Characteristics of the church I work in next

Church directionAs I distance myself from my previous youth ministry position and as I talk with potential new churches, I feel like I’m getting a clearer understanding of who I am in ministry and how God’s wired me to serve His bride. I’m learning that it will have to be a pretty unique church for me to fit, not because I can’t fill the role of a typical youth pastor, but because I think most churches are looking for the same thing they’ve sought for years and I don’t think that is serving the church as well anymore.

The main problem for me, however, is that I’m not content with normal ministry. I think normal is having mediocre youth ministry fruit (comapred to what the Holy Spirit wants to do), frustrated youth workers, leadership that’s content to just maintain, and worse, a church that’s hindered from moving forward in its ministry to teenagers and families.

I hope the church I serve in next will have the following qualities, in no particular order.

1. Be more focused on finding the right person for their church and shaping the job box around that person’s gifts and passions instead of starting with the box and trying to find someone who will fit it. The right person will serve your church much better in the long run. Start with conversations about character, integrity, passion, vision, values, etc., instead of about ministry accomplishments.

2. Holding Q&A sessions for each other is fine, but if we just hang up when we’re through our lists, how do we evaluate potential chemistry? I like to just chill and discuss unrelated matters. Small talk communicates a lot to me about how we’d get along as friends and ministry partners. It also shows me that you’re more interested in building relationships than checking our conversation off your to-do list for today.

3. I’ve already said this in my 10 ways to improve your youth pastor search committee, but it’s still true: if you want to hire a relational guy for your youth ministry, then take a relational process. A church that sends me a generic, “We got your resume from your seminary. Complete the attached questionnaire and maybe we’ll be in touch,” doesn’t get a response from me. I hope it’s not because I’m arrogant, but rather because I want to serve in a church that cares about individual people more than a congregation as a whole. If a church truly values individuals enough for that to ooze through their search process, I’m totally interested! In fact, I think it’s awesome when that pastor calls me unannounced just to talk and get to know me a bit.

4. Nothing is more frustrating for a relational youth worker than sitting behind a desk all day. Honestly, “youth pastor” in most churches should be retitled, “youth administrator,” and they should give the pastor title to the volunteers who are probably doing most of the pastoral work. The church I’m currently attending does it differently than “normal.” It communicates to people that they did not hire office pastors. I love that! They hired pastors to be out in the community and with people all day. In fact, both pastors at our church primarily use their office for storage, not work, and to be honest, I’ve never seen our senior pastor in his office at all. Ever. That’s awesome! Hire someone who has administrative gifts to do the scheduling, calendars, plan trips, respond to floods of email, write up flyers, etc., and hire someone with the spiritual gift of pastor/shepherding to be the pastor.

5. Although few churches will come right out and say this, when you really boil it down, what they’re looking for is to outsource the youth ministry to someone. Too many senior pastors want a youth pastor to take over that area of ministry so it’s “one less thing to worry about.” Instead, I firmly believe that the role of a youth pastor should be about equipping the local body of Christ to engage with its calling to reach teenagers, not, “We hire you to do youth ministry on our behalf so we don’t have to.” Outsourcing to the paid professional is not what I’m signing up for. I want to serve a body in their ministry, not come on board and have to always convince people to serve in my ministry.

6. I get excited about a church that doesn’t wait to have a paid youth pastor position filled before they start moving in a direction with the youth ministry. Normal youth ministries are placed on hold until they hire someone else for the position. They say it’s because they want the next guy to have freedom to go whatever direction he wants with it, but I’d rather see that they care too much about the ministry to let it sit idle while they go through that search. I’d love to see a congregation that links arms, decides that they’re not dependent on a paid guy, and start moving ahead in the direction the Holy Spirit leads them. The best part is that they can then hire someone who’s passionate about helping them go the direction God has called them instead of hiring someone who will come in and champion his or her own direction that the church then supports. If the role of a youth pastor is to help the body take ownership of it’s calling to reach teenagers and families, then the position should be about equipping, training, vision casting, overseeing and modeling their direction.

7. I need to serve in a church where there is a strong vision, a value of moving forward, a discontent with “normal,” a genuine burden for lost people, where ministry is critically evaluated, divine risks are embraced, and an atmosphere that is permeated by authentic worship, prayer, discipleship and missions. I want to see them actually living it out, not just talking about it or using the jargon in their church’s letterhead.

Posted on June 14, 2011

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