Exodus 17:8-16 chronicles a battle between Amalek and Israel—a battle in which Israel was victorious. But the favorable outcome of the battle for God’s people resulted not from Israel’s might but rather from the placement of the “staff of God” (17:9). Moses was to stand on the hill overlooking the battle, raising the staff in his hand; Exodus 17:11 records that “whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.” So Moses’ task was easy, right? “Just don’t lower your hand, Moses, and God will lower the boom.” But you try holding your hands above your head for a while; chances are you would not last a few minutes, much less several hours, before your shoulders would start hurting and your arms would begin to go numb. And so it was with Moses: “[his] hands grew weary” (17:12), which meant Israel was bound to lose the fight—until two other men came in and helped save the day. Aaron and Hur “held up [Moses’] hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun” (17:12). And because of Aaron and Hur’s action, the Israelites “overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (17:13).
Moses was God’s chosen leader for the people of Israel at this time. Aaron and Hur could not—and should not—have played the role that Moses had to play. But the beauty of this story is that Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses to support their leader and help him to fulfill his God-given role; in so doing, they were a blessing to God’s people, enabling the Israelites to complete the mission set before them.
Youth pastors likewise have an important role even beyond their calling to reach and disciple teenagers. As would be the case with all ministerial staff members—and with Aaron and Hur before them—one of the best ways youth pastors can serve the local body is by supporting the leadership of their pastor.
Every minister knows the burdens that come with the territory of ministry. But the pastor feels the weight of these burdens even more—because in addition to handling his own problems, he must also to some extent shoulder yours and everyone else’s. The buck has to stop somewhere, and that somewhere is his desk. Your pastor’s burdens—big or small—can eventually feel as heavy as Moses’ staff on the day of battle. That’s why your pastor could certainly use your prayers, but he could also use your support in other ways. Here are three ways you can “hold up his hands”:
Be His #1 Cheerleader.
Any time you get the chance to praise your pastor, do it. I’m not talking about being a kiss-up. I’m just saying that he’s got enough critics, so always make it your aim to build him up in the minds of others. Even if you disagree with him, support him publicly. You and your pastor can have private conversations about your differences if that is necessary. But barring cases of immorality and outright heresy (note: not just secondary doctrinal differences), the congregation should have no idea when you and your pastor are not on the same page.
If someone pulls you to the side and says something demeaning about your pastor, don’t let it slide. Make it clear that you side with your pastor, and then be sure to speak highly of him, showing him the respect that he deserves.
I realize many people are in a context in which this may be difficult. Perhaps your pastor is disrespectful to you or regularly throws you under the bus. Even still, I would say, “Do not return in kind.” Instead, at least show him the honor due the office that he holds and speak respectfully to him and about him. Obviously, in cases of pastoral abuse, the biblical avenues of church discipline should be followed (see Matt 18:15-20). Otherwise, as hard as it may be, seek to be loyal to him despite his disloyalty to you. Trust God to deal with the injustices.
Utilize Your Gifts to His Service.
All of us have different gifts, and each of us has a role to play in the life of the church. God has you on staff at your church for a reason. That reason is not for you to shine or to draw attention to yourself; rather, you are called to serve others, including your pastor. Look for ways that you can come alongside him to enhance and not detract from his ministry. Are you gifted administratively? Volunteer to help bring structure to and implement the details of your pastor’s vision. Are you creative? Submit some ideas for community outreach events or sermon illustrations. Are you good with design? Help boost your church’s digital and social media presence. Are you a good leader? Use your leadership skills to rally others behind the mission of the church. In whatever ways you can, use your gifts in the service of your church and of your pastor.
Don’t Cause Unnecessary Trouble.
Before you act, think about how it might affect your pastor. Sure, there are going to be situations in which you have to take a strong stand with a leader, student, or parent. Those cases are necessary trouble. (However, even when trouble is necessary, give your pastor as much of a heads-up as possible so that he is never blindsided by your actions.)
Nevertheless, so much trouble caused by youth pastors is completely unnecessary. So before you implement that crazy idea or blow off that meeting or wear flip flops to the traditional service or speak into an issue that you have no business speaking into, ask yourself how this might affect your pastor’s leadership and the direction of the church. In your mind, a certain event might be epic, or a certain move might be a progression away from legalistic tendencies in the church. But is this the battle that needs to be fought at this time? And how might the potential fallout from your actions lead to the detriment of God’s work in your church?
Remember: your pastor hired you; you are a reflection on him. Represent him well. And please, for the love of all that is good and holy, help us break the stereotype of the youth pastor being an insensitive, narcissistic, rabble-rousing, impulsive idiot. That’d be awesome.
All of us have different relationships with the pastor of our churches. For some, he’s just a boss. For others, he’s a friend and mentor. And unfortunately for some, he’s an adversary. But for all of us, the call is the same: honor your pastor today. For better or worse, he is the man who has been entrusted by God to lead your church. Hopefully, honoring your pastor will be easy because he is an honorable man. But even if he is not, resolve to honor him if only to honor God. Hold up his hands. Be a blessing to him, and in so doing, you just might help your church fulfill its mission—a mission not to win a military battle but rather to win the souls of many.