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Working and Partnering with Young Youth Pastors

09.25.2014 posted by Chris Marchand


So you’re a volunteer. You’ve been helping and working in your church’s youth ministry for countless years. You’ve invested time, energy, and money to see God’s work continue to move forward. You’ve been volunteering your time to help lead the ministry, but the work is just too much, and the elders have decided that in order for the ministry to move forward you need the help of a professional.

A search committee is formed. The job description is posted. Hundreds of résumés flood the search committee inbox or maybe even your inbox. You sift through applicants. You screen. You call. You interview. You find someone that has the right educational background and since your church is a medium sized church you really cannot afford someone as seasoned and experienced. So you extend a calling to a young wide-eyed fresh out of Bible college graduate. They come, and you’re at your first ministry meeting of the year. On one side of the room, the long-term volunteer veteran and the other side stands the wide-eyed inexperienced youth ministry graduate (possibly unmarried and no kids). He or she opens their laptop with their snazzy PowerPoint presentation complete with handouts and then leads the group in the new changes that will be coming soon to this ministry. Some heads nod, some excitement begins to develop, but the volunteer veteran just pictures images of his boyhood home being destroyed or old yeller being shot as this young youth pastor just continues to destroy everything they have spent years building.

Let’s get ready to rumble!!!!!

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. However, the scenario above isn’t that uncommon. How on earth are you going to work with this young whippersnapper youth pastor? Some just get fired. Some end up quitting. Is that really the best practice though? Is there anything that can be done to help? Let’s venture into the mind of this young youth pastor to help you better understand from where they are coming and maybe where they want to go. Here are some thoughts to help you work alongside a young youth pastor.

1. They just dropped 80,000 dollars on an education. Imagine that you go to an expensive European car dealership. You purchase your dream car. Then you’re told that after the sales agreement is signed that the car will be put into a warehouse until you’re thirty-five. WHAT?!?! That makes no sense. You want to drive the car. You’ve been waiting for this moment. Some young youth pastors probably feel the same. They’ve spent quite a bit of money on an education that trains them to be professional youth workers. They want to use the skills they have been spending the past four years acquiring. However, their skills still have tremendous room to grow. Your youth pastor is going to be eager to get in and “fix” everything that’s wrong with the ministry. To be honest, that’s probably why your elders hired him or her to some degree. You can help them and yourself by doing everything you can to create a space for him or her to grow and develop these skills even further. However, like an adult in the room you’re also going to need to intervene gracefully when damage begins to occur.

2. This is not their last stop. Most youth workers have their eye on a Senior Pastor position some day. Why? It’s not that they don’t like youth ministry although that can be
the case. If they want a family and unless you’re the next mega-church youth pastor sensation then you’re going to need to find additional means of income. Most youth pastors earn a living just above the poverty line in this country. Most cannot even afford to live in the communities they have been called in to serve. Some simply don’t want to be youth workers forever. However, a youth pastor job is and has been a door into the local church to gain much-needed ministry experience. You need to understand that a big chunk of their unspoken desire right now is to gather that experience and build something that will work and that they can show to a Senior Pastor search committee some day. You have a tremendous opportunity to pour into their lives and help them grow. While they may say and do things that will bug the tar out of you please recognize that God may have placed them in your life so that you can be their Obi-wan or mentor. They may not stay forever, but when they leave make sure they leave better than when they arrived. That’s just good Kingdom work!

3. They have something to prove. Remember your first job? Remember being low on the totem pole? Remember being that first-year teacher? You work you butt off trying to get ahead and earn respect. I remember an older youth pastor who gave me some sage words of advice. He said, “Chris, nobody will care what you have to say until you’re at least thirty-five. However, even with that certain reality don’t you dare let up a single ounce of passion. You keep the pedal to the floor and throttle up.” These young youth pastors have something to prove, and when you have a tremendous amount of passion with the need to prove one’s self then, that’s a perfect recipe for things to get messy. Honestly, some messy can be diverted by simply speaking some encouraging and truthful words into this young person’s life. They do have something to prove, but then you did as well. Instead of sitting on the sidelines and critiquing their performance sincerely ask them what they’re chasing after and be brave and bold enough to run after it with them.

What about you? What have you done to partner with your young youth pastor and work alongside him or her?

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