Ultimately, we get along so well together for that very reason—because we're companions in ministry. And because we get along well, working together is enjoyable. In the seven years we've worked together, we've had plenty of difficulties in our church environment; but our interpersonal relationship has held fast—something that's been a saving grace in times that might have caused a great deal of conflict in other staff situations.

When conflict has arisen, we've problem-solved together. As our relationship has grown, we've found a bedrock of mutuality that undergirds everything we do. Mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual appreciation are evident in all of our interactions.

Mutual Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship. When one friend trusts another friend, she'll go out of her way to build up and encourage; she'll give her friend the benefit of the doubt; and she'll do her best to be trustworthy in return. When we trust God, we're less anxious about the unknowns in our lives; and we long to live worthy lives in response to God's trust in us.

The youth pastor/senior pastor relationship is no different. When we trust each other, we edify one another. We show appreciation to each other—in private and in public. We don't criticize each other behind the other's back—the emotional equivalent of marital infidelity. Trust is built on being committed to each other and standing by that.

We spend some non-work time together. We don't buy into the notion that personal lives and work lives need to be kept separate and compartmentalized. We realize that, even though we have different roles in the church, fundamentally we're just two people trying to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Spending time together outside of the church leads to a much greater level of trust, and we're convinced that this is much closer to the model of Jesus and his disciples than the corporate approach many churches take.

Because of this continually deepening trust, we also share information. Communication between companions in ministry is vital. It's important that the senior pastor never be blindsided by something that's gone awry (of course, we know nothing ever goes awry when it comes to youth!). The youth pastor needs to let him know upfront rather than wait for him to find out from someone else. If he has already been informed from the youth pastor, when it comes to him from another source he doesn't look ignorant of what's going on. When the pastor sees the youth pastor about to stick his foot in quicksand with the elder board or parents (and we know that never happens either—just theoretically speaking, you understand), the youth pastor will appreciate hearing about it ahead of time. Perhaps it can keep him from having to dig himself out of a hole that he could've avoided.

Mutual Respect

The key to a healthy spiritual life is humility. And the key to long-term successful ministry is to never get to the point where you think you know everything. Or think that just because you're the boss, that means you are in charge. The only one in charge of the church laid down his life for her.

One of the most magnificent things about working with adolescents is their irreverence for worn-out traditions and structures and their passion to create identities and traditions of their own. Many youth workers choose the profession because they share some of that irreverence, and it's important not to allow these tendencies to create an Us vs. Them environment.