The Youth Ministry Carousel
Longevity in ministry among American churches is often a rare find. This is especially true in Youth Ministry. When I began my current Youth Pastorate I was the fifth (not including two interns) Youth Pastor of the seniors that year since their sixth grade year. Don’t gasp too loudly or shake your head too quickly. The reality is that this is all too common. I have seen and heard a ton of different statistics on the average tenure of Youth Pastors, but the actual numbers matter very little. The truth is, it is way too short. From my experience it seems that the average stay is probably around 3 years, give or take.
There are many reasons given to why a Youth Pastor would leave their current position. Some of them justified, some of them not, and to be fair some that are simply beyond your control. Here though are three reasons that you should stay in your current Youth Ministry position:
Trust is essential to successfully lead, and this takes time to gain.
Whether you are leading a youth ministry or a rebellion against lock-ins, if no one trusts you, no one will follow you. As a Youth Pastor you desperately need the trust of your students. If they don’t trust you they will not buy in to what you are trying to lead them to. You desperately need the trust of your parents. If the parents don’t trust you they will not encourage their students to be a part of your ministry. Parents who do not trust you will not allow you to come alongside their family. You also desperately need the trust of your Pastor and church leadership. If your pastor and leadership do not trust you they will not stand behind you when you need them to. It takes time to gain trust. It takes even longer to build a culture of trust within your ministry. The bottom line? You need the trust of those around you so that you can successfully lead.
Influence is more important than impact, and this takes time build.
We say we want to impact teens for the sake of the gospel. We long to see Jesus captivate the hearts of our students. We want to make an impact, and we should. The fact is we will always make an impact. It is not however, always the impact we want to make. Making a positive impact for the sake of the gospel in the lives of our students is important. More important than making an impact I believe is having an influence. Impact challenges the way someone thinks, influence shapes the way someone lives. Influence happens over the course of time through trust that has been gained. You can make an impact in the short-term, but building a culture of influence in your Youth Ministry takes time. The bottom line? You need to have a culture of influence in the lives of your teens and their parents.
The real joy of ministry comes later than sooner
Starting in a new Youth Ministry can be exciting. You have hopes, goals, and dreams for the ministry. Learning new faces and shaping a ministry is awesome. Eventually though the newness wears off. The “honeymoon” so to speak is over. People begin to question, complain, and criticize what you are doing. Remembering back to how exciting it felt when starting can easily push us to start thinking of greener pastures. Obstacles begin to look more and more like exit ramps. You feel you have done well, but people are not always seeing what you see.
What we often fail to realize is that we have not yet been there long enough to gain trust and build influence. We cannot see or understand that on the other side of all this is great joy in ministry. Now to be fair, I am not saying that it is always easy. Nor am I trying to make light of very difficult situations that come up along the way. One of the sweetest days of Youth Ministry is watching a class graduate that has come all the way through your ministry. The bottom line? Stay…it is so worth it.