Why Church Expectations for a Youth Minister May Be Unrealistic and How to Change Them – Baptist News Global

For several years, as associate professor Teaching youth ministry classes and directing the Center for Church and Community at Campbell University, I’ve received inquiries that go something like this: “We are looking for help finding youth ministry in our church. . Could you please share names of candidates with us and share the opportunity with your networks? Experience and a seminary degree are preferred.

This led me to recently create a Facebook post on the Center’s page which expressed the following:

Can I be real for a minute? (1) Those who are in youth ministry for the long term do not move much because they have arrived in a place that values ​​them, validates them and pays them fairly. Most youth ministry jobs are considered entry-level (see contradiction with experience and preferred master’s degree). (2) Those just starting out get chewed up and spat out by churches that often aren’t patient with their mistakes, don’t pay them well enough to survive their own life transitions (e.g. a growing family) , or are simply disenchanted with them when the group does not grow.

I am not here to make an accusation, but rather to cite reasons why theological schools of many traditions do not see students coming up with the same zeal for youth ministry as they did years ago. These are broad brush strokes that I paint with, and I hear that as a topic of conversation. It is also a reminder to seeking churches that you are not alone in your frustration.

“Social workers are currently in crisis and at risk of burnout.”

The response to the message revealed a beautiful passion on the part of many who had served as volunteer leaders, called ministers and senior pastors. Youth ministers, volunteer and paid, are a resilient group whose work is at a critical point, as evidenced by recent data collected by The Youth Cartel and Jeremiah Project suggesting that “more than four in 10 youth workers plan to move on or have moved away. in the last two years (outside the ministry). Youth workers are currently in crisis and at risk of burnout.

If this is the backdrop where many youth ministers and ministries find themselves, I offer three topics for further reflection in order to create an environment where thriving is possible. They all start with the simple question (ask, not answer): “What is the ‘why’ of youth ministry in your church?” »

This question is essential for each of the topics, not to mention how you measure whether a ministry is successful or effective. As an aside, ministers, this is a question you should ask when you receive a call to a church to ensure that your calling values ​​and the expectations of the church align.

Help young people to discern vocation and call

Why is the church looking for a youth minister? Is it because you’ve always had one? What is the purpose of this ministry and how will you support it?

The Lilly Endowment helped fund and start theological institutes for high school youth to explore vocation and calling. Campbell’s program, like many others, helps students stand at the intersection of faith and vocation. This type of ministry invites young people to explore and expand their gifts to discern God’s call for their lives.

Krista Hughes, director of an institute similar to Newberry, puts the question of why as follows: “Is it out of fear or desperation because young people are simply not engaged? Or is it out of a genuine desire to create a space of true belonging where young people of all kinds can explore, practice, connect, heal, create, make a difference…?

“Rather than chasing culture, what if the church offered students what ignites their passions by addressing their issues of belonging, calling, and faithfulness?”

This last question is a powerful question that is not based on church numbers or growth, but rather on building the kingdom of God by engaging a generation of young people to experience deep community, a fulfilling life and a theological understanding of who they are called to be and what they are called to do.

Rather than chasing after culture, what if the Church offered students what ignites their passions by addressing their questions of belonging, calling, and faithfulness? Vocational discernment and calling exploration may be the most important work a congregation can do with its young people. This type of ministry requires rethinking not only the why, but also the how.

Rethink staffing

If a congregation values ​​its youth, then the way it recruits and positions its youth ministry must adapt accordingly. There is no perfect model, as each context varies in how it engages young people. This can be a professional, bi-professional or voluntary position. The point is focus and investment, impacting salary, budget and a long-term congregational commitment.

A note on bivocational associate ministers is important. Many of these arrangements are chosen by the minister and flourish, but when a congregation expects this from its associate staff members and not from the senior pastor, it sends a message of value and worth.

“There is a need for more creative efforts to reimagine what God might call our congregations and ministries to nurture the spiritual formation of adolescents.”

Another model comes from United Methodist pastor Jason Butler, calling for youth-based community engagement directors from the churches they serve. A congregation that does this puts the young people of its congregation and community at the center of its “why”. Community partnerships, events, space, and even Sunday mornings take on new energy and direction.

This does not mean abandoning your worship service but rather considering the hospitality of service to welcome young people and the community. With all the consternation over why the fastest growing groups are the “nones” and the “finites,” more creative efforts are needed to reimagine what God might call our congregations and ministries. to promote the spiritual formation of adolescents.

If this is what is valued in our congregations, then a next step is to consider how we demonstrate these values ​​through engagement with our associate pastors and youth ministers.

To feel valued

The best way to express this is through the words of colleagues:

  • “I never felt called away from youth and children’s ministry, but I did feel called to positions that valued my time, my expertise, and my growing family. Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding youth ministry positions that honored these things.
  • “We have a mentality that the associated roles are ‘mere’ stepping stones instead of unique calls on their own. This leads to a whole host of issues when it comes to on-call support, benefits, and even respect.
  • “I feel like youth ministry is a ministry where everyone always feels like they can do it better than the person they actually hired to do the job.”
  • “Other associate ministers or staff are considered ‘less than.’ Often, we do not feel included in a team approach, but rather as subject to authority.
  • “I’d like to see the next generation be able to answer their calls and not feel discouraged and burnt out and ready to throw in the towel after just a few years.”
  • “My experience in youth ministry has been one of constant navigation in search of lifelines and support.”

In the search for youth ministry candidates, I have stated previously that part of the reason the pool is smaller is that people stay where they feel valued. But it’s more than feeling valued personally, professionally and financially; it is also about honoring a covenant relationship.

In traditions where children are baptized or dedicated to the church, the litany includes the congregation making a vow to the family and the child to help them grow, following Jesus and his teachings. Meagan Greene, co-pastor of First Baptist Church in Erwin, NC, asks, “What would our ministries look like if adults (not just parents, but quality human capital) took these promises seriously? I wonder what it would be like if adults realized that their influence in the lives of young people makes such a big difference in their journey of faith. One of the most important things we can do as Christians is to show and teach a child and young person how to follow Jesus. Somewhere along the way, our congregations either forgot about this or chose to outsource spirituality to the children’s pastor and youth pastor (even the associate pastor in many congregations) because it seems like an easy choice.

Preach, Meagan, preach!

Brian Foreman

Brian Foreman is executive director of the Center for Church and Community at Campbell University.

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