SMS: The Downward Spiral of Youth Leader (Part 2)

In two decades of being involved in Student Ministry leadership I have seen several consistent threads, one of these patterns I posted about yesterday–the downward spiral of a youth leader (read it here). The fact that the average stay of a Youth Pastor at any given church is 2-3 years merits some examination as to the contributing factors. Well, in networking with many of these Youth Pastors the story of discontentedness and frustration factors have been very consistent. I named three of these factors in my previous blog in relaying the story of “Garrett”:

  1. Taking On More Responsibilities (outside direct student ministry)
  2. Holy Huddle Ministry Focus (discipleship over evangelism)
  3. The Grass Is Greener ANYWHERE Else (not just listening to but exploring other opportunities)
The pattern has been pretty consistent and has gone in this order as well. Let me be the first to say that this isn’t a blame-game, quite often it is the immaturity of the YP and/or the inability/immaturity of others in leadership to even recognize where limits should be placed so that this ball never gets rolling. My hope is to help identify these things at the earliest stage (even before someone takes a call) so that we see longevity as something that can actually be accomplished.
So, here’s what I suggest to counter the pattern:

1. Stay “Student-Ministry-ONLY” Focussed As Long As Possible! Though “your voice” may be wanted in a variety of ministry settings and though the influence is tempting, it RARELY leads to anything other than frustration because you become less effective in your primary calling and more divided in responsibility (and I’m yet to see it lead to a significant pay increase for any Youth Pastor).

2. Keep Evangelism As a Personal Commitment and It Will Overflow: If you are committed to reaching out to your peers with the gospel, it will overflow to your ministry and your students no-matter-what. Even if most of your gatherings are “holy huddles” students will eventually see you doing evangelism and it will begin to rub-off  on them in and through your stories. (NOTE: I wish I would have done a WAY better job of this while a Youth Pastor, the last 3 years have rocked my world and I love it!)

3. Consider Your Calling: The grass will often seem greener at ANY other position. Upon further examination, it may just be the weeds or moss that is green. All positions will carry frustrations, hurts and hard times. Be very thoughtful in considering if it is time to move on.

We all understand that God moves people, but I can’t help but think of what it looks like to see a youth leader faithfully pour into a group of students for three, five or even seven years; the fruit of his/her ministry often lasts for years and years to come. Maybe a single-focus (student ministry), with an emphasis on reaching out (personally and corporately) will lead to less discontentedness and looking on the other side of the fence!

I thank God for you, Youth Leader! Thanks for pouring in to the teens and may you be able to experience much fruit in your current situation!



4 thoughts on “SMS: The Downward Spiral of Youth Leader (Part 2)

  1. Wow, great great stuff man! Though not being a youth pastor, I have even seen this in the position and responsibilities I have had over the years as a student leader and now an adult leader as well. Other ministries and opportunities sometimes can slip in and pull you in many different directions. There were times where I was helping with youth group on Wednesday and Sunday nights, then running slides for worship practice Thursday night, and then running slides for both services Sunday morning only to go home and have to come back later that day for youth group (where I also had to run slides…). This turned into responsibilities for special events, weddings, etc that all took away from my main ministry. Then I started to get calls and emails all the time requesting my help all over the place for all sorts of things, and being the person I am, it’s hard for me to say no because I love helping. Soon enough, I fell away from personal evangelism because I was already so stretched and worn out from everything else. Youthgroup became more like “Was the garbage taken out? Do we have stuff for the games? What games are we playing? What videos are we watching? What songs are we singing? Do we have slides for them all? Are the kids behaving? Did we unlock the rooms for small group time? etc”. I couldn’t focus on actually discipling and evangelism, I wasn’t connecting to the students (the whole point). Luckily things have settled down and I’ve learned to say “No” (kindly) to certain events and ministries.

  2. #3 is huge. Our senior pastor is fond of reminding us that there will be times in ministry when all we’ll have to remind us why we’re still doing what we’re doing is our calling. Youth ministry can be tough, and when we consider moving on or to something different, it helps to remember who first called us. Great stuff!

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