I recently signed up for ChurchLeaders.com Youth Leaders newsletter and received my first one today.  The email highlighted a blog post by acquaintance and co-laborer in Christ (and Youth Ministry) Jeremy Zach in which he outlines the Top 5 Reasons Student Pastors Resign.  It is a great post and one that I believe anyone connected to Youth Ministry should read.  I personally found it insightful and agree with the reasons Jeremy listed.

  1. Personal financial pressures
  2. Difference in church theology and leadership
  3. Preference for another kind of ministry
  4. Need to care for family
  5. Not a fit in church community and culture

It got me thinking, though, about what I believe is one more reason Student Pastors resign.  I would assert that Failure may be a reason many Youth Leaders struggle and even resign from their positions, and I fear it might be a deep rooted emotional reason that drives many to leave their church positions.  The way I look at it, there are three different aspects of Failure that could play into a Youth Leader resigning.

  1. Failure to meet the standards set in place by the church’s leadership.  I have heard far too many stories of Youth Pastors who are hired by churches who are expecting him or her to be the “magic pill” for their Youth Ministry needs.  It may be unintentional, but they put serious amounts of pressure on them to succeed AND they create unrealistic goals for them to achieve.  Inevitably, situations such as these typically end on the ugly side of parting ways and the Youth Leader limps away feeling upset and defeated. 
  2. Failure to achieve their own dreams in Youth Ministry.  This one actually hits a little closer to home for me as I look back to my last full time Youth Ministry position.  I had serious job security at the church and never felt at risk of failing by #1 above, however I definitely struggled with not achieving my own dreams and goals.  My biggest personal failure was that I wanted over 100 teens in the Youth Ministry within 2 years and struggled to maintain 40-50 teens from year to year, dipping as low as the mid-20s.  While I finally figured things about the last 1+ I was there, I often look back on those first 3-4 years there and wonder, “What if…”
  3. Failure to be the Youth Leader God has called them to be.  Now this could be connected to #1, and at least in my case was connected to #2, but this one can sting all on its own at deeper levels that the first two.  Greg Stier wrote Ministry Mutiny a few years back and that book speaks to the soul of Youth Leaders who may find themselves in this place.  God has called us make disciples who make disciples (Matt 28:18-20).  Anything other than discipling teens to make other disciples misses the mark of the ministry God has called us to.  I’m thankful that I figured this out before it was too late at my last church…THANK YOU GOD!  However this is the highest standard of ministry we can live by, but by God’s grace, as he has called us to Youth Ministry, we can fulfill this purpose in our ministries as He equips us to do so.

Again, thanks to Jeremy for putting his original post out there and spurring the rest of us on to think this through.

10 thoughts on “Youth Ministry Failure is Not an Option

  1. Pingback: X2J Top 5 Pick – Youth Ministry Blogs this Week

  2. We are looking at possibly calling our first PAID assistant pastor to work mostly with youth as well as what his other gifts may be (maybe children or college age???). We are a rural community, rural church who have never had more than a lead pastor with rotating volunteers. Those of us in youth minitry have spent the past 4 years developing a ministry mindset of disciplining teens to diciple others. I have used MUCH of your information from student minsitry.com…deep and wide ministry….currently using Greg stier’s stuff..as well as our youth ministry “bible” The minsitry of nuture by Duffy…. Here is my question…we feel we have a handle on what youth ministry needs to look like…..how do we find someone that won’t take us back years… (like the idea of having the biggest youth group is our goal)???? Whoever God places here at our church…we already have built in 4 couples that would like to still volunteer under the direction of a paid youth director…..WE GET IT!!! We believe in building core kids, we don’t just want fun times, but a deeper, first hand faith that kids under our care will walk away with when leaving high school. How would we search for this type of person…any ideas? applications? or choices of words that we should use to attract someone for this position??? Lookin for your help so we don’t “fail” this person who God already has divinely appointed for this position.

    • Two books that helped my church when searching for a youth pastor and what we use when working with our daughter churches to find youth pastors are:

      Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries
      Inside the Mind of a Youth Pastor by Mark Riddle

      Both books are geared toward church leaders in helping them work through the different types of youth ministries, what you should expect from a youth pastor, what they are expecting of you, how to make a youth ministry last and how to help a youth pastor stay for the long haul. If you have any other questions on the process, etc let me know.


  3. I am a youth pastor in a rural area. I am the first paid youth pastor at my church. In fact, my pastor is the first paid full-time pastor at our church. I hope I can add to your discussion.

    I think you’re going in the right direction. You have a core of volunteers. You have the right approach. Now it’s about finding the right person.

    A great book to read is My First Two Years in Youth Ministry, by Doug Fields. It’s gives insight into the mind of youth pastors and even has a specific section written to churches looking for a youth pastor.

    To find the right person you need to find someone who loves students. That’s the number one thing. A lot of churches get hung up on numbers, degrees, age. But the most important thing is to find someone that loves teenagers. You get that person and you’ve won half the battle.

    You also need to compensate them well. You have to give them a reason to come out to a rural area. I know. We moved to a rural church four years ago. It’s very hard on our family because it’s so isolated. Having a good compensation has helped us to stay, because it helped us pay the bills and have a few creature comforts that are needed to live far away from family, friends, shopping and eating. (Creature comforts like high speed internet, the money to pay for long trips “home” and movie services like Netflix.) Plus finding work for my wife was tough since jobs were limited. Having a good income allowed us to not be broke all the time. That’s never fun and adds tremendous stress to a marriage and ministry.

    You need to be honest with any potential candidate. Be honest about what the area is like. When we got here, we were stunned by the amount of drug use that went on. We were stunned by the poverty. It took us almost a year to figure out we needed to bus kids in because parents were not or could not bring them. It changed our whole ministry when we started running a bus.

    I know you don’t want to them to set the ministry back, but give them room to build their vision. One of the things that attracted me to my church was the idea of building a program from the ground up. They were a church looking for direction, it was awesome to be able to come in and not have to worry about what the past youth pastor had done. We would get a clean slate. (What I later learned was that was not the case. There were preconcieved notions about how youth had gone before and that caused some butting of heads that still reverberates in our ministry today. I’ve still not been able to implement my vision fully.)

    Also, make sure you can make a committment to them. A lot of times youth pastors leave after a short while because they can’t afford to stay or the dynamics of the church has changed. I’m a great example. I’ve been at my church for almost four years now. We were committed to stay for another two years. But now the church is running low on money and I may be forced to resign because they simply can’t afford to keep paying me. Our youth ministry is going great, but the dynamics of our church changed to where money is no longer as abundant as it was. So I’d say to make a committment up front to fund this pastor for 3-5 years. I know that’s a bold statement, but if you want someone to stay long term you need to invest in them so they can invest in you.

    Also, make sure you include conventions and continuing education as part of the package. Too many churches try to do youth ministry bare bones and not provide the training needed to keep the YM fresh.

    If you’d like to chat me up, feel free to email me at thedarkhorse357@yahoo.com. I’ve learned rural ministry is VERY different than suburban and even urban ministry and I love to help rural churches in youth ministry.


    • excellent thanks for advice and you are right…rural ministry is very different than urban. These are all great thoughts and I will remember to look you up again as we begin the process.

  4. Pingback: 2010 blogging in review « Jason G. Lamb

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