One of the biggest issues I've noticed as a Church Youth Leader is that some students think that because I am in a position to lead in the Church, I must, therefore, have all the answers. Many, no matter the age, do this with their pastors as well.
As a Youth Minister for right at 3 years now, (and another 2 as an intern), I can honestly tell you this:
No, I do not know everything. No, I do not have all the answers. And no, I do not claim to be all-knowing of everything that has to do with God. And I don't think I ever will. As someone who is naturally wanting to have all the answers, this was difficult for the younger me to be okay with. But now, I am very much at peace.
CHURCH LEADERS ARE NOT GOD, AND THAT'S A GOOD THING.
In an American church system where we permanently lift up and praise the pastors we love and make them near-celebrities, it's easy to see how we can find these leaders to be the one authority on everything dealing with our faith.
We, as the church, like what they say, enjoy how they serve, we love the direction they are taking the congregation. So we trust them. And the more these things happen, the more the trust builds. And that's a good thing most of the time.
But the problem comes when we put these people on pedestals. We expect them to continually feed us spiritually. They are seen as the one with all the answers. They are the ones we go to for our relationship with God. We go to them before we pray, or read scripture, or reflect. And then, without us even realizing it, they can get put before God Himself.
I've seen students doing this with both myself and other leaders. In fact, I even did this with one of my former pastors. Many of us have. And knowing all of my issues and struggles I still go through, this sometimes made me wince. It's like they expected me to play the role of God for them. And that's not healthy for any of us.
The truth is, all of us, both church leaders and the congregation, are called to live in a way that can help us reduce this pedestal problem.
WE ARE ALL CALLED TO HUMILITY WITH GOD.
This is not easy for every church leader. When we are lifted up with more praises than we know what to do with, there can be a tendency within to bask in that sunlight. This can cause our heads to grow a little bit bigger and our hearts a little bit prouder.
But it is very clear, over and over again, that we were meant to humble ourselves before God.
In Matthew 26, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He asked a few of the disciples to join Him because He needed support. The weight of what was about to happen, being crucified on the cross and taking all the sins of humankind upon Himself, was about to crash into reality. He had a community of a few of His friends, a church, around Him. But He didn't go strictly to them for help or guidance or strength. He went to the One person above all, that He knew could help Him. He went to God The Father. He prayed and communicated as He dealt with this heavy moment.
This is just one of hundreds of Christ's example of humility.
Knowing that before He can go to our friends or our community or even the people we think highly of, He must go to God.
God is greater than all of us and is above all of us. He has the first and the last say. He is the Creator of You and Me. God is the almighty good of existence. And we should put Him before anything or anyone.
And that includes our church leaders.
SO THEN WHAT'S THE POINT OF CHURCH LEADERS AT ALL?
We all have a call and spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit. I know one of mine is to preach, teach, minister and share the Good News of Jesus to young people. Many others have a similar call, with different types of people with the same or even different gifts.
Church leaders are meant to help you along in your faith. They are meant to bring you into a relationship with Jesus Christ. They are meant to lead you into worship with Our Great God as the Spirit of God leads them. Not just through a Sunday morning service, but also through guidance and their example. They are meant to be present with you so that you have someone to go to who might be able to lead you to a better place in your relationship with God.
So go to them. Speak to them. Give them encouragement. Tell them what you're struggling with. Give them things you need prayers for. Grow in your faith through the helpful steering of their leadership.
Just don't put them first.
We as church leaders don't know it all. And that's a good thing.
Because it brings us all back to the One who does. Our Maker. Our Savior. Our eternal guide. Our true Leader of the Church.