistake of being efficient with people so you can be effective in ministry. This is where we make our fatal flaw as ministers we think that we are judged by some elusive bottom line, and in the frenetic pace of ministry we kill ourselves trying to make it across some finish line we have set up for ourselves, but we never end up crossing. We burn up and burn out because we become disillusioned with the pace and the culture of pastoral ministry.
You Are an Undershepherd, Not an Owner.
We live in a very entrepreneurial culture. If you build it, they will come. The dream you have can be realized, you can be a self-made man. While all these things are true to a point as a pastor, you will never be satisfied with your work if these are the ideas you have about pastoral ministry. As a pastor, you are more of an undershepherd than even a Shepherd. We are stewards, not owners. A steward recognizes that he doesn’t set his goals or achieve his outcomes. A steward’s job description is to take care of and grow his flock for the person whom he works. When we are the owner we tend to obsess over outcomes rather than the hard work of planting, loving and trusting. When we see ourselves as the owner we are shaken when things happen that we can’t understand. As a CEO we don’t think anything as above our paygrade, as an undershepherd, we have a greater capacity for mystery because in ministry there are many things that don’t make sense.
One of the dangers that can come from being a Pastor who is a leader is you forget or neglect the fact that you are first and foremost a disciple. Leadership is fun it can be very challenging but is many times rewarding because we look behind us and can count those following us and be encouraged by our weekly mini census. The problem with being a disciple is that it is not glamorous it is not visible. It is difficult and often times painful.
Under-shepherds, pastors, always remember that you are more fundamentally a sheep than a shepherd. – Mark Dever
We as pastors can be so busy getting others to live the Christian life that we forget that the Christian life is a daily dying. It is walking in a moment by moment obedience to the call of Christ and to the cross of Christ.
Youth pastor your job is to preach the gospel to the next generation, absolutely but if you fail to follow Christ primarily, your messages will be shallow, and your ministry will be short. I have pastored at the same church for nearly 20 years and what I have learned is that I want to duck and I want to hide. I have now known most people longer than I have lived my life not knowing them. What that affords me is people speaking truth to me when I need it most, even if I don’t want to hear it.
I have led in times when I wasn’t following well and the ground was as hard and as inflexible as my heart. I find the more I live my life yielded to Christ the more I am concerned with how well I am following. Healthy leadership is most often the byproduct. There are many unhealthy churches in America because there are many unhealthy leaders in America. Pastor, you must preach the cross of Christ not just principles for better living, you must model what it means to deny yourself and carry the cross you preach.
Much has been written on this subject and for good reason, because the church needs not just good men it needs good men who will lead people to Christ. Leading people to Christ inherently requires leadership. The Christian life is not one of separation and study alone. It is one of interaction and guidance. A pastor is not a monk he is a follower who leads other followers. He is flawed for sure but he must not let his flaws disqualify him from leading but must lead in such a way that he points beyond himself to Christ.
How many people follow you doesn’t make you a leader THAT someone is following you does. If you are a pastor you are a leader. You have a responsibility to lead well and to lead people to a closer walk with Christ.