My Ministry Setting Is Pastor-Led

Your Question:

“How can I best serve in a senior pastor-led ministry setting?”

The Issues:

Serving under on person makes communication less complicated, but it also potentially leaves the ministry vulnerable to the senior pastor’s own views, biases, or weaknesses. Understanding the senior pastor’s passion, fears, and hopes becomes critical.

Scripture Foundation:

Nehemiah 1, 2. In this story, God tells us about Nehemiah’s faithful, humble service to God and to King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah had deep feelings about the “nation” of Israel, and God’s love for His people. When Nehemiah heard about the destruction of Jerusalem, he wept (1:4). Then, he prayed a deep and personal prayer of repentance, and for God to help him (1:5-11). Nehemiah’s service to King Artaxerxes was so reliable and good that the king noticed Nehemiah’s “sad” countenance. After Nehemiah told the king about “his country” and his desire to go and help, the king granted it with his blessing and letters of support (2:4-9).  Nehemiah records that “the gracious hand of my God was on me” (2:8). These first two chapters of Nehemiah document vital principles for serving in a “pastor-led” ministry.

Short Answer:

The story and example of Nehemiah gives us great insight into God’s answer to the question, How can I best serve in a senior pastor-led ministry setting?”  God made sure that Nehemiah’s story was included in the Bible for a very specific reason.  It highlights the principles that we all must apply when we serve under a senior pastor-led ministry. 


Here are the principles that we can learn from Nehemiah’s example: 


1) Commit yourself to God! Nehemiah referred to himself in his prayer to God as “your servant.”  This “title” clearly reveals Nehemiah’s view of who he was!  He was God’s servant!  The foundation for successfully serving in a senior pastor-led ministry (and in any ministry setting) is to totally commit yourself to being God’s servant! This is a spiritual perspective that only you can establish.  It is an act of the will and a disciplined character that you must adopt. Serve God fully!  Serve your senior pastor with that same dedication.


2) Pray for God’s leading. Nehemiah was a praying person!  The prayer that is recorded for us to see (1:4-11) is a great example of how we must pray daily as we serve God.  The prayer is filled with humility, confession, adoration, and application of God’s words.  The prayer clearly connects Nehemiah’s work with God’s work!  Nehemiah understands that he is serving in this position because God has called him to it.  Nehemiah’s prayer expresses his passion and compassion. He clearly asks specifically for God’s help. We are told in many places in the Bible to “cast our cares on Him” (1Peter 5:7), and to make our requests known to Him (Philippians 4:6). We are also reminded by Jesus that God knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:8). Talk with God “without ceasing” about the ministry and your needs.


3) Serve passionately! Nehemiah cared deeply. When he heard about the condition of Jerusalem, he “sat down and wept.” God talks about His desire for us to serve Him with passion. He strongly dislikes “lukewarm” people (Revelation 3:14-16). Serving in a senior pastor-led ministry demands passion. Nehemiah had passion! He used that passion to serve faithfully. We don’t get any indication that Nehemiah’s passion led him to rebel or question the king. His passion was obvious, and that is what drew King Artaxerxes to respect and honor him. Understand what God has called you to do and ask Him to let you feel His passion about the work!


4) Serve the senior pastor faithfully! It is obvious from Nehemiah’s story that he earned the respect of King Artaxerxes by serving him faithfully and joyfully. King Artaxerxes was so accustomed to Nehemiah serving him joyfully, that when he saw Nehemiah’s sad face, he questioned him about it (2:2). When you serve your senior pastor, do it with joy.  If you always complain or grumble about the workload or the conditions of the CM, he will not respect you or honor you when you need it. Nehemiah had earned the king’s respect through faithful, joyful service. Be happy and positive around the senior pastor. If he asks about the CM, always express your joy even if you share your challenges.


5) Always respect the senior pastor. King Artaxerxes was a just king, and yet very good at negotiating and getting what he wanted. He avenged his father’s murder by killing the man who killed his father, and that man’s whole family. He was a king to be feared and respected. No matter what senior pastor you serve under, he is probably not as forceful or potentially ruthless as King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah was King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer. This position was both a security position and a servant position. Nehemiah protected the king’s well-being and cared for his needs. As a CM director, you serve in the same position for your senior pastor. You “protect” him from lawsuits born out of the children’s ministry and you care for his need for someone to minister to the children while he focuses on the adults. You, for all intents and purposes, are his cupbearer.  You are to respect him because his position is established by the Lord (Romans 13:1,2).


Respecting the senior pastor doesn’t mean, though, that you are to blindly obey everything he wants you to do.  This is a difficult, philosophical challenge.  There is a “line” that you shouldn’t cross if he ever asks you to do something that puts the children at risk, or that offends God or His standards. A biblical example of this is found in Daniel 8 in which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar. Even though King Nebuchadnezzar was an authority figure, he was asking them to do something that offended God.


Another example of obeying God over obeying your authority figure is found in Acts 5 when Peter and the other apostles were commanded not to speak about Jesus. They determined that they must “…obey God rather than man…” (Acts 5:29), so they preached about Jesus despite authority figures telling them not to. Obeying God rather than man is a critical responsibility for every Christian.  Knowing if you need to apply this principle as you “disobey” your senior pastor is a serious point of discernment. It requires much prayer and counsel with others.  Hopefully, you’ll never face that decision!


Another important consideration for you to think about is that some senior pastors need to learn the value of children and how to empower a CM director.  It might be that you are the person to help your senior pastor learn this vital lesson.  “Teaching” a senior pastor is not easy.  It is a risky endeavor! The best way to help your senior pastor better understand the value of children, or the importance of the CM is through sacrifice, respect, and kindness.  Just as Nehemiah obviously earned King Artaxerxes’ respect through humble service, you can too.  This takes time. 


The most important words you can say to your senior pastor are: “How can I help you?” or “How can I better support you?” If your senior pastor “lets down his guard” around you because he feels safe with you; then, and only then, will he be comfortable enough to learn from you.  He may watch you and listen to you as you serve parents, children and the CM team.  He may listen to you as you share the “fruit” of the CM in announcements during the service.


It is critical for you to understand that every ministry under the senior pastor may believe that their ministry is the most important in the church.  Your senior pastor’s job is not an easy one! He is challenged to support every ministry, and to make every ministry feel important. Sometimes the greatest thing you can do is to do your best as a leader in the CM. If the senior pastor doesn’t have to worry about the children, you are blessing him!  For more help in understanding the setting of the children’s ministry, click on the APPENDIX link below.

Visit other articles in the “Understanding Your Ministry Setting APPENDIX”

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