There are a lot of different hats that we wear when leading students, from bus driver to fundraising champion, to cook,to first aid attendant, to counselor. But the two hats I find I wear most often are Pastor and Advocate. Stay with me here, because I strongly believe these are two roles that we have to perform, but require different skill sets and both are needed to lead effectively.
Pastor: Although the word only appears in the New Testament one time (Ephesians 4:11) it in many ways is the primary function of what we do. We lead and shepherd our students, leaders and parents week in and week out. This is such a rewarding and meaningful part of my role in the Church as we get to experience people encountering God is such a real way. I am called to be a Youth Pastor, to invest in our students and champion their cause in the Church. I cheer them on, intentionally pastor their leaders to foster spiritual growth of our students as well. The challenge is that sometimes making decisions that affect people, potentially negatively is difficult with my Pastor hat on because the pastor in me loves harmony and values shepherding, so its then I have to go into advocate mode.
Advocate: When I am in advocate mode, things are different and here is why. My role at the Church is to be the Pastor of High School Students and that means advocating for the needs of each student. The question I am constantly asking is, what do these students need from me, from their leader, from our youth group in order to grow in their relationship with God? I met with one of our leaders recently who had been slipping in his commitment to his small group and the results were obvious. When we sat down, the conversation quickly got to reminding this leader what it is that his students need from him:
- A leader that calls them each week and checks in and invites.
- A leader that engages them at youth and takes an interest in their life
- A leader that commits to praying for them
- A leader that shows up EVERY week.
I was firm, not harsh but reminded him that I am looking out for the needs of the students entrusted to me, and asked simply, “can you be the leader that these students need you to be?” Its was an honest question, and framed this way that leader could say yes, or no. Had they said no it would be understandable why we would need to find someone else to fill that role.
The same is true with events, retreats and camps as well when we ask, is this event the best things for the spiritual development of our students? Sure its fun, and well attended, but is there something that could be more effective.
When it comes to making tough decisions, its always with my advocate hat on, because when I am in that mode, I am more willing to take on challenges and situations that when I am in Pastor mode I might let linger. We owe it to our students to provide for them what they need, which is not always what they want at the time. My experience has been that leaders respond well to the challenge and as a team are more understanding of changes when framed within the cause of growth of our students.
GS – (TWITTER)