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Losing Empathy In Youth Ministry: Can Youth Pastors Eventually Stop Caring?

Real world youth ministry is messy, raw and sometimes very heartbreaking to see the pain of today’s teen.  Youth ministry can be really painful if you truly empathize with hurting students.  Youth pastors that open their own humanity to student are making the students’ suffering their suffering.

The Problem:  There is a tendency that the longer youth pastors are in youth ministry, the less emphatic they become towards today’s teens.  Recent studies show that medical students score progressively lower on empathy tests the further they get into their training and medical practice.  Both doctors and pastor are called to help the hurting.  Do you think this same study on medical students is true for pastors who work with students?  Can training and experience be a cause for NOT showing empathy? 

Think about it…..a veteran youth worker has seen and heard it all so it may be easier not to care as a way to cope.  Or the youth pastor is disenfranchised with the church system and doesn’t believe the church can offer up true healing for today’s teens.

My Questions:  Can the church literally beat empathy out of youth workers? What are some causes that cause youth pastors not to care?  Can youth pastor for whatever reason stop caring and not show students mercy?  Why in the church world it is so much easier to pretend like you care?  How can youth pastors keep empathy while working in youth ministry?

My Final Thoughts:  I love hanging around with younger and newer youth pastors because they care so much!!!  They are fresh out of training or are in their first ministry assignment and they are so fired up!  I decided very early on in my youth ministry career that I would never turn away from students’ suffering.  I side with Andrew Root’s (Andy is a Youth Ministry Prof at Luther Theological Seminary) thinking in Relationships Unfiltered.  Andy states:  One of the goals of youth ministry is to be human beings who seek to be human with and for others in the power of God who has become human for us all.

I am VERY curious:  Can experienced and seasoned youth pastors eventually stop caring?

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Jeremy Zach easily gets dissatisfied with status quo. He reeks with passion and boredom is not in his vocabulary. He becomes wide awake when connecting with student pastors, thinking and writing about student ministry, experimenting with online technology, and working out. He is married to Mikaela and has two calico cats, Stella and Laguna. He lives in Alpharetta, Georgia and is a XP3 Orange Specialist for Orange—a division of the REthink Group. Zach holds a Communication degree from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities and Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.