This guest post is from Kevin Patterson. Kevin is the Youth Pastor at FBC Dawson Springs, Kentucky. He blogs at Life in The Youth Ministry Fishbowl
“Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small – communities
All my friends are so small town
My parents live in a same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity, hey!
Educated in a small town
Taught to fear Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another born romantic that’s me”
‘Small Town’ by John Cougar Mellencamp
The small town! The bane of my wife’s life. See my wife is from Cincinnati OH. She loves the big city and the anonymity it provides. The one things that she hates about where we live is the fact that everyone knows everyone else’s business. There is a certain level of stress that comes with living in a small rural community and serving as a pastor that bigger cities don’t have. I can guarantee you that outside of the audience on this blog and my own and my own church not many people could tell you who the youth minister of First Baptist Church Dawson Springs is. That is until I mess up.
Like it or not, if you are a pastor in a small town or rural area you are a public figure. People may not know your name but if you mess up, they will never forget it. This was never more apparent than in our community over the past few weeks. We had a minister get relieved due to the comments his wife made in the local newspaper. These comments did not line up with the stance of our denomination. I’m not arguing wether she was right or wrong, but she obviously did not use common sense before publishing her editorial column in the local paper. Any Southern Baptist pastor could have told you the outcome of this article was not going to be in her husbands favor. Not many people knew who the music minister of this church was outside of the church or who his wife was. Not everyone does. Between the mudslinging of the local newspaper and the mishandling of the situation by the church, everyone in the community has a bad taste in their mouth.
What are some tips I could give my readers about this?
1: Be careful of what you put out there.
You are always on the record! “off the record” does not exist and is a ploy used by journalists to get you to lower your defenses. Even if you don’t agree with a denominational decision or a decision by your church, always remember you are a representative of your church and your comments will be taken as the official stance of your church. Think before you speak! Put nothing in the newspaper or on Facebook that you don’t want seen. Anything you say can and will be used against you, guaranteed!
2: Make decisions as a family!
I cannot control my wife. She’s such a strong willed person I wouldn’t even try! However, because we are a team and we love each other, she would make no comment that would compromise my ministry or my position as a pastor. I would also make no comment to compromise my wife. My wife has had some experiences in her life that make great stuff for sermon illustrations. I will not however use stories from her life that were told to me as her husband just for a pop in a sermon, at least not without her okaying it.
3: Remain unknown.
It’s a odd thing as a youth pastor. I know by blogging and doing training events etc that my name is out there. People will know who I am and know what I do. The best thing though is remain unknown. If you stay off the front page of the paper (at least for bad stuff) and your making an impact for the Kingdom of God, the my friend I would say you have a very successful ministry!
4: Follow procedure.
If your church has a procedure for firing someone or relieving a volunteer, follow it! The less of a knee jerk reaction you have to a situation and the more you follow procedure the better off you will be. Because you can count on this, if you don’t follow procedure, it will be front page news and your church will usually not be the better for it. This is not to say you cannot protect yourself. If I had a situation where I had to relieve a volunteer for something inappropriate, I’m not going to wait to confer with the senior pastor to protect my students. I will separate that person from the students to protect them, and then I will consult the senior pastor. Another thing to always remember is this:
“17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3: 17 HCSB