When The Shepherd Turns Green

If you take Children’s Ministry seriously and are doing your job well, you may run into difficulties from an unexpected source: the senior pastor. This probably isn’t news to ministry veterans, but it often comes as a surprise for newbies, throwing them for quite a loop.

“I thought we were all on the same team,” said Gene, a children’s pastor in a medium-sized church. “I couldn’t believe it when my pastor became jealous of my success.”  Unfortunately, progress in children’s ministry sometimes results in a jealous senior pastor who feels threatened by another’s success, as was the case with Judith, a children’s pastor of a church in a suburban setting.

Said Judith, “During the interview the pastor and board indicated full, enthusiastic support of a thriving, vibrant Children’s Ministry.  But when the ministry started to take off, support evaporated.   Instead of rejoicing over God’s blessing, the pastor accused me of  ‘trying to take over the church!’  It was flabbergasting!”

“If you’ve been in children’s ministry awhile, you’ve probably had at least one tough experience with a senior pastor” writes Stephanie Dyslin in Working With a Difficult Senior Pastor.  “And if you’re a newcomer to the field, it’s bound to happen to you eventually.” Dyslin continues:

Children’s ministry was Ann’s life, and her first year at a new church was a honeymoon. All her requests were granted. Then, when her ministry started taking off, the honeymoon soured. Her senior pastor became a dictator, telling her who she could and couldn’t talk to, demanding blow-by-blow descriptions of everything she did, and even criticizing the way she dressed.

“I couldn’t reason with him,” Ann says. “And his decisions weren’t always in the best interests of the children and their parents.”

As Ann’s ministry grew, her jealous senior pastor felt like he was losing his authority. So he cut out some of Ann’s flourishing programs and said she was too aggressive. After Ann resigned, her male replacement — whom she had trained — did everything she had tried to do but the senior pastor had blocked.”

Not Unique

“Unfortunately, Ann’s situation isn’t unique.” Writes Dsylin. “ Working with children makes you vulnerable to certain types of conflicts with your senior pastor,” writes Dyslin, citing potential conflict areas such as:

– Perception problems – Problems can arise from the perception that children’s ministers are on the low end of a church’s totem pole. Ann experienced this. Rather than being treated as a peer, she was treated as a lesser person worthy of domination.

– Misunderstandings — Not every senior pastor will agree with you about the importance of children’s ministry. Pete’s senior pastor thinks Pete wastes time on fun events with children. ” He thinks it’s total fun, which means nothing spiritual at all can happen,” Pete says. “But I feel like it has spiritual significance and that point is being lost with my senior pastor.”

-Expectations — A distortion of the children’s minister’s role can also be a problem. Ruth worked with a senior pastor who expected her to do things that made him look good.

These problems can pose formidable challenges even for seasoned veterans. They may sink your ship if you don’t see them coming or lack appropriate problem-solving strategies.  How can you deal with a jealous senior pastor who’s threatened by your ministry to children?

Check out Dyslin’s full article for some Problem-Solving Strategies and Expert Advice.  Also see this related post, Pastor Challenge.

We’ll tackle some of these questions and issues in upcoming posts.  Keep an eye out for Promoting VBS; What Ministry to Children ISN’T; Meanings, Must-Haves and Goals for C.M.; and Children’s Ministries – Basics 101.


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