Longevity in ministry beats personality every time. Want to know how I know? Awhile back, a parent asked why our church youth program was so amazing. Between you and me, our youth ministry really isn’t amazing. It’s pretty average, numbers-wise.
Our program is fully mid-1990s, and I used to be in charge. I may be a lot of things, but I’m definitely not a pied piper when it comes to student ministry. I love teens and love walking through this season of life and faith with them. But I feel awkward when I show up on campus, and I struggle with one-on-one contact time.
A few years ago, I finally tapped out. I brought on an incredible couple to continue our church’s student ministry tradition. And though I’m no longer implementing our student ministry, I’m overseeing it, championing it, and clearing the way for our directors to crush it!
As I reflected on that parent’s impression of our “awesome” youth ministry, I realized our success has little to do with me. Instead, it comes from the church leadership and lead pastor long before it comes from me.
The Fallacy of Big Personality vs. Longevity in Ministry
Many churches hire the young, amazing, attractional, extroverted youth worker. These superstars actually turn into supernovas within two years. Before they implode, these youth workers work long hours for little pay, with little divide between personal life and ministry.
They do a great job gathering students and gain some momentum. But sooner or later these youth workers tire, burn out, and/or graduate from seminary. Then they realize they can’t support a family with this salary (or some combination of factors) and leave. And the church loses the advantage of longevity in ministry. We quickly replace them with the next great personality. But after a few short cycles of this, students and parents grow reluctant to give their hearts to a new person who will be gone in a year or so.
It’s All About The Benjamins
I hate that this is true. But what separates an amazing student ministry program from a flash in the pan seems to come down to money. Like everything, you get what you pay for. You may be able to get away with hiring a superstar youth worker for peanuts. But as soon as they realize they’re a superstar and can make double the money elsewhere, they leave. If you pay bottom-of-the-barrel salaries, you’ll get bottom-of-the-barrel youth workers who stay too long. Or great youth workers who leave too soon.