Pastors Tell All: How (and When) to Approach Your Pastor

We recently posted 3 Simple Ways to Get Your Pastor to Listen to You. But we wanted to delve into this topic a little deeper. So we asked several senior pastors to weigh in and give us their viewpoint on the matter. Sometimes, in our passion for our kids and volunteers, our mindset can become a little one-sided. If we truly understand our pastor’s perspective, it will only help us communicate better. Here’s what they had to say:

When is the best time to approach you to talk about children’s ministry needs?

One pastor clearly stated the obvious time not to approach him is (you guessed it) on a Sunday! This may seem obvious, but oddly enough, it isn’t. Church members or visitors have been known to snag a pastor right before he gets up to preach, or attempt to grab a “minute” between services to discuss complicated issues. And even after the services are over, pastors are in a special mindset on Sundays.

As staff members, we should have his back on this point–advising others to set up an appointment to discuss matters; we definitely should not be a breaker of this common-sense rule of thumb. Requesting an appointment, and informing him of your intended topic, allows your pastor to properly prepare for your meeting.

Another pastor had this very practical advice:

 “I know for me, re-allocating resources to fund or support a ministry is not always an immediate option because so much of our budget and calendar is committed far in advance. Furthermore, I love to provide resources and prominence to ministries that are bearing fruit. So, in my opinion, the best time to approach a pastor about needs would be several months in advance of budget-planning and around the time of significant fruitfulness from the ministry. For example, if the church celebrates a number of baptisms for children in late summer or fall, it would be great to setup a time with the pastor the following week with a clear plan and requests.”

Consider how this advice might translate to your own church situation. When are budget decisions made? Are you gracefully informing your pastor of the fruit your ministry is experiencing? In the case of budgeting issues, timing is usually key. 

Is there a wrong way to approach a pastor with your ministry needs?

Several pastors were in agreement that approaching them in constant “crisis mode” is a big no-no. They do not want to hear, “If this thing does not happen, the entire church will implode!” Certainly, there are authentic emergencies (like a child has gotten away from a leader, or a child is in an unsafe situation) but to treat a long-term, strategic need as a crisis in order to force action will most likely earn you the nickname of the director-who-cried-wolf. One pastor went as far as to say, “While that approach might generate a response once or twice, in the long run it is (to me) the best way to find yourself looking for another job.”

How do you as a pastor prioritize the needs of the different ministries in your church?

Pastors agree that needs aligning with their church’s goals or mission take top priority. In most cases, we found that goal to be discipleship. One pastor put it this way, “I tend to think about our ministry needs in five big chunks: children, students, adults, worship/production, and cross-cultural mission. As much as possible, we try to make decisions in those areas to be able to facilitate discipleship.” So every need that arises is viewed through the lens of that overarching goal. “If we need to update our website or if we need to renovate a room, I always try to ask, ‘How will this investment help people follow Jesus more?’” 

So, what is the overarching goal of your particular church? What is your church’s specific mission? Aligning your goals and your requests with that mission (and presenting them to your pastor with this perspective in mind) will be most effective.

Another priority cited by pastors is the current health of the ministry. Ministries that have a track record of being wise with resources usually have a leg up on those that don’t. Everyone (including your pastor) wants a good return on investment. This is not referring to a monetary return, but a kingdom one. If a ministry bears fruit, the pastor feels confident meeting the requests of that ministry leader. If the ministry rarely bears fruit, the pastor will be hesitant and will most likely want to investigate further before investing resources there. 

What kind of vision from a children’s director excites you as a pastor?

It was exciting to hear the enthusiasm that our pastors showed in response to this question:

  • Making disciples! 
  • Valuing children! 
  • Letting kids come to Jesus! 
  • Engaging families in the discipleship of their kids!
  • Reaching more kids in the community who aren’t a part of a church!

And they had much to say about recruiting and developing leaders–not just filling volunteer positions. “There must be a healthy balance between structural support for volunteers (so that they don’t have to ‘write a sermon every week’) and challenge for them to engage authentically in the lives of the kids they lead.”

Casting a vision of how profound the impact is when we invest in kids is the beautiful motivation that captivates the heart of adults, but we must give them the tools they need to succeed. “Making disciples in a joyful, well-supported community seems to generate the healthy culture between burnout and boredom.” Developing leaders (through intentional training and personal interaction) allows us to multiply–not only the size of our ministry, but the number of our ministries! 

What is the one thing you wish your ministry leaders knew about your role as pastor?

The pastors we spoke with all shared a common thread, or should I say web? “We find ourselves in a very complicated web of demands and requests from many angles–other ministry leaders within the church, elders, congregation members, budget, etc.” Oftentimes having to say no or wait is not a reflection of the value they place on your ministry. It’s much more about the necessary response to competing demands. 

Senior pastors would like us to remember that they are wearing many hats. “To borrow a sports analogy, pastoring often feels like fulfilling three roles at once: general manager (building the right team within budget), head coach (helping the team ‘play’ well week-to-week), and key player (preaching, ministering, encouraging the flock).” And as much as they do, there is always someone asking more of them. We must be sure to give them grace as much as we want grace given to us. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

We absolutely love this quote and thought you would too!

“I think the key paradigm shift for many pastors is realizing that if they begin to disciple their children, it will strengthen every aspect of their ministry as time goes on. The kids become solid middle schoolers, who then grow into engaged high school leaders and go to college successfully. The adult leaders grow as disciple-makers in the primary discipleship role that God has given to many of them–as parents!”

Can I get an Amen!?

So There You Have It

These are insightful tips and we are very grateful for the pastors who were willing to share them. As a children’s pastor, perhaps one of the most important things you can do to help your kids is to hone in on these important questions: What is the mission of my church? What are my pastor’s priorities? Ask God, “How can I best align with these to be the most grace-filled advocate for our kids?” 

We often feel stress and pressure, but our senior pastors probably feel 100x what we do. Don’t allow Satan to tell you otherwise, or allow one or two discouraging interactions to implant a bitter root (Hebrews 12:15). And far be it from us to ever kick against the goads* (Acts 9:5). Remember, we are all on the same team with the same goals. When you work together, your church environment is so much more enjoyable and conducive to positive change for your ministry. 

*An ox goad was a stick with a sharp iron tip used to prod oxen when plowing. The farmer poked the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the ox would rebel by kicking at the goad, and this would result in the point being driven even further into its skin. The more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered.

Oh, one last thing: One of the pastors we interviewed said he would love to see the flip side of this discussion! In other words, how would children’s directors like their senior pastor to address the needs of kids’ ministry? 

We’d love to hear from YOU! 

Please post your responses so we can keep this conversation going…