Leading when you want to quit (1 of 4)

Topic / Leadership

by guest blogger, Bill Allison
I was twenty-two years old and in my last year of Bible College when I got a phone call from a senior pastor telling me that the vote to hire me as a church youth pastor was 35 to 5. I liked the 35 part—but was more than a little concerned about the 5 people who voted against the idea of me taking the position. When I told the senior pastor that I was a little worried about the 5 no votes, he said, “You have less no votes than I had when I accepted the call to be the senior pastor of this church!” So, with some apprehension and assurance from my senior pastor, I accepted the position.

During the very first week I served in that church as youth pastor, each of the people who voted against my coming to the church decided to drop in and visit me. They came into my office one at a time and said the most hurtful things—doing their absolute best to discourage me. (Have you ever noticed that some people in church seem to believe that discouragement and criticism are their spiritual gifts—and that they want to use them on you?) “Students will never like you,” one snorted as I imagined little horns starting to protrude from his head. Another told me in no uncertain terms that I was “out of the will of God” for accepting the position — and was so angry that she got her tail caught in the door of my office as she stormed out. Another held her pitchfork tightly and flatly said, “You will ruin this church.” With the exception of the horns, tail, and pitchfork — everything in this story is as it happened.

In all seriousness, to this day — twenty-three years later, I can still feel the sting of their words — though the hurt is not as sharp as it was once. Let me confess that I spent a full year of Sunday mornings dealing with my bitter emotions. On the outside, I appeared to be okay. But seeing “them” every Sunday wrecked me. Multiple times while my pastor was preaching his heart out, I would silently confess to God the vindictive thoughts that plagued my mind.

It’s no fun to lead when you feel like quitting. After a quarter-century of youth ministry, I know. That’s why I want to invite you to take this journey with me — via this special series we’re launching at Life in Student Ministry. We’ll begin to unpack the art and skill of leading when you want to quit. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of seeing the best and the brightest in youth ministry not only drop out of the ministry, but out of the faith. Hopefully, by the time this series is completed, you’ll be able to apply a clear and biblical strategy for dealing with the depression, despair, and discouragement that has come to be a part of the youth pastor experience. One thing is for sure. Discouragement and his ugly cousins, Despair and Depression, will try to sink their sharp bloody teeth into your very soul and take you down for the count. What’s up for grabs is: How will you deal with discouragement when it comes? Stay tuned…


Who is Bill Allison? When he became a youth pastor, Bill Allison (center in picture below) had six keys to effective youth ministry. Now, twenty-five years later, Bill has six kids of his own and no keys. His kids are ages six to sixteen, including two in junior high and two in high school, so pray for him. Some of Bill’s lifetime goals are to drive in a smash-up derby, ride a Harley on Route 66 from Chicago to LA, and chase a tornado. He’s madly in love with his wife, Stacy, and dates her every week, even after 20 years of marriage. When Bill is not dating his wife or doing life with his kids (and their friends), he is the Executive Director for Cadre Ministries, a faith-based missionary team (with almost 100 years of combined youth ministry experience) who pour their lives out to help churches equip students and volunteers to do ministry in Ephesians 4:11-12 fashion. Cadre has trained and certified many youth pastors to take training back to their students and volunteers. For information on becoming a certified trainer, or to bring Cadre training to your ministry, contact By the way, even as an old guy, Bill continues to serve as a volunteer in the high school youth ministry of his church and wants to spend the rest of his life training, coaching, and mentoring the next generation of volunteer and vocational youth workers.

Posted on January 15, 2008

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  • Sheri

    I love this series so far and feel a great deal of support from this site even though I am a JEWISH Youth Director.


  • Good, Sheri! I’m glad this is encouraging and I’m glad you’re a part of it. Jesus was a Jew and He’s the most important part of this site, so welcome! :)

  • This story of a young pastor being discouraged/abused by members of a congregation is just one of many that I’ve heard from people in ministry over the past year. I am curious, is this a wide-spread trend that has been happening for many years? Or is this only the experience of a handful of young leaders in the church? I’m genuinely intrigued if the stories of my friends and colleagues are small parts of a larger trend, or maybe I just know lots of people who’ve been discouraged recently. I recognize that the root cause of all this is sin, so it will be an issue that those in ministry will inevitably face. But how can churches encourage their youth pastors instead of discourage?

    These are the questions this post brought up in my mind. Thanks for making me think! Looking forward to the next three!

  • Joel, I hear it a lot, too. I have no idea what the statistics are, but I have to keep in mind that there are also youth pastors out there (like myself) who are very happy at their church and where they’re serving — I just don’t hear about those people, so the actual percentage of youth pastors who are having bad experiences may actually be pretty low.

    Bill probably knows better than I do about this subject, but when I hear about church issues with youth pastors, it’s usually not because they hated kids or taught heresy — it’s because 1) they don’t navigate the church system very well (blog series on that coming up later) and/or 2) their philosophy of ministry, especially their core values, are not aligned with the church’s. Everyone has values in ministry whether they’re explicitly stated or not, the church, the sr. pastor and the youth pastor. The youth pastor, being at the bottom of the food chain, looses if there’s a conflict between those values. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that a youth worker knows what his/her values are in ministry and can find out what the church’s values are during the interviewing process, again, both the written values and the unwritten values.

  • That’s so challenging… To keep going when you feel like quitting. It’s often our mind that the enemy is after. If he can convince our mind that we’re not capable to do God’s will, he’s a happy camper; however, “faithful is He who calls you and He will also bring it to pass.” 1 Thes. 5:24 We just need to trust Him.

  • Thanks for doing this series, guys! I look forward to what Bill has to say!

  • Tim, thanks for the insightful feedback. The values being out of alignment makes a great deal of sense. Once I began to think of my pastor friends who have become discouraged, it often had to do with implicit values on both parties that conflicted but were never stated aloud.

    Now I am very interested about the upcoming posts on navigating the church system!

  • Wow folks… I am so thrilled to read your comments and insights. Thanks for letting me be one of your biggest fans cheering you on… in this one small way.

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  • Good start to a much needed series… and not just for youth guys either. Blessings brother!

  • Alicia

    Wow, God has truly lead me to this website. My husband and I have been Youth Pastors since 1993, and just this year our new pastor has assigned two younger married couples to train in our position, as we oversee them in their process. Both my husband and I are 54 years old, so actually the two married couple are youths we had as Youths Pastors in the beginning of our ministry. We started to lay back on them, so that the youths can start to know the trainees, and they can develop skills and ideas with them, etc. But just this last sunday I was told by one of our volunteers that the youths are wondering why we abandoned them, that we are not involved with them like we did before the other generation. I was very surprised to hear this, I mean, I figured we are Moses and Josuha is now leading the new youth, now that the old youths are gone, meaning grown to adults. Well it seems they want us involved even if we are 54 years old. What a surprise I was given. The youth actually want to hang out at our home, and have a gathering, movie night, barbeque, just as long as they can come over. I guess the Lord isn’t finish with us yet. Thanks for that testimony about quitting. I will finish all 4 parts that you have and encourge the new trainees to read this, incase one day they feel the same. Thanks

  • Alicia: One of my best youth workers is a grandfather in his 60s. He’s got white hair, doesn’t know any of the latest bands or trends, but kids don’t care about that stuff. All they really want to know is that you love them and care about them. In fact, older youth workers have spiritual wisdow and input into teens lived that people like me can only dream of. Generally speaking, I’ve found that the older leaders are more effective with kids than the younger ones, so Alicia, stick with it and don’t quit until the Lord takes you home!

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