What is the best word that describes the vocation as youth pastor?
I learned a lot about managing my time and juggling the multiple ministry tasks when working in a small church youth ministry. Pastor Tim Keller highly recommends young pastors to work in a small church before moving to a bigger church. Pastor Keller believes a young and solo pastor can learn all about the roles and functions that are required in the pastorate.
Think about it…in smaller churches, the youth pastor is available at all times, for most all occasions and needs, to any member or unchurched family or student. The average youth pastor has to become a generalist in ministry. Essentially you have to become a jack-of-all-trades and cannot spend your weekly 40 hours mastering a specific ministry task. If you want to specialize in a youth ministry task, it may be wise for you to pursue a job at a mega church youth ministry.
How do youth pastors figure out how to maximize their time while still doing all the tasks youth ministry requires in 40 hours?
It is difficult dodging the time consuming demons in youth ministry. Everything seems so important in the moment. I am really excited to share with you how I was able to engineer a youth ministry that runs on all cylinders.
Here are 11 ways I saved a lot of time in youth ministry:
(1) Use teaching curriculum – The biggest reason why youth pastors should use youth ministry curriculum is time. Personally, I think there are more fruitful ministry tasks a youth pastor should be focusing on, rather than writing a creative sermon from scratch. It is way more time consuming creating something from nothing than taking something already developed.
(2) Recruit adult leaders and interns – Get more adults involved. Ask early and ask often. Youth pastors need a tribe of adults to pour into. Your ability to recruit adult volunteers makes or breaks the longevity of a youth ministry. Get adults that have the capacity and ability to lead small groups. Get more adults to relationally connect with students because youth pastors can only really connect with 5-8 students. Make sure adult leaders have a good handle on the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
(3) Invest in a youth ministry student management system – I would highly recommend investing in a software that can manage the students’ info in your youth ministry. It is so helpful when you are able to instantly pull up your students’ addresses, parent names, birthdays, grade levels, and school names. I highly relied on Youth Assistant. I never forgot a student’s birthday pre-Facebook.
(4) Delegate ministry tasks to students – Students can handle ministry responsibility if it is in their gift set. Try to appoint as many ministry tasks as possible to students. Possible tasks: lead or participate in worship, data entry, youth room design, set design, audio/visual, hospitality team, preach/teach, program leaders for junior high ministry, serve in and out of the church, graphic and video development and production.
(5) Set up meetings that require action points – Say no to people who want commitments that don’t contribute enough value to the youth ministry mission. There is no need to waste your time meeting with adults that just want to talk or discuss. Make sure to really probe why people want to meet with you before entering it in your calendar. If people want to talk, you can talk over the phone, e-mail, or on Sundays before of after church services. Every meeting you are involved in needs to have action points. I found myself having multiple pointless and actionless meetings with a variety of people for the sake to “call a meeting.” Reducing meetings during your week will provide a lot more free time.
(6) Beat the alarm clock – Getting up at 6 a.m., you can simply add 3 hours to your day. I learned how to get up at the crack of dawn when I was in Air Force ROTC. Cadet Zach conditioned his body to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning. Put your alarm clock far away from the bed, have a reason to get up early, and utilize the 3 additional hours for your needs (reading, studying, working out, relaxing, praying). Meeting with parents in the morning is clutch!
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” –Ben Franklin
(7) Build youth ministry alliances – Share resources and do events with other churches. It helps tremendously when you can share tasks and costs with other local youth ministries. Plus, it is a blast to partner with other youth groups because 1) it allows your students to hang with other Christian students, and 2) you can pull off bigger and cooler events.
(8) Outsource youth ministry administration and errand tasks to parents or to the “retired folks” in your church – Do you hate doing youth ministry administration or errand tasks? Well, others may not- namely a retired old lady who has nothing to do besides water her flowers and drink black coffee. Yes, I have outsourced “older” people to do administration and errand tasks for the youth ministry department, and they loved it.
(9) Work remotely – I am a big advocate for working remotely. I have fully embraced the remote youth pastor lifestyle. However, I am aware many church traditions and cultures will not allow their youth pastor to work outside of the church office unless he/she has a written note from Jesus. Having the ability to work remotely requires trust from your boss and the responsibility to actually get work done. Some research suggests work productivity increases when having the freedom to work from anywhere. Nothing is wrong with working at a coffee shop on your laptop if you’re getting stuff done. Also, I have experimented with remote desktop mobile applications. Basically, you are able to access your computer files from your iPhone or Droid. The great thing is you can be anywhere and log on to your computer. Another great reason to embrace the remote and mobile youth pastor lifestyle. To learn more about these Remote Desktop apps, click here .
(10) Outwork everyone in your church – In order to do great youth ministry work, you have to want it. You have to have a drive and systems in place to get the job done. Doing more youth ministry just doesn’t happen; you have to work hard to obtain it. It is our tendency to drift toward laziness and not effectiveness. Nobody frowns upon a youth pastor who works hard. Outworking everyone does not mean put in overtime; rather, it means to really work when you are working. Hard work gains trust and respect from older generations and dismisses the myth that youth pastors are lazy.
Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.
(11) Reduce e-mail addiction – Stop checking church e-mail 55 times a day. Check e-mail 4 times every 4 hours: morning 6 a.m., before lunch 10 a.m., after lunch 2 p.m., and close of business 4 p.m. Believe it or not, people in your congregation can wait. If you always respond quickly to e-mail, people will take advantage of you by assuming you will respond to e-mail in a timely fashion. Responding to e-mail 4 times a day allows you to answer multiple e-mails in one session rather than answering an e-mail as it comes into your inbox.
Honestly, I have worked very hard to protect my hours, which allows me more freedom to get more things done. It is very easy to get sucked into the youth ministry time-consuming vortex and never get out. I really enjoy talking with youth pastors about productivity because it is an ongoing process that requires intentionality and improved systems. In fact, I have a few other youth ministry productivity posts that correlate:
– How to Get Things Done in Youth Ministry and Get a Day Off – I talked about to do lists, time tracking, and dealing with distractions.
– Youth Pastor Productivity – I talked about how to create a comfortable church office space that will increase productivity.
– The End of Youth Ministry Time Management: Busyness vs. Effectiveness – I talked about the philosophical idea of how NOT to be busy. I argue that focus, being selective, and doing less is the ultimate principle for high productivity.
– Youth Pastor’s Office Hours – I talked about how I went through a typical one-week youth ministry schedule hour by hour.