Young Ministers' Corner

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Joshua M. Daniels
Building Healthy Relationships with Senior Pastors: Intimacy with Boundaries and Mentorship

One common denominator that unites young preachers around the country is the desire to have a genuine and sincere relationship with a senior pastor. All that the young minister encounters in ministry, both internally and externally, presses upon him or her the need for mentorship and guidance. For the young minister, the need to have a shepherd is just as imperative as the need for him or her to be a serious student of Scripture. However, many times senior pastors don't allow young ministers close to them.

Allow me to rush to say, all young ministers don't desire relationships with senior pastors for pure purposes. Some desire merely to "get on" or receive exposure, and upon getting it or the antithesis, they abandon the relationship and go to the next pastor who can open the next door. This causes many senior pastors to become heavily guarded due to the hurt they have experienced because of a young minister. But contrary to popular belief, there are still young ministers who sincerely desire relationships with senior pastors not for the sake of "getting on," but for the sake of growing and developing as a preacher and learning what it takes to become a pastor.

I have the humbling honor of serving as the Minister to College Students at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont, TX, where Dr. John R. Adolph is the Senior Pastor. I often pride myself, amongst my peers, for having an awesome relationship with my leader. Anyone who knows Dr. Adolph knows that he is a genuine person with a heart for God and God's people. He is a preacher par excellence and, in every essence of the word, he is a scholar. To be able to be mentored by this gospel giant is an honor and certainly a privilege.

It is my honest belief that young ministers can have a great relationship with their leader or any leader for that matter if they understand that no matter how close they become to a senior pastor, there are still certain boundaries that have been set and we must understand as well as stay within them and keep these few things in mind:

1. Realize that you are not their equal. There is a major difference between being a minister and a senior pastor, even if you are the same age. Many times senior pastors get a bitter taste in their mouths regarding young ministers because they are so prideful and arrogant in that they believe if they have a great preaching gift that they are equal to that of a senior pastor. Here's the truth of the day—no matter how great of a preacher you may be, you are not on the same level as a senior pastor. Humility will open more doors for you than your giftedness, and will cause senior pastors to be more willing to take out time with you.

2. Retain all information they share with you—both good and bad. If you are going to have a healthy relationship with a senior pastor, you will have to learn early that discretion is your best friend. More times than few, young ministers mess up their relationships with senior pastors by talking too much. But whatever a senior pastor shares with you, he or she has shared with you and not your friends. Keep it that way! The quickest way to mess up your relationship with a senior pastor is for them to hear information that was shared in confidence with you from someone else.

3. Receive their criticism as you do their praise. Let's be honest—as young ministers, we do not like criticism at all, but we receive praise and accolades freely. But one part of mentorship is submitting yourself to your mentor and allowing him or her room to tell you when you're not right. One pastor once shared with me, "Anyone who celebrates your present can praise you, but it takes someone who cares about your future to tell you when you're wrong." If a senior pastor gives you constructive criticism, it's not to bruise you, but rather to bless you and make you better. So as you would receive them telling you how well you did, receive if they tell you that you didn't do so well.

4. Remember that it is a privilege to be mentored. Always remember there is a young minister who wishes they had your mentor, but God allowed you to be the one with the privilege, so be careful to treat it as such. You see, senior pastors are responsible for an entire flock and are not obligated to take out time with you. Therefore, make sure you never feel entitled to the privilege that has been bestowed to you. God allowed you to have a mentor to help build you up and make your future brighter. Be grateful.

I believe if these four things remain in mind that you can build a healthy relationship with a senior pastor that embodies intimacy with boundaries and mentorship. Good luck!