Tag Archives: transitions

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.


Observations for 2011 Part 2

Yesterday I noted that I had two observations for youth ministry going in to 2011 that I feel are going to be pretty significant. I will restate that I by no means am an expert on these two topics, and again with Yesterday’s, I know that is nothing new, you could easily find a dozen better blog posts written on the subject.

But I think many stop there and just say “So Youth Pastors we need to change,” and I think there could be fault in that thinking. For the last few years, Youth Pastors have been complaining that churches aren’t doing anything to help fix that idea. I think in 2011, churches are going to start, and for many youth pastors it wont be a good thing.

Observation #2 – Churches Looking for New Youth Pastors

You know that old saying ” You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” From what I have observed, it seems churches are taking up this mentality with their Youth Pastors. Though I dont agree with everything in the book, I think the Terminology Mark Ostreicher uses in Youth Ministry 3.0 works. For the past few decades, Youth  Ministry has been operating as Youth Ministry 2.0, and I don’t think anyone would argue that we are moving into Youth Ministry 3.0 (it may not be the same definition as MarkO’s) and in 2011 I think were going to see the notion pick up steam in churches. Can a Youth Pastor who grew up in Youth Ministry 2.0, worked and operated in Youth Ministry 2.0 for so long, effectively make the transition to Youth Ministry 3.0?

In many cases, unfortunately, I don’t think they can manage it effectively. Many YM 2.0 Youth Pastors will make the transition, many will work out, but there will definitely be those who cant keep up with the rest. Regardless of the fact that some can, I don’t see churches out there right now wanting to take that risk. From what I have observed, it seems as though for many older Youth Pastors right now is the perfect storm for them. Churches in this economy are already looking to save money, and lets be honest, churches know they can hire a younger Youth Pastor for a lot less than they are paying their older guy.

I think 2011 will see a lot more goodbyes for Youth Pastors than we would like to admit. To put it bluntly, I see 2011 being the year that Youth Ministry 2.0 BEGINS its major decline into being obsolete.

Observations for 2011 Part 1

I by no means am an expert researcher. I haven’t gone out and polled a thousand churches, a thousand youth pastors, or a thousand students.

I have talked with several Pastor’s and Churches over the last few months, and I interact with students daily. Granted, these students and Leaders are in a specific area known as the North-Midwest, so what I have observed may not be true in your neck of the woods, but these two observations are definitely running in my mind quite a bit the last few months, and I think they could have significant impact’s on the way I do Youth Ministry, and possibly the way others do Ministry as well.

Observation #1 – Students are Longing for more

This is nothing new, I think every Youth Pastor can tell you this. It’s visible from the students who come up to Youth Pastors and tell them “I’d like it if the youth group dug deeper into the bible” but it honestly goes deeper than that. The popular topic at conferences lately has been the failure of Youth Ministry the last few decades, and how shallow it has gotten. I know you can find at least a hundred other, better blogs on this topic, but honestly students are longing for more. It may not always show, and it can easily be mistaken. But I think any research will show you that this generation of students is making a shift from the supposed post-modernism “There is no truth, its all relative” to a more “I just want SOMETHING to be true” attitude. This generation needs adults with convictions, and I think that can often be lacking in Youth Ministries. Simply sugar coating the truth or the gospel isn’t good enough for these students, and it shouldn’t be. This is a problem that goes far beyond simply saying “I don’t do Pizza Party ‘bait-n-switches’ because they are lame” to something much deeper.

What I want to work through is the idea that students can go anywhere to have fun, Fun is not a good enough reason for students to come to church. There is something deeper that students are longing for, and it’s up to us to show them how to find it.

Tomorrow I will talk about how I think this notion is impacting Youth Staff at churches, because if you don’t think it is, your wrong!

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.

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