Tag Archives: Thinking about leaving

When it’s no longer any fun

Being in Ministry can be rough. I initially started this post out as being a Youth Pastor is tough, but having grown up the son of a Pastor and a brother of a Missionary, Youth Pastor, Children’s Pastor, and someone very active in leadership with MOPS, I know that its not just Youth Ministry that is tough.

My heart has been breaking for Ministers the last few days / weeks as I read more and more blog posts about issues in the church, most that don’t even necessarily come from those we minister to, but from those who are supposed to be our partners.

One of my favorite quotes from Mike Yaconelli goes something like ” I am in awe of youth workers, and I think Jesus is too. I just wish the church felt the same.”

I remember in college and a lot of youth ministry books I have read, they always deal with facing the challenges that come with working with parents, because just about every youth worker, I’m sure, has dealt with this.

But the reality for today, I feel, is that the greater challenges come from the Sr. Pastor, or board of Elders. Any number of blogs could be found dealing with the frustrations of Youth Pastors who for whatever reason can’t seem to find harmony with their superiors. And it breaks my heart. I know it breaks God’s heart, too, because this is not what he intended “ministry” to look like.

We are supposed to be able to lock arms with our superiors to fight evil in our communities. We are supposed to be able to be partners in working to bring about Life-change in our neighborhoods. We are supposed to be able to work together.

But the painful truth is that many churches in this country aren’t able to.

And I don’t think there is any “across the board” solution other than deep soul searching by both parties, and an honest conversation with God.

Because in some cases, the Pastor may be the one holding it all back with his arrogance or pride, being set in his ways.

Still, in others, the Youth Pastor really is just a young renegade who saw how one church was doing things and now thinks that if a church isn’t doing it that same way, they are wrong and old fashioned.

Whatever it may be though, many of our peers our hurting. If you are one of those youth workers lucky enough to love your church where you are serving, you have no problem calling it home, and you love working with your superiors, then be thankful for it, and pray for our comrades.

If you are one of those hurting, who has reached the point where Ministry isn’t fun anymore, its not worth it anymore, you know your called to serve but you can’t serve where you are for much longer because it is sucking the life out of you, I’d love to talk, I’d love to connect in some way and share stories and hear your frustrations. Because honestly, sometimes just letting them off our chest to someone else who can relate makes it possible to stay another week, believe me I have been there before.

But know this – God has a plan. I know we all know this. I know we tell our students this constantly. But we have to hold on to that hope that even in the messed up circumstances Youth Pastors can sometimes be in, God is at work.


Interviewing Candidates for Youth Position

Last week I touched on three things to remember when going in to interview for a position as a Youth Pastor. But I also think there are plenty of things to remember as those who are interviewing the candidates. I have been on search teams before and found that these three things can make it a lot easier to perform that task, as well as ensure a somewhat successful transition for the selected candidate. On the other end, as the one being interviewed, I wish a lot more search teams considered these points before beginning their search.

1.) Be Realistic

If you went over to churchstaffing.com or youthspecialties job bank, you would see plenty of churches in search of a Youth Pastor. You would also see a lot of churches who shout “Don’t apply!” Too many churches are unrealistic with their expectations, and for me at least, turn me off from even considering applying to their church. You may be a very healthy church of 100 people, but is it realistic for you to expect to find a Youth Pastor with a minimum of 10 years of experience and seminary trained, especially for a part time position? It’s unfortunate but its true, Youth Pastors with that much experience and training aren’t looking to go to a church of that size, because they more than likely are looking for bigger and better things. Secondly, are there really any youth pastors who would transplant their family and relocate to a new locale for a part time youth ministry position? Be realistic about what you can afford and what you can get. If you want the best of the best, than expect the best of the best, but be prepared to pay the price, Youth Pastors need to pay bills too.

2.) Be Open

If you want the candidate to be open, be open yourselves. You don’t need to go into all the dirt of why the last Youth Pastor left, but at least let the new guy know “these were the expectations we had that he hadn’t met” or whatever the case may be. You can be honest without scaring the new guy off, and again, just as with the candidate being open and real, it will make the partnership between the church and the candidate more successful to know any concerns before moving for the job.

Further, Be Open about your search, let them know the timetable, are you talking to other candidates? When should they expect to hear back from you? Sure they may forget about your church if you just never call them back, but come on, you are a Christian organization dealing with a brother in Christ, at least have the decency to e-mail them and let them know your pursuing other candidates. I had a friend turn down a position because he was waiting to hear back from a church he felt more in tune with. The church never contacted him back, and sure that other position may not have been what God called him to, but it still just goes to show, if your a Christian Organization, act like it. Don’t leave the candidates in limbo.

3.) Be Purposeful with your Questions

Obviously you want to get to know the candidate on a personal level because that is going to be a huge part of your decision, does he/she fit in your ministry context. But at the same time, you have a limited amount of time to gather as much information from your questions as possible, so be purposeful in the questions you ask. If Philosophy of Ministry is important to you, make sure you ask about that early on rather than skipping around on questions that may not effect your decision much. Get to the big questions first, and leave room for them to ask questions of you.

