Why Youth Pastors are Endangered (And How you can Find one)

How to find a youth pastor

Twenty years ago the on-ramp to vocational ministry was youth ministry. Today it is difficult to even find a good youth pastor. Why is this the case? My contention is that youth pastors are an endangered species because so many young leaders are looking to plant churches rather than to do youth ministry. When I entered vocational ministry twenty years ago, I knew exactly one person who was planting a church but I knew dozens of men who wanted to be youth pastors. Today, this trend is opposite. I get dozens of emails weekly from church planters and men wanting to plant churches. But finding a decent youth pastor is like looking for a needle in a haystack. How can a church find a good youth pastor who will invest in and reach kids in the community? Are there any youth pastors left? Perhaps it is time that we rethink the youth pastor position in our churches. Here are three suggested ways:

1. Don’t expect more than 4-5 years from a youth pastor.

Remember the days when we all swore that we were in youth ministry for life? A few of us are in youth ministry for life. But many “lifetime” youth pastors shaved their goatees and moved into different areas of vocational ministry. Let’s be realistic and acknowledge that five good years with a youth pastor is a win for a church. Consider looking at your youth pastor both as a gift to your church but also as a ministry leader who needs to develop and mature in order to spend a lifetime in ministry.

2. Consider recruiting a youth pastor who you intend to send out as a church planter.

There is no better training program for planting a church than being a youth pastor for five years. A youth ministry is a smaller version of church. Youth pastors do many things: speak (to a difficult audience), administrate, lead a staff, do outreach, design discipleship ministries, get criticized, plan events, build worship teams, do small groups, start new things, succeed, fail, and experience most of the joys and pains of vocational ministry. Imagine casting a vision to a young leader to commit to 5 years of serving your church in youth ministry, being developed during this time, and then being sent out into church planting or whatever God has for him next. This five years will truly show what he is gifted to do or not do. I suspect that you will have a lot more leaders interested in being a youth pastor if they see a five-year plan to develop, train, and send them out into church planting.

3. Embrace being a sending church rather than a keeping church.

Stop asking your staff leaders to die alongside you. Longevity sounds romantic, but I don’t see many leaders spend their entire lives on the same church staff. Look to develop the leaders that you have while you have them. Be willing to send staff people out on good terms. When they are ready to go, send them out willingly! A church that is recruiting, training, developing, and sending out leaders would be very attractive to young leaders.

Time to rethink the youth pastor position?

What are your thoughts on this? Please comment and add your insight!

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Posted by Brian Howard

My focus is to help YOU move forward one step at a time. I write about church excellence, personal productivity, and family leadership. I coach leaders, start churches, and help organizations break growth barriers. My goal is to draw on this experience to help YOU move forward in life, leadership, and productivity.

  1. Love this!! I feel like this has been your message for the past 20 years and I think we as a church are actually there!! It takes a fearless pastor who will mentor and teach others and then send them out to pastor a church themselves. It make me smile to envision churches being planted by former youth pastors because the youth they pastored will also continue to grow in their faith and with that the world can be changed for God!!
    Love reading your blog Brian!! Thanks so much, Adalyn

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Adalyn! Well said!

      Reply

  2. I’ve been in full-time, paid ministry for about 7 months now. When I was going through the interview process before that, the churches all asked what my plan was, specifically, if I had any intention of taking the job as a resume booster to go plant a church a year or two later. I assured them I was looking for a place to settle in for a while. Growing up, I had a youth pastor who was at my church from the time I was 5 until my senior year of high school. I LOVED having that connection and relationship with him and I still talk to him pretty regularly. I think it’s sad that some churches youth pastor position is a revolving door because it’s hard for the students to form the bond and trust that helps a youth ministry thrive. I plan on being here a long time!

    Reply

    1. Scott, it is amazing that you were able to experience that kind of longevity in your church growing up! What a gift! I sure hope that no person takes a youth pastor position as a “resume booster” or intends to leave in a year or two! It takes a lot longer than a year or two to learn to do ministry. And since so many church planters fail at successfully planting a church, a good amount of training and preparation is necessary. For most men in ministry, their twenties are a period of learning and growing. I wrote this post primarily to those leading churches and looking for youth pastors – not necessarily to men who are in the youth pastor role. I am addressing a deficiency that I think can be addressed by a shift in the thinking of churches, not in the commitment of the leaders whom they are looking to add. My hope is that you will have longevity in this role and that churches will be leader developing stations as well!

      Reply

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