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Youth Pastor: Keep Working to Become Great at Youth Ministry

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Are you a great youth pastor? Answer this question: Do you love what you do? That’s my reply when people ask me how to excel in youth ministry.

I’m guessing they ask because I’m still a youth pastor. I suspect they want to be on a similar path with similar results (i.e., not burnt out). But I think the better question is always: Do you love what you do? Do you think being a youth pastor has value and is significant enough for you to give your life to it?

That’s how I feel about youth ministry. Its existence changed the trajectory of my life and my eternity. I never knew that spending the rest of my life saying “thank you” would also mean spending my adult life as a youth pastor. Because I didn’t know much about youth ministry, I wasn’t that intentional heading into it. I knew my youth pastor was awesome, but I wondered how many people can actually do that and survive?

My Path to a Youth Ministry Career

So I graduated from college with a big bucket type of ministry degree. I still wasn’t sure that a church somewhere would pay me to love people. But I sent my resume to a church leader who knew some other church leaders (while simultaneously applying at restaurants and mall stores) and waited.

Just a few days after college graduation I got a call from a tiny church in Orlando. They wanted to pay me $24,000 a year and I wanted to see if this youth ministry idea was for real. I said yes, because I really thought the church would pay me to love people.

It was the toughest year of my life.

  • I relied on a youth ministry magazine for survival.
  • I lost people’s children in amusement parks.
  • Communicating with my senior pastor was terrifying.
  • I was afraid that I’d feel afraid for the rest of my life.

But I fell in love with loving teenagers. I enjoyed spending time with them. Watching them wake up to the love of God made my day. And I secretly believed that if I could help them see the holy potential in them that they could change the world for Jesus. That injustice would dim in comparison to their young ideas and passions. I was hooked but hurting and not sure how to work things out.

Why Youth Pastors Need Support

So, I needed some help remaining a youth pastor. I attended a youth conference with people who were sure you could make a life of this. To be able to attend, I volunteered to stuff conference packets and throw candy at people. I sat in circles with leaders who had not only Iyouth ministry but were youth ministry (like, they invented it).