3 Reasons Youth Pastors Should Continue Their Education
Jen’s post below is a great reminder of all we can learn from each other when we gather together. Join us at the National Youth Workers Convention this fall in Cincinnati, OH to connect with and learn from the full family of youth workers.
Between ordering pizza, taking late-night phone calls, and trying to partner with parents, going back to school can be the last thing on any youth worker’s mind. Most of us work more than 40 hours a week and spend our extra time supporting our teens at sporting events or concerts. You may feel as if you’re spending so much time doing ministry that you can’t stop to learn about different ways to minister to your students. But if you choose to continue your education, it will change the way that you think about youth ministry and the practical ways you engage with teenagers.
If you work with young people for more than a few hours, you’ll start to notice that teenagers are often extremely complex people. Some of them are ready to have deep theological conversations, and some of them are just trying to survive life’s chaos and aren’t ready to dig deeper. Navigating the waters of youth ministry is difficult but rewarding. Why not make yourself the best that you can be?
Continuing your education might look different depending on where you are in life. For me, it meant attending seminary, but maybe you’re interested in taking one class on the side or getting a different degree. Regardless of the path you take, there will be benefits to your continued education. Here are my top three reasons you should continue your education:
You will have a better library of resources.
When I walk into any pastor’s office, the first things I notice are the books. Many of us use iPads or Kindles to read, but I still always look at the books on the shelves. They tell a story about what kind of pastor sits in that office. Some pastors have only theology books, and some pastors only have books on practical ministry. Whatever classroom experience you choose, you can learn from a new set of resources.
If you often find yourself encountering questions you have a difficult time answering, it might be time to go back to school. Not only will you get to have discussions with your peers about issues the church is facing, you’ll also have recommendations from professors about which books and resources you should have on hand. You will still encounter difficult questions that will cause you to stop and think, but you’ll be better equipped to answer them with God’s grace.
You’ll learn greater networking and leadership skills.
Networking can be a scary concept for many youth pastors who feel isolated in their own little bubbles (even though there are six other churches within a mile of the church where they serve). The very best youth pastors have a few people they can bounce ideas off of to make their events, questions, and lessons more richly affect teenagers.
Attending classes with others who serve teenagers and have a passion for helping them follow Jesus will kick-start your networking base. It will also encourage you to find new youth pastors to pour into. This will mean that you will network, learn, and lead all at once. If you continue your education in a classroom setting, you’ll be encouraged to seek more knowledge and guidance, and you’ll gain confidence to pour into other youth pastors who face some of the very same struggles you do.
You’ll have newfound confidence and passion for teaching.
When you learn things that help you better understand the Bible, it will build up your confidence for teaching it to others, and your students will see your passion for uncovering what the Bible has to offer. Your confidence and passion for teaching will help your teenagers become more confident and passionate followers of Christ.
When you continue your education, you’ll spend at least a few hours a week digging deeper into the Bible with others who’ll challenge and stretch you. For me, this was the most threatening thing about going back to school, but I know that if I can uphold my beliefs in a classroom of my peers, I can explain biblical principles to the teenagers and parents who ask me questions about the Bible. This confidence will help you teach without as much anxiety, because you’ll know that you can rightly proclaim God’s word in a format that’s interesting and easy to understand.
Youth pastors are sometimes stereotyped as liabilities to the church rather than actual ministers. There’s nothing wrong with pulling a good prank every once in a while as long as you’re offering your students sound biblical teaching. You’re a real and important pastor who can learn and inspire others to do the same. You no longer have an excuse to put off those classes you’ve been thinking about. Continue your education as a youth pastor—start a new stereotype.
Jen Willard is a full time youth pastor in Charlotte, NC where she lives with her husband, Bryan. She is currently attending Nazarene Theological Seminary to obtain a Masters of Divinity. Jen is a coffee snob, beach addict, and travel enthusiast who loves walking with teenagers toward Jesus! Find me on Instagram and Twitter as @DuckJD.
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.