The central question of long-time youth minister and youth ministry consultant Mark Riddle's book Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors – A Church Leader's Guide to Staffing and Leading Youth Pastors asks “Why does your church want to hire a youth pastor?” Touching on issues of community, leadership, communication, mentoring, and the value of youth in the church, Inside the Mind is foremost a tool for the local church to use in discerning how to build sustainable ministry to youth.
Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors is divided into two sections, the first of which, “Staffing for Youth Ministry”, directly addresses the questions surrounding the choice and reasons to hire a youth pastor. This includes asking who should be involved in the process, what about the church culture needs to be taken into consideration (and potentially changed), and is addressed to both church leadership and congregations when discussing hiring a staff youth minister.
Inside the Mind's initial chapters are written for church leadership, but the subject matter would be a useful read for a person undertaking a search for a youth ministry position, discerning a call to youth ministry, or wrestling to define the sort of congregation with which they want to serve. Additional chapters in this section raise the question of use and implications of the phrase “catalytic leader” in the search process, and offers the question of what impact new information about the elongation of adolescence ought to have on the consideration of age in the youth pastor hiring decision.
Chapter 10, “Before You Say Yes: A Chapter for Youth Pastors”, is specifically written for youth pastors. It provides brief discussion of two principles to consider before accepting any church's offer. First, “A healthy church isn't in a hurry to hire a youth pastor”; and second, “You don't want to be someone else's rushed decision.” The chapter concludes with a list of questions for a youth pastor candidate to ask of him/herself before accepting the offer.
Section 2 of Inside the Mind, “Getting into Your Youth Pastor's Head”, contains some pointed management discussion aimed directly at senior pastors and offering advice for communications, mentoring, loyalty on the ministry team, and other issues that the author's work as a consultant for churches has consistently unearthed. While written for senior pastors, this section reveals systemic issues existing on many church staff teams, and would be a useful read and discussion for anyone in church leadership.
This book is a catalyst rather than a formula, and its danger would be that church leaders might stop the process when the questions got difficult or uncomfortable, leaving the youth pastor, and the youth of the church, in the rubble. I found Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors to be a quick and thought-provoking read from which church leadership and youth pastors alike can benefit, especially if read in an environment of on-going conversation about change.