I believe that every person should do something that they love, and for me, that’s being a youth pastor. As a youth pastor, I work with some of the most incredible teens on the planet and love every minute of it. Well, most minutes of it. Sure, it involves a lot of late nights, exhausting trips, and random conversations about video games, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. When you watch a large portion of your group having a consistent quiet time with God, and they text you to ask what you, their pastor, needs prayer for, it makes you realize why you do what you do. Being a youth pastor is not an easy job, but seeing lives changed makes it all worth it. I am 24 years old and 11 months into my first full-time ministry position and one of the biggest things I have learned is that there is nothing quite like being a youth pastor. Very few people will understand what you do or why you do it, but maybe that’s what makes it so important. And when you desire this life, the life of a youth pastor, you desire a very noble task. Here are just a couple of thoughts on looking for a youth ministry position.
- Youth ministry will be your ministry.
This sounds very obvious but let me explain what I mean. As a youth pastor, teens will be your ministry. They will be your life. You will text them, talk to them, build friendships with them, hang out with them on the weekend, and the list could go on, but the point is that at the heart of all of this, is discipleship. Your goal as their youth pastor should be to help them grow into the image of Christ because of the love they have for God. I cannot stress how important this is when looking for a ministry position. When you are looking, always consider the kind of church you are looking at.
Do they have a solid vision?
Does the pastor preach the Gospel regularly?
Are they more concerned with their hearts than their appearances?
Would you raise your own kids in that church?
Will they be okay with how you do ministry? (Music standards, dress codes, rules, etc.)
Will you be excited about and enjoy worshipping in their services?
Will you be discipled by the senior pastor?
Your youth ministry will affect the church, and the church will affect your youth ministry. The question is, will they conflict or support each other. Please understand that there is no perfect church out there, but just make sure that you can effectively do ministry at the church you are looking at.
- Youth ministry will be your job.
Now, I certainly understand that in some cases, youth pastors are part-time or even volunteer, so this will not apply to them as much as it will to those seeking a full-time position. If you are looking for a full-time position, consider this: your ministry is your job. This fact plays out very importantly in searching for and accepting a position.
- Prepare an impressive resume. Just like any other job, you should approach the search process very professionally. Prepare a resume that looks professional and personal. When your possible boss has finished looking through your resume, you want him to immediately think of you as someone who is both authentic and qualified. Once you have this resume ready, send it out to every pastor and ministry leader you know.
- Be ready to wait. Finding a ministry position, just like any other job, takes time. Sometimes a position will fall in your lap, but most times it will be a very long process of interviews, visits, questions and answers, etc.
- Finances are extremely important. I know that you probably just squirmed in your computer chair, but please hear me out. The church has for far too long accepted the idea that youth pastors don’t need to make money because they are just a youth pastor. However, your ministry will be your means of providing for your family. I’m certainly not advocating that you demand an extravagant lifestyle, but simply that you consider the financial aspects of a job before you take it. Will your family be able to live comfortably on your salary alone? Will the church provide insurance? Will they match social security? Will they help you pursue a college or Master’s degree? I guarantee that this will be an awkward conversation if you have to bring it up, but you must bring it up. I would not recommend doing it at the beginning of the interview process (Unless they want to!), but definitely before you candidate.
- Hard work is a must. As a youth pastor, you are walking into a profession that has a lot of negative opinions. People in our own churches will think that we don’t have a “real job” or do anything all day long. To counteract this, I would highly recommend setting personal standards in place before you take a position. Set definite office hours and use the time to get as much studying and preparing done as you can. Show up early for services and youth group activities so that you are ready to go when the time hits. Be willing to help out with other areas of ministry that you have talent, as long as it doesn’t cut into your main ministry.
- Leave work at work. As a youth pastor, your wife will have to be very understanding. Youth ministry can happen 24 hours a day and there will certainly be times where you are pulled away from your family and personal time to do ministry; however, all of our normal ministry tasks (Studying, Planning, Etc.) should be done at the office. When we come home, our wives and kids should be the focus of our attention. I strongly encourage you to leave work at work as much as possible. Neglecting to do this will hinder your ministry by causing stress in your marriage. If your wife hates your ministry, you either need to change work habits or look for a new position.
If I had to sum up my thoughts with one sentence it would be some advice that I received when looking for a position. Ask A LOT of questions. Asking questions will go a long way to finding a good ministry fit for you.
David Sheldon currently serves as Youth Pastor at Freedom Baptist Church in Goldsboro, NC. He is also enrolled at Piedmont International University in their Master of Arts program for Biblical Studies. You can connect with David on Facebook.