Interviewing for Youth Pastor Position

So as I have stated in past post’s, I am currently looking to transition to a new ministry context. What goes along with that is the joy of being interview by Search Teams at the various churches, and for those just starting out in Ministry, this is one of the first times you will have to actually show how much you know. Walking into an interview, or being called on the phone for an interview, can be intimidating and cause you great stress, because honestly, you want the job, and you want to have what it takes to get it.

As someone who has done the interviewing and who has been interviewed, let me lay out 3 pieces of advice for going into a Youth Ministry interview;

1.) Be Real

Don’t Lie about your experience and don’t “pad” the numbers. No one knows your limitations as a leader as well as you do, and trust me, for your own sake in the long run, don’t get in over your head. Sure, you will be more attractive to the church interviewing you if you can tell of your 13 years of experience leading a youth group of 200 kids. But if it really is 3 years experience leading a group of 30 kids, your going to hate life in a few months when suddenly your not meeting the expectations of the Board OR the kids because you don’t know what your doing. Be honest about your limitations as a Leader, and be Real about your experience.

2.) Be Guarded

An unfortunate reality of Youth Ministry is that often times we make transitions due to conflict. There is a fine line between being real and open about your experience and sharing too much. Want to know how much is too much? Are you bad mouthing your previous church. If you are, you’ve gone too far. Don’t spend 20 minutes telling the search team all about your junk with the last church, they don’t want to hear it. If you have concerns about their the way their church functions to ensure you aren’t getting into a similar position, then thats one thing. But to simply be rambling on about how the previous pastor did this and that is only serving the purpose of helping them weed your name out of their list.

3. Be Yourself

This one really is just going along side point number 1. Your not Doug Fields or Josh Griffin, you don’t write books on Youth Ministry, you don’t know all the answers. So don’t act like you do, and don’t act like your God’s gift to Student Ministry. But you are a unique person, a unique Youth Pastor, who could be uniquely called to that church to serve a specific purpose in the ministry.  Don’t try and be someone else, be who you are. You have a specific set of unique gifts that God has shaped to bless a group of students with specific needs. So be who you are, don’t be who you think the church wants to get a job, be who you are, if thats what the church needs, then they will look at you like you ARE Doug Fields.

Is the grass really greener? It’s not time to leave

Feeling stuck in a church and wanting out is one of the most common feelings among Youth Pastors in America, I would argue. I mean look at all the coverage the topic of leaving churches gets. Im guilty of this feeling, probably one of the guiltiest.

If you have followed my blog for the past few months you may remember that august/september were not good months for me. I’ve deleted the posts, but I prayed earnestly for several weeks for God to give me direction on whether or not to leave.

Having grown up in mainly large churches with my Dad as a Sr. Pastor, churches of anywhere from 1000 to 4500, I got used to what its like doing ministry in that sort of context. I still feel like thats where I would thrive the best, maybe even just a church of 4 or 5 hundred would be better.

But it hit me tonight, is the grass really greener in those larger pastures? Sure, doing ministry in a bigger church is fine and dandy. With the extra resources, the youth already in the church to draw from, a variety of people to choose from to try and bring on as volunteers, and on and on and on. I could give you a hundred benefits of working in a larger church.

But I also know a couple of things about God. One big thing for this topic is that he doesn’t call us to be comfortable. Honestly, if this was the case, I would have never changed from a Political Science Major to a Youth Ministry major with a year left until graduation. Jr. Highers very easily get on my nerves. I can give a speech in front of hundreds of people, but I get nervous leading a small group of 5 9th and 10th grade boys. Maybe its because, as one of my professors said, “If your a pilot and you mess up, a hundred people die. Big whoop. If your a pastor and you mess up, a hundred or so people go to hell.”

Take an honest look at your current ministry situation and consider how bad it really is. Sure, it may not be easy, but would it be any easier in a bigger church or a different church for that matter?

Sure, right now im struggling with another youth group trying to steal some of my kids. But if I am honest, praise God that those kids are interested in being IN a youth group to begin with.

Sure, I dont get paid alot. But in the area I live in, I dont need much more than what I get.

Yeah, it would be nice if the majority of my church wasnt over the age of 60, but hey, those old ladies have said some of the most encouraging words to me that I have ever heard.

And ok, my Sr. Pastor doesnt have a sense of humor ANYwhere near like mine. But he loves God and wants to see me succeed in my ministry no matter what.

So I guess what it boils down to is to take another look at your current position. It’s one thing if your position is literally unhealthy for you and your family to stay at for another week. But if its just the idea that you can thrive somewhere else more so than where you are at, ask yourself the question and think about it for a month, what is keeping you from thriving where you are at? What can you change to make it so you can thrive here?

Odds are, your church wants to see you thrive. They wouldn’t hire you to see you fail. Make a list of things you think would help and talk them over with some key people. Some things you can’t change, like how many families with youth are members at your church, but others you can.

In the end, I pray you will see that the grass in the pasture God has assigned to you for this season is pretty green, and somewhere out there sits a Youth Pastor who would DIE to have it as easy as you do right now.

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