But You’re JUST the Youth Pastor…
A lot of us have probably been through this . . .
We’re sitting in a church board or elders meeting. We make a suggestion or weigh in on a major policy issue that’s before the church leadership. Then we hear the response every youth pastor dreads: “Well, that’s great . . . but really, we hired you to work with the teens. Why don’t you just focus on that? That’s really where we need you.”
It can be tough being just a youth pastor. It’s often one of the most underappreciated and disrespected positions on a church staff. You’re often relegated to the basement and expected to serve as a glorified babysitter so that the adults can have “big church” upstairs. It can lead to discouragement or even to a reconsideration of the important calling God has placed on your life.
FIND CONTENTMENT IN YOUR CALLING
How can we make a difference in the church when we’re seen as just youth pastors? How can we serve in the capacity of spiritual leaders to the broader Body of Christ when our position is seen as somehow less than others? It’s a tough one. But it begins with finding a place of security in our calling and contentment in where God has us.
Kevin Lawson writes that a “strong and clear call can help an associate staff member face those pressures” to move up the ladder and can help them find “real satisfaction in [their] ministry in the present, instead of anxiously looking forward to some change in the future.”[i] Put simply, you’ve got to own your call.
The temptation will often be there for many of us to want to move up the ladder. The temptation will also be there to want to play a seemingly more significant role in our churches. But if we, as youth pastors, truly want to make a difference in our churches, it has to start in a place of contentment with where God has called us.
Then we’ve got to know our role.
KNOW YOUR ROLE
We all have roles to play. As youth pastors, our primary role should be pretty clear: we’re there to minister to students and their parents.
We’re not senior pastors. We’re not called to lead the staff or to be the primary spiritual leader in our churches. We’re generally called to be one of those leaders. But, we’re also usually subject to others who are charged to lead us as well. This can be an unenviable place for a leader. We’re charged with leading, but also charged with following the lead of others. It can be particularly tough when we don’t always agree with the decision being made by those who are in leadership over us.
Not only is it important for a youth pastor to be secure in their calling, but it’s also vital that they understand their specific role. We need to understand that not only has God placed us in a specific place, but he has also given us a specific part to play. We’ve got to be constantly aware of—and committed to—that part.
HONOR YOUR SENIOR PASTOR
Perhaps even more important is that we understand and honor the role of those whom God has placed over us: our senior pastors.
When you’re serving in a leadership role other than senior pastor in any church, you’re going to find yourself in spots where you won’t agree with the decisions your senior pastor makes—it’s inevitable. But no matter what, unless your senior pastor is engaging in something that’s grossly immoral, you’ve got to be willing to honor the important part they’ve been called to play. And you must be prepared to fall in line with where God is guiding your pastor.
This can be tough. Because your senior pastor will make decisions you won’t like. I’ve often found myself thinking about David during the time before he was king. No matter how bad things got with Saul—even when Saul was trying to hunt David down—David continued to honor Saul’s important place as God’s anointed.
In the same way, we as church staff members have a responsibility to honor those whom God has placed above us in leadership. If we’re going to make any positive impact in our churches, it won’t happen independent of that.
It’s going to be bumpy at times. Serving God in his church as a youth pastor can be extremely messy. People may look down on you. You may struggle with your senior pastor. You may even go through times when you feel as if you have no impact on the broader church at all. But if you’re secure in your calling, if you understand the part you’re called to play, and if you honor those whom God has placed above you, you will have impact on your local church.
[i] Kevin E. Lawson, How to Thrive in Associate Staff Ministry (Durham: Alban Institute, 2000), 16.
MATT LARKIN serves as the Coordinator of Student & Kids’ Ministries for the Advent Christian General Conference (WWW.ACGC.US). In that role, he serves as a resource and consultant to youth workers and college students all around the United States and globally. You can connect with Matt on Twitter via @MATTWLARKIN.
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.