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Published on December 29th, 2011 | by markus

It’s time for Change, how Churches handle Youth Ministry

I have been observing this for some time now and I am astonished to continue reading about the struggle. 
Obviously I am writing from a German and “far away” perspective. So, who am I to even raise my voice…? 
But I still feel the solidarity to raise the awareness in this matter. 
I like to appeal to churches to rethink how they define success in ministry and how they treat real people that give their lives for young people in the local context of congregations! 
Let’s start talking about it… 
Yours 
Markus Eichler 
Schulstr 5 
73265 Dettingen unter Teck 
Germany

Ben Read

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the problem with young youth pastors , and in that post, I stated that the problem is its hard for youth pastors to do ministry from a long term frame of mind.

But the more I sort of thought through this problem the last few weeks, the more I am realizing that although much of the blame lies on the young youth pastor him or her self, that unfortunately, quite a bit of the blame also needs to be placed on churches.

Now not all churches are guilty in this instance. But for the most part, there are many churches who do nothing but to contribute to this “Get quick results” mindset, and it happens before they ever even hire a youth pastor.

From both my own experience working in and being interviewed by churches, as well as just now doing a quick survey of job postings to see if it is still true, there are two things churches do that, in my mind, ruin the longevity of a youth pastor before he even accepts the Job.

First, talk about numbers. A lot. When writing your job posting to send out to the likes of church staffing or pastor finder, make sure you predominately display just how large your church is and how long it took to get there. Nothing tells a Youth Pastor “We understand that building a Youth Ministry takes time” quite like saying “We grew from 60 to over 1,000 in less than 10 years, and if you haven’t done the same, don’t even bother applying.”

Even those youth pastors who don’t necessarily apply are then struck with this idea that if they want a Youth Ministry job, they better work at numbers.

Second, and really, this is the one that I think does the most damage to young youth pastors. Do a “Trial Period” or “Probationary Period” with a new hire. Whatever you call it, an unfortunately large amount of churches have an allotted amount of time written in to a job description that, from the date of hire, they will re-evaluate the hire at the end of this amount of time to make sure its whats best for everyone involved.

The first problem with this it shows that, if you really need this time, maybe you didn’t spend enough time praying about the decision to hire the person in the first place.

The second problem with these trial periods is that, even if you as a church just want to make sure there is Chemistry between the new staff person and the existing Church body, to that new staff person, this subconsciously communicates “I have X amount of time to prove myself.

I think every Youth Pastor has probably heard the Legend of Doug Fields (I’m not even sure if its true or not, Ive never actually read it, I’ve just heard so many youth pastors talk about it). The Legend has it that when he was interviewing at Saddleback, he told Rick Warren to not expect anything out of the youth group for at least 5 years, and Rick Warren gave him the job. Or something like that.

And of course Doug Fields did incredible things. Because A| he’s Doug Fields, he literally wrote the book on Youth Ministry. But B|, and in my mind, more importantly for the rest of us, he had a Sr. Pastor and elders that believed in him and understood the idea of nurturing a Ministry.

Though I am sure Doug would have gone on to have still done what God did through him had Rick told him no, the rest of us are not Doug Fields, and the rest of us don’t get to work for Rick Warren.

But as someone who has had to overcome that pressure of a probationary period, I prayerfully plead with churches embarking on a search process to refrain. Do EVERYTHING you can to set your new youth pastor up for success, and start doing it before you even get his resume. 

Ben Read has been mentoring youth since he was 18 years old. He grew up as a pastor’s son, but he and his siblings devoted to breaking that stereotype. Committed to being a life-long learner, Ben understands that in the grand-scheme of things, he knows nothing, but is also a firm believer that God can and does work in people’s lives before the age of 30, its one of the reasons he loves Youth Ministry. Ben met his wife, Sarah, while they attended Liberty University, and they currently serve youth in the small town of Trenton, IL , about a half hour away from St. Louis.

More from Ben Read or visit Ben at www.smalltownstudentministry.com

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