Last weekend, my friend Adam McLane wrote a blog post entitled: “How to Keep Your Youth Ministry Job”. In it, he suggests 2 things you must master if you’re going to keep getting a pay check.
Read the full post, in the link above, but he suggests at least 2 things:
1. Care about the measurable data like numbers and such that your boss or board cares about.
2. Care about the politics of donor relationships.
I’m not going to discredit either of those, but as I read the article, and then skimmed the slew of comments his post produced from his audience, I thought I’d toss my own thoughts out here. I was going to write them in his comments section, but then I realized I had a mouthful, not 3 sentences.
So after 11 years in youth ministry in one church and 7 in the one I’m at now and having heard or been a part of countless conversations with youth pastors around the country at conferences and after hiring several myself, I’d suggest the following three additions to Adam’s list if you want to keep your youth ministry job:
BE A TEAM PLAYER:
Sure, you’re paid to champion the needs of teens in your church. Be their spokesperson on or to your church board. Yes, make sure students are cared for and resourced and give them a voice in the “Big Church” world. Just don’t get arrogant and self-centered and bitter acting like your ministry is always getting the hand me downs and nothing else on campus matters besides youth.
I’ve been given more hand me down sound systems than I’d like to admit when the “big church” got a new one. I get it. But we’re not the biggest dog in the show. Get over it.
There’s more going on at my church than just my ministry and I need to understand that as the youth pastor, I should champion students, but not above the bigger mission or vision of the church as a whole.
The truth is, if you don’t like something, then partner and lead up. Be a solution finder, not a whiner. You cannot pit yourself at odds with the kids ministry or the mens ministry or the senior pastor’s goals. If you do, you can probably start the countdown. Championing your area in vain ignorance of the needs of the greater congregation or the flow of the church body will get your job listed on the internet.
COMMUNICATE. COMMUNICATE. COMMUNICATE.
Do this in 2 ways:
1. Over communicate the good stuff. Why? Because it’s fun to share. But if you just want some gut wrenching blunt political truth on job security, do it because it’s hard to fire the youth pastor who is constantly feeding you great news. If all your supervisors hear from anyone else is the stuff you’re doing wrong, then you’re in trouble. Forward a great e-mail, quote a Facebook update, talk about small victories and huge ones. Share what you see God doing in your ministry and keep the good info coming. The bad stuff has a way of finding it’s way to the top without any help. Your job is to keep the good stuff flowing.
2. Decide right now too that you’ll be the first to communicate when things go funky or bad too. If you have a problem with a parent or an issue that you think could end up on your supervisor’s desk, then go tell them. If you called an ambulance or sent a kid home or a parent sent you an irate e-mail, the tell them what happened, how you responded, and if you were at fault- how you intend to not have it happen again. Don’t ever let your supervisor be surprised by your mistakes or find out through the grapevine.
Be the first one to bring bad news so when the grapevine spreads it, your pastor or board goes, “Oh yeah, I already talked to them about this.” This will completely take the wind out of your attackers sail as well because they’re counting on surprises and shock and awe to be in their favor. Don’t give your accusers this kind of ammo. Be the first to communicate or you might be first to be fired.
Ever with students or married people. Not on Facebook. Not in person. Not in a text. Not at the water cooler. Not for fun. Not sarcastically. Not in jest. Not on a boat. Not on a plane. Not on a retreat. Never ever ever.
IF YOU’RE MARRIED. DON’T FLIRT WITH ANYONE WHO IS NOT YOUR SPOUSE. On second thought…. Start flirting with your spouse a lot more than you already do and if you have to, be cold to anyone who even remotely tries to flirt with you that’s not your spouse.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don’t flirt! I’m tired of hearing stories of friends who lost their job cuz they flirted. Just this week I heard about a guy who lost his job from an affair. AHHHHH! This is not new or creative. It’s boring and annoying and it always starts with “innocent” flirting. Don’t flirt! It’s not innocent. I have lots more creative adjectives I want to add in front of flirt. But I won’t. Please just think of one that would offend you enough to get your attention and insert it here: Stop ___________ flirting!
If you want to keep your job. Never ever ever ever flirt with anyone you didn’t walk a marriage isle with.
Seriously, if this is you, go get help now. Your faith, your family, your ministry, and the reputation of your community of fellow youth pastors begs you to stop.