To me, the other ministers — the youth minister, worship minister, education minister, etc. — are critically important but not as important as the preacher. The way American churches do church, you can’t get around a bad fit in the pulpit.
But the other ministers will rarely be ideal, will often be very young, and will always need coaching.
You need to have a concrete, specific, written plan for who coaches whom. My preference is that the preacher serves as the coach for the other ministers (except in a very large church, where you might have an executive minister hired to do this). I mean, the preacher is there every day, most of the day. He’s in a position to truly mentor and coach the other guys. And because he’s in the elders’ meetings, he can see that the elders policies are known and followed.
Many preachers hate this sort of responsibility — but if he won’t take it on, there’s not a good plan B — and the result is almost always a siloed congregation, that is, a church where each minister pursues his own agenda — and we’ve covered silos already.
The alternatives are —
- No one supervises the ministers. Of course, this means your 23-year old youth minister will have no boss — and that’s obviously crazy and not good for him at all, as much as he may like the idea. The elders will wind up embarrassed over something. Someone may get hurt. (I have stories.)
- A deacon or other individual ministry leader might be charged to supervise each minister. This can be awful or, when the deacon has a passion for the ministry (not the minister, the ministry) and some wisdom and experience, it can work — especially if the deacon/ministry leader is empowered by the elders to really coach the guy.
- A committee can be formed to oversee the minister. This never, ever works because the minister winds up chairing the committee and telling them what to do. They are never really empowered to supervise him — and committees cannot be supervisors. It just doesn’t work to have to have a meeting and take vote before counseling the minister on how he might be a better teacher or whatever.
- An elder can be charged with the supervision of the minister — and I’ve never seen this work. I’ve seen elders and ministers get very close and form intense emotional bonds, but I’ve not seen a ministry thrive under the coaching of an elder. Elders are too busy — and can’t both oversee, say, the campus ministry and do everything elders should do.
- The elders as a whole can supervise the minister, and at least it’ll be clear who is supervising whom, but this is not what elders know how to do, and few can invest the time needed to truly coach and mentor a young minister. I mean, I can see the elders talking policy and such, but real mentoring is one-on-one and involves being available when the minister needs help. It’s not committee work.
- You can combine any of the foregoing with giving a young minister a mentor from another congregation — such as a senior, experienced youth minister to help coach the young pup you just hired. This is in fact often happening at the youth minister’s initiative, and actually helps a lot. At least the minister is being coached by someone who really understands what he’s trying to do.
- You can assign a retired elder to coach the young minister. But this only works if the retired elder actually knows how to do that kind of ministry correctly. So it depends on the type of ministry and the skill set of the retired elder.
The problem with most of these models is that you can’t coach someone to do something you don’t know how to do. Some churches are blessed to have members who were once youth ministers or worship ministers and who actually have the experience and skills to mentor someone. But even they can’t be there when his advice and counsel is most needed.
Hence, I find myself more and more inclined toward the preacher as mentor, coupled with some outside mentors from other churches who’ve gotten a few years in and can be a source of wisdom and advice. Of course, all this requires that the mentors agree with the elders/preacher on the philosophy of the young minister’s ministry.
That is, if the preacher believes in Orange and the young minister does not, then the elders need to support the preacher and Orange (a philosophy of children’s and youth ministry I strongly agree with), and the youth minister needs to get on board. But he shouldn’t have been hired without being told that this is an Orange church and that he’ll be expected to do things the Orange way.
The youth minister may well have a four-year degree in youth ministry. If so, he’ll not care to be told by an inexperienced, untrained deacon how to do his job. And so ministry philosophy really has to be discussed as part of the job interview process. It would be very unfair to hire a minister to do his job in a way contrary to what he believes is best. Again: fit matters.
Most elderships don’t really keep up with theories of how to do youth or other types of ministry and just assume that these guys all have the same approach, and that anyone with a good heart can supervise him. But there’s actually been quite a lot of thought given to how to do many types of ministry — especially children’s and teen’s ministry. So whatever you do, be sure that the teen minister’s supervisor knows enough to recognize a good program when he sees it. You may even pay for him to attend some seminars along with the minister.
I confess that I’ve not found the ideal solution here in theory or practice. I’d be interested in hearing from ministers who’ve experience different supervisory models. What works? What helps? What should be fled?