I hinted at this topic in a previous post. In doing a fair bit of research on the subject of longevity in youth leadership I have come to see that the new length of stay for youth pastors at any given church has been upped from 18 months to 4.2 years. This is encouraging to me. But I still don’t think it is good enough.
After serving at my church for the past 10 years I can only look with excitement of what the next 10 years will bring! I have performed weddings for young adults who were in my youth groups years ago. I have seen kids grow up around me and enter into the youth ministry. I am only 2 years away from seeing my oldest daughter begin in our student ministry. (Oh, man!)
I find the calling of student ministry on my life so amazing. I still can’t understand how or why God has chosen me to have the influence on so many lives that I do have. But I embrace it. I run whole-heartedly into the calling that He has placed on my life.
Maybe that is where we need to begin this issue of longevity. What is your calling? Is it student ministry? I believe that if we are called to student ministry we can serve for decades in the same church and still have just as much passion for what we do at the end of it all as when we began – if not even more! Our role is to connect youth in a relationship with Jesus Christ and others. Our approach to that calling may be different, but that is the basic goal that we all have.
I understand that there may be issues that rise up beyond our control at the churches that we serve at and so transition can take place because of that. If your Sr. Pastor leaves the church for one reason or another the decision to make a clean sweep of leadership may take place. For those of you reading this that have fallen victim to something like this I am sorry. My heart goes out to you as you had to deal with the heartache of saying goodbye to kids you cared for. This post isn’t for you.
Did you take on more than you could handle? Were you so eager to get your foot in the door as a youth pastor that you said yes to way more of a commitment than you could handle? There has been a trend in hiring youth pastors with a job description that looks more like 3 jobs with far too many hours required for one person to handle. This would be a good time to sit down with your Sr. Pastor and take an honest look at your capacity to get things done. I am not suggesting you leave. I pray that through an honest conversation you and your Sr. Pastor will be able to reach an agreement of what is required of you. Your season of life may have changed. Maybe you are married now, maybe you have kids, these are both great reasons to want to spend more time out of the office and at home. Family comes first (after God). Your job should not rule your calendar.
Is money an issue? My personal belief is that if you are as effective as you think you are in your role then you should be compensated for it. I am not suggesting that you go running into your church council meeting and cry about how many things you have to go without. We will all go without. We do make sacrifices in life to be where we are called to be. Are your needs being met? Can you pay your bills? It may be as simple as adjusting your lifestyle to fit your income. This is not a career that will top any “Get Rich Quick” lists. But you should be fairly compensated for the time, energy, and talent that you bring to your position.
I can speak of the blessings of being in my position for 10 years now. I can speak of the influence that I have in the lives of families – not just in students lives, but families. People understand that I am in this for the long haul. They have been able to watch my life and they know that I am here because God has placed a passion in my heart for the youth of Central NH. That earns their trust and respect and gives me open doors to speak into lives.
I can speak of the connections throughout Central NH with other leaders and pastors that I have made over the last 10 years. They know I am here to stay and because of that there is a partnership in things that we do together. We value each other and pray for each other.
My experience has been a great training ground. Over the past 10 years I have grown as a leader and have seen the responsibility that I have to pour into others around me. I always want to be raising up other leaders who can join together with me to impact our region. Maybe what you need is training. Again, this would be a good time to talk to your Sr. Pastor about getting the training that you need. Establish a book account each year that is for your personal growth. Look to attend a Student Ministry Conference in order to get the training that you need to accomplish the vision that God has given you. Leaders are Learners. Don’t go stagnant because the books you have are dusty. Continue reading in areas that you need to learn about. Find someone around you that has been in this role longer than you and meet with them regularly. Share your concerns, frustrations, and joys with them. Learn from them and the experiences that they have.
I heard from another youth pastor recently that the students in his group were apathetic and would not learn from anything he was trying to teach them. He decided that it was the students who were the reason for him to move on to another church. This broke my heart because I have seen 2 other youth pastors at this church in the past 5 years and I know that the youth are broken and desiring deep relationships with a leader who would commit to stick out the tough times with them.
I fully believe that longevity in one church can bring great fruitfulness for many years to come. Stick out the tough times and you will see growth.
Anyone want to disagree with me?
(this post is inspired by Tim over at at the Life in Student Ministry blog)