Trevor Hindman is the Student and Volunteers Pastor at Canton Church. He has been on our staff for 5 years, and part of our church since the beginning. He is one of the most faithful servant leaders I’ve ever known and an amazing young leader. He writes to other student pastors below.
Dear student pastor,
There is an old joke that floats around churches that any time something breaks the lead pastor can just blame it on the student pastor. As the student pastor at Canton Church whenever I hear this I tend to just laugh and roll my eye, but let’s be honest student pastors, we all know that in some way there is going to be some truth to whatever is being said. We work with the rowdiest, craziest, breaking stuff bunch that walks through the doors. And not only that we do it on Wednesday where we get to feel “large and in charge” because it is OUR service night!
But how do you handle these situations? No, I don’t mean how do you handle it when they actually have broken something (just go ahead and put 50% of your student budget towards repairs and you will be good to go), I mean how do you handle the relationship with your lead pastor? In reality joking about things being broken around the church is small in comparison to what some of the conversations that you are having. Or worse, not having. Let’s be honest student pastors, we often times are wondering what our pastor is thinking, does he trust me, does he think I am doing a good job, does he regret hiring me, does he wish he didn’t hire me, do I like working for this man, does he really care about me, and you insert the other thousands of questions you ask yourself about your lead pastor. What if joking about you getting blamed for breaking things isn’t the pastor showing a lack of trust in you and what if it really is a joke?
I have been really fortunate to spend the entirety of my time in ministry serving under the direct leadership of a really good man. Pastor Jeremy Isaacs has taught me a ton about how to serve the church and the people of the church well. I know it is not everyone’s story, but it is my story, I am fortunate enough to consider my pastor and my boss one of my best friends. And through that relationship there are 3 truths I have learned about serving a lead pastor well.
1. Believe that your pastor believes in you.
If they are willing to hire you, pay you, and let you shape the hearts and minds of impressionable teenagers then they trust you and believe in you! Don’t assume that every time your pastor “gets onto you” that it means he has lost faith in you. Your lead pastor is in your corner. He may give you every terrible job at the church that he doesn’t want to do but it isn’t because he doesn’t like you, it means he is trying to grow you (or maybe he just doesn’t want to do it). I am the student pastor at my church and let’s be honest, like most student pastors I also do a ton of other things. I am (self-titled) our churches IT Director! Sounds pretty fancy, right? I can promise you it is not my favorite job title! Over the last 2 months if it could break it has. I literally know how to re-program a commercial printer and give it a brand-new IP address. I can rebuild a firewall, and a whole lot of other nerdy things that 2 months ago I couldn’t do. Now I don’t believe that Pastor Jeremy just threw this on me because he doesn’t believe in me enough to give me “real tasks”. Its growing me. It is teaching me better time management. It teaches me better people skills. Please student pastors, start at a place of believing that your lead pastor believes in you. It will save you tons of hours of lost sleep, stress, and a lack of relationship with him.
And lead pastors, you have to be honest with student pastors. I think that the insecurity of the middle schoolers rubs off on us sometimes. You need to tell your student pastors every once in a while, that they are doing a good job. Tell them that you believe in them! And pastors, don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations when we do mess up to tell us we lost a little bit of your trust and we need to work hard to earn it back. You being honest with us in those moments tells us that you believe in us enough to help us grow when we blow it.
2. Be honest about your future.
I have watched so many student pastors view their current position as a “stepping stone” on their journey to being the next Jentezen Franklin. Student pastor don’t go into an interview and tell the pastor of a church searching desperately for someone that will be the student pastor for a least 2 graduating classes that you want to come to this community and put down roots to be here for 20 years when you really just hope this gets you a little closer to landing that job at the mega church right down the road. I’m not saying that every student pastor is called to be a “lifer” because not everyone is, but what I am saying is to go in and be honest with your pastor. If you want to be a lead pastor someday tell him that. And this doesn’t just apply to student pastors that are in the interview process. This applies to student pastors that have been at a church for 5 months, 5 years, or 25 years. Talk to your pastor about your dreams and ambitions. Talk to him about what you might want to pursue in your future.
And lead pastors, give them opportunities to dream with you. Make you student pastors feel like they can tell you they would love to be the lead pastor of a church someday without feeling like you are looking for their replacement tomorrow because you don’t feel like “their heart is here anymore”. Now I am not saying that when someone can’t decide whether they want to be here anymore or not you don’t help love them out the door. But, the student pastor that says in 3 years I want to start praying about pursuing new adventures you encourage them and believe in them and pray with them. Pastors your office should be the safest place for a student pastor to dream about not being at your church. Because if you don’t allow them to dream in your office without you making them feel like they are abandoning God for thinking about leaving you than I can promise you that they will find somewhere to dream and someone to listen that can be excited with them about that dream.
3. Serve your pastor’s family well.
As I already mentioned I have an incredible relationship with my pastor. That relationship carries over into his family as well. I love the Isaacs. They have been good to me and I am thankful for what they mean to me and my family. But take the relationship out of it and the fact that I really just like them as people. When I agreed to work for Canton Church I agreed to be the student pastor sure. But I agreed to so much more than that. I agreed to serve this body of believers, so when someone is at the hospital, sure they are not a student, but I may go see them. I agreed to serve this community, so I go and put pine straw out at an elementary school on a Saturday morning with some volunteers. But I also agreed to serve Pastor Jeremy and his family. Student pastors I think we all feel some weight and stress of the church. We do a lot of things for the church. But nothing that we face has near the same level as what our lead pastor feels daily. Part of our role is to support the lead pastor. Make his life easier any chance you get. I have picked his kids up from school, driven him all around the southeastern United States, helped him do home projects, stay late, get here early, told him to not come to something so that he can spend time with his family, and as many other things that I can do to serve my pastor well. Student pastors God has called you to serve where you are for a reason. Serve God first and foremost, serve the church and the community, but serve your pastor and his family. Don’t kiss butt just to get recognition, but if you truly serve your pastor well, I promise you it will be pleasing in the eyes of God and it will go a long way in giving you and your lead pastor a great relationship.
Student Pastors, keep doing what you are doing. Keep loving students and teaching them how to have a relationship with Jesus. I know you feel overwhelmed at times but know that your lead pastor is right there praying for you and fighting for you. He is in your corner. Believe that your pastor believes in you, be honest about your future, and serve your pastors family well. Even though it probably is your fault that something got broke last week, know that if you do these things it is all going to be ok.
Trust your pastor. Respect your pastor. Serve your pastor.
Trevor and his wife Lauren live in Canton, GA.