As a youth pastor, as much as you might like to be the one who’s in charge of your church, you’re not. Whether it’s another person in the youth ministry or an associate or senior / lead pastor, you’ve got a boss who directly supervises you.
One of the best things you can do for that relationship is to learn what you should report to your boss and when.
Right about now, you might be wondering: “Isn’t it my job to problem solve? Shouldn’t I be trying to keep things off my boss’s radar?”
Well yes… And no.
Here’s what I mean.
My first year in ministry, I led a mission trip that went horribly wrong. One of our adult leaders said something that deeply offended a number of our students. Those students promptly called home and proceeded to tell their parents what had happened. Before long, those parents called our senior pastor (my boss) and told him what had happened.
By the time we returned home, I’d worked with my team to resolve the conflict. Unfortunately, that part of the story never made it home.
So I arrived home to an irate group of parents and a boss who was ready to fire me for my gross incompetency.
While I’d successfully resolved the conflict on the ground, that didn’t matter because I’d failed to report ANY of it – both the conflict AND its resolution – to my boss. With no information from me, he could do only one thing: Believe the one-sided story he was hearing from the parents.
That botched reporting incident has deeply shaped me and helped me learn what to report to my boss and when to do it.
Nowadays, any time there is a serious conflict in my ministry (especially one that has the potential to escalate), I let my boss know as it’s happening, not just when it’s been resolved. Doing so does three things.
Reporting conflict allows me to control the story and to tell my boss what’s happening from my perspective.
Reporting conflict keeps my boss from being caught off guard by a frustrated parent, student, or parishioner. Information allows my boss to better respond, support me, and sometimes, defend me to angry parishioners. Information also unifies my colleagues and I. Although we’re responsible for different aspects of church programming, we work together and keep one another informed about what’s going on in our ministries.
Reporting conflict gives my boss the chance to help. Sometimes, this means my boss can call me out (in private) about something I’ve mishandled. It also allows my boss to help troubleshoot the conflict. This can be especially important if your boss has been at your church longer than you have. In that instance, they know the players better than you and can often provide you with unique insights in regard to how to deal with a particular person.
In addition to reporting conflict, I also let my boss know about any injuries that occur at youth ministry events, any property destruction that occurs (we’re in youth ministry… it happens), as well as upcoming events and topics of discussion. Essentially, my goal in reporting is to keep my boss in the loop so they are never sideswiped by information they should have heard from me.
Since I never want to create the perception that our youth ministry is nothing but trouble, whenever I have something negative to report, I try to balance it out with something positive, like a way that I’ve seen God recently move in our youth ministry.
In the 14 years since my failure to report something I should have, I’ve learned that reporting up has never made my boss question my competency. Instead, reporting up has always led to guidance, support, and the formation of genuine community.