2 Lies About Longevity in Youth Ministry
Here’s the challenge that every youth pastor faces: we dream big. Extreme is the name of our youth ministry, and we live our lives 200% committed—even in the face of resistance and tension. We define ourselves by the identity of “youth pastor” and all that it encompasses. A life goal becomes standing on the stage at the National Youth Workers Convention as the guy who’s been in youth ministry longer than anyone else.
We also know the serious damage caused when a youth pastor chooses to bail simply because of opposition within the ministry, or a desire to climb the ministry ladder. Fidelity is how we choose to counter-act it all, and there is a great need for fidelity in ministry. After all, fidelity is essential to create stability, trust, and healthy ministries—even when there are difficulties in your ministry or disagreements with your senior pastor or supervisor. But there are times when our commitment to the youth pastor identity and our battle-cry of “fidelity” can get in the way of God’s calling on our lives. It is possible that we forget that God calls us first to himself, and that calling may or may not manifest itself as a calling into youth ministry specifically. This can build into lies about youth ministry longevity:
Lie #1 – You should be a “lifer” in youth ministry.
If you’re getting into youth ministry, go all in. If you don’t go into youth ministry thinking you’re in it for the long haul, then don’t do it at all.
Lie #2 – You should never think of youth ministry as a stepping stone.
Those who use youth ministry as a stepping-stone are simply “doing their time” in a less valuable ministry.
Do those sound familiar? If you’ve run in any youth ministry circles, chances are you’ve heard some version of one of these. They sound noble and honorable—they just aren’t true. Here’s what’s true:
Truth #1 – Not everyone is cut out to be in youth ministry forever.
To be a good youth pastor takes a lot of time and energy—it takes being in the trenches of life with teenagers. Sometimes passions change. Sometimes the ability to give the necessary time and focus changes. Sometimes youth pastors simply age out of youth ministry.
Truth #2 – Youth ministry is a great place to start.
Let’s be honest, in many cases it’s more reasonable for a 22-year-old college grad to step into ministry pastoring teenagers. And is it such a bad thing to think about youth ministries raising up great pastors? What if we were able to look around our churches and celebrate all of the former youth pastors doing great things for the kingdom?
Be careful not to get sucked into the lies lurking around these truths.
Just because someone starts in youth ministry doesn’t make youth pastor an entry-level job or the place we put the less-qualified pastors. Just because a youth pastor goes on to do other ministry doesn’t negate the validity of youth ministry.
I once heard a senior pastor refer to himself as a “youth pastor for big people.” My hope is that there are many youth pastors who stay in youth ministry for a long, long time. But let’s make sure to celebrate all the youth pastors for big people.
ROB BERGMAN is the Pastor of Youth Ministries at The Crossing, a multi-site church in St. Louis, MO. Rob has served in youth ministry for 15 years and has a passion for leading, strategizing, and teaching students, volunteers and other youth pastors. Through those passions he has had the privilege of writing, speaking, and coaching through various national and global youth ministry organizations. He is married to Rachel and they have two elementary aged kids, Caden and Claire. You can keep up with him online on Instagram @rgb.3 or twitter @robbergman.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.