It’s okay to quit your youth ministry job

Quitting Youth MinistryAfter serving in vocational youth ministry for 12 years and revolving my life around everything youth ministry entails, it felt really weird the moment I was no longer employed by a church. I immediately started looking for a new paid youth ministry position, a search that lasted two years. There’s a lot of reasons why the search took that long, but honestly, looking back on it now, my wife and I can both see that the real reason is that God didn’t want us to go back into vocational youth ministry for this season of our life.

But that felt very wrong because I regularly hear people in the youth ministry world saying, “Don’t give up! It’s worth it! Your kids need you! Set a faithful example for them to follow!” I felt a strong sense of guilt for coming to a place where I was okay with not being paid to do youth ministry. I felt like I must somehow turn my back on some sense of “calling” and pursue something less noble, less honorable, and less fulfilling in order to provide an income for my family.

But I’ve learned over the past two years that that simply isn’t true. I’ve learned that…

  • Serving as a youth group volunteer provides tremendous ministry opportunities that I never experienced as a paid guy.
  • There are plenty of kids outside the church who need to be reached. Ministry to them is sometimes easier when they know it’s not your job.
  • My spiritual gift of being a pastor/shepherd feels like it is used to a much fuller degree both as a volunteer and in personal ministry opportunities.
  • Ironically, there is sometimes much more flexibility to serve teens and to connect with their families.

It’s important to remember that just because you’re not getting paid to do youth ministry doesn’t mean you’re any less of a youth worker because of it. It doesn’t mean you’ve quit youth ministry. It doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned something you feel the Lord has instructed you to do.

What if quitting meant you could serve teenagers and their families in ways you never could before? What if it would somehow make you more effective as a youth leader? What if it meant you’d reach kids who otherwise would never be reached? What if it provided new ministry opportunities that you never would’ve seen nor had time for in a paid position? What if it meant you could bless others in new ways? What if it meant setting an example to those around you of what it means to follow Christ even if it leads to new things?

Let me be clear that I am not saying you should quit your youth ministry job nor am I even recommending it. We definitely need solid people serving in those capacities. I’m talking to those of you who may be feeling that the Lord is leading you to step down, not because your ministry is unusually difficult or because you’re tired, but because He is stirring something in your heart. Yet you persist because you think it means abandoning youth ministry or pursuing something less noble. Remember, being a youth pastor is not the ultimate calling. Being exactly where God wants you is the ultimate calling.

It’s okay to quit. Maybe it just means the Lord wants to take your paid ministry experience and use it in other ways to reach His teenagers and families.

Posted on July 31, 2012

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