Wisdom For Young Youth Pastors… From Someone Who Was Once “Just A Baby”

I was 19 when I first entered the wonderful world of ministry. I was “just a baby” or “still a kid” in the eyes of many and, to be honest, it really made me mad! As I reflect on those days, I realize now that in the eyes of people 3 times my age, I kind of was “just a kid.” Here’s what I learned (and am still learning) along the way, and wish someone would have told me 15 years ago!

1. You Don’t Know Everything… And That’s OK! No one knows everything. Be honest about that – with yourself and with others. End of discussion. =)

2. Find A Mentor & Be Careful Who You Listen To. My first mentors were a bit jaded in their views of the church. Without even realizing it, their jadedness affected my views and my ability to see the full potential of the church. Don’t get sucked into negativity. Negative people rarely inspire others to become great leaders. If your mentor is consistently negative and time with them does not inspire you to dream, set goals, learn new things and make a positive difference in this world, you might want to hurry up and find a new mentor!

3. Your Senior Pastor Is Not Dumb. Senior pastors don’t usually get to be senior pastors because they are dumb. They may not have it all together (because none of us really do), but they do have gifts and knowledge that God has given them to lead your congregation. Ask your pastor to share his/her ministry strengths and weaknesses and work together to build a relationship that will help you both do well in ministry together. This will help youth ministry, I promise!

4. Youth Need You To Be An Adult. Youth have enough teenager friends. They need you to be responsible and mature – spiritually and behaviorally. They need to see evidence that a relationship with Jesus changes lives – yours and theirs. DO have fun! But please DON’T break rules, risk lives, promote sinful stuff or pretend that you’re invincible… because your youth really don’t need another goofy friend. They need a role model!

5. Parents Are Not The Problem. Don’t be that youth pastor that acts like parents are the enemy… your reputation with parents will impact your ability to minister to their kids!  Work hard to form relationships with parents and help them realize the important role they play in their teen’s faith formation. When you can help a parent realize their role as primary faith former and equip them to be the spiritual leader in their home, you will change the lives of every member of that family.  Find ways to connect with parents and include them in your ministry… Because they love their kids and so do you! (Note: Parents will and should get mad (and might become your enemy) if you (1) talk negatively of them, (2) don’t communicate to them in a timely manner, (3) put their kids in jeopardy by playing risky/stupid games, (4) don’t show up on time, (5) lie to them. Don’t do those things!)

6. Don’t Let Your Age Become An Excuse. If you don’t want your members to see you as “just a kid,” then stop reminding them that you are! When you present yourself in a professional, mature manner, they will begin talking more about your wisdom and less about your age. I believe your age and experience and unique lens to see the world is an asset to your ministry. Your leadership and voice are needed. Serve well! =)

I know you might read these tips and laugh because you’ve thought these things or done these things, or because you think I am wrong… I also know that all of these realizations have made me a better, more effective leader. That’s my hope for you! That you will be a better, more effective leader, who serves God and your church well…  because I love youth workers… and the church… and youth… and youth ministry… and Jesus… with all my heart!

Thanks for all you do every day to reach teenagers with the life-changing message of God’s love for them. You are making a difference!


PS: Make friends with the “sweet little old ladies!” They have keys to all the closets, bake really great cookies, and have stories about life and ministry that will make you a better person! =)

1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I am 17 and I am starting an entire youth ministry from scratch. I have been trying to find someone who was actually really young when they started to. These were great pieces of encouragement!

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