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The Expectations of a Youth Pastor

Last year I was able to help a dear friend find a good youth ministry job—it brought me great joy as well as great concern.

Prior to my buddy working at this particular church, I spoke at length with the senior pastor (as my friend’s reference). I listened to the pastor talk about the job description and expectations, and then I finally said,

“With all due respect, your expectations are totally unrealistic. I’ve worked at two of the largest churches in the country for 29 years, overseen multiple ministries, managed dozens of full-time staff, hundreds of volunteers, spoken to thousands, designed and help build buildings…and I would RUN from this job. With all my church experience, I’m NOT qualified for what you’re looking for.”

As much as it may sound like it, I wasn’t trying to be cocky, I was trying to be shocking.

It was shocking. I was a little ticked. I’ve heard too many stories of frustrated leaders who take jobs that are unrealistic. I’m tired of people getting wounded!

The silence on the other end of the phone was uncomfortable.

Thankfully, the pastor’s heart, humility and desire for health led to a journey of re-thinking, re-tooling, and re-doing the job description and expectations. Because of his willingness to adjust, my friend was able to have some honest conversations with the pastor to clearly identify realistic roles and expectations that left everyone excited about the mission. My friend was hired…and it has been a good year.

I don’t know many primary leaders who are willing to back off their ideals and think carefully about hiring with realistic expectations. It’s one of the many reasons that so many leaders are wounded within the church.

It’s not the pastor’s (or hiring team) fault… the person being hired has to ask the right questions. The more you ask, identify and articulate on the front end, the better you will be on the backend. Obviously, things can always go sideways, and promises made don’t always equate to promises kept, but the principle of having clear expectations ahead of time is solid principle.

Let’s do a real-life case study and define some key questions for a potential hire:

This week, I received an email from a pastor asking me for names of youth workers he could interview. His expectations are high, but they also appear to be more directed at the candidate’s heart and skill-set vs. specific, outcome expectations (which the other pastor strongly expressed). Here’s what he wrote:

I am looking for someone who is passionate for the Lord and reaching young people for Christ.
I want to find someone who has great leadership gifts,
An amazing capacity to relate to teenagers,
A great communicator (who can teach/preach to adults too)
A team-builder,
Must possess strong people skills,
Someone who has a heart for mentoring,
A value to empower young people for ministry,
Strong organizational skills.

Question #1: What are the questions you would ask this pastor? Share them HERE.

Question #2: If you were a senior pastor, looking to hire a youth worker, what would be on your list? Chime in.  

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Doug Fields has been in youth ministry since 1979 and former pastor to students at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He's the author of 50+ books, including the best-selling Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry & Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry. He's also the founder of Simply Youth Ministry, an instructor at Azusa Pacific University/HomeWord, and on the leadership team with Youth Specialties. You can connect with Doug through his blog at www.downloadyouthministry.com! More from Doug Fields or visit/subscribe to Doug's blog at www.dougfields.com