A better process for hiring a youth pastor (2 of 2)

Hiring a youth pastorYesterday I wrote about some of the pros and cons of a typical youth pastor search committee and ultimately concluded that the typical approach to hiring pastoral church staff probably doesn’t lead us to always hiring a natural and proper fit. There’s a lot the process doesn’t tell us, too many things are often left undiscovered, and in its worst case scenario can even setup both the church and the youth pastor for a lot of disillusionment and ultimately, conflict.

An Organic Youth Pastor Hiring Process

So here’s a different approach to church staffing, much of it influenced by Mark Riddle’s book, Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors: A Church Leader’s Guide to Staffing and Leading Youth Pastors. And in the video below, I had the opportunity to discuss this hiring process with him and hear his feedback about it.

A more natural and organic hiring process could look something like this:

1. First ensure that the church’s youth ministry is healthy before hiring someone to come into an unhealthy context. Of course, that begs a definition of what a healthy ministry is and what it looks like, but very simply in this hiring context it looks like a youth ministry that can function and thrive on its own without a paid staff member. In fact, after a year or two of the church body taking 100% ownership of its youth ministry, students and leaders alike should be asking the question, “Why do we even need to hire a youth pastor anymore?” That’s when it’s time to consider hiring a youth pastor because then the youth pastor is not hired as someone to outsource the ministry to and take over, but instead he/she is hired as someone to come equip the church and help the body take its ministry to teenagers to the next level. (Mark’s book talks more about this, so again, check it out. Also consider bringing him in as a consultant during this transitional period! [My shameless plug for Mark!])

2. During this time (and even before), get to know some other youth workers both locally and outside your community, not necessarily with the intention of possibly hiring the person, but to genuinely get to know them, to learn from them about youth ministry, and to build a relationship outside the pressures of a hiring process (where everyone is usually on their best behavior, similar to a new couple on their first dates). After investing into those relationships, you’ll know more about yourself, your ministry, their ministry and may even be able to hire someone through those relationships because they’ve been involved with stories surrounding your strengths and weaknesses as you have with theirs. You’ve had time to experience chemistry with people, natural connection, humor, and have observed things rather than just asked them questions about things through a standard interviewing process.

3. Form a team of people to talk about the relationships you’ve built over the past year or two with youth workers and even with people who aren’t vocational youth workers, but you feel have the heart and personality to change careers and come on staff to lead and train the church body to continue to do youth ministry better. Then prayerfully bring up the “hiring” word with the main person the team agrees upon. From there, you take your time until the Lord leads the right person to the ministry. And because the ministry is already healthy and running smoothly without a paid staff member, there is no sense of urgency to fill the position before the right personal comes along through your relationships.

Mark Riddle’s thoughts on this process

This is somewhat similar to what Mark Riddle outlines in his book, Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors: A Church Leader’s Guide to Staffing and Leading Youth Pastors, so I did a video interview with him to run some of this past him along with some objections and weaknesses it might have. Below is our discussion.

Similar to yesterday’s post about a typical hiring process, here are some pros and cons to a more organic, relational style of church staffing


  • When you hire someone, you bring them into a healthy context where there’s minimal junk to sabotage their efforts.
  • The church body not only has a clear and unified focus about their philosophy of youth ministry, expectations and values before they bring someone on board, but they’ve been living it and owning it, too.
  • They’re joining you in ministry rather than you bringing someone in to do the ministry and you helping them do it.
  • The youth pastor is free to serve primarily in whatever capacity God has gifted them. The focus becomes more about finding the right person than it is on finding someone to fulfill a vacancy because all the roles are already running smoothly.
  • Since there’s no hurry to find a youth pastor, you can take your time and make sure your next hire is the absolutely the right person.
  • It forces a church to face it’s (often unidentified) junk and to work through it before putting a youth pastor in the middle of it.
  • Because it’s a relational approach to hiring, churches who want to hire a relational guy or girl for your youth ministry will experience someone’s “relationability” first-hand, and the relational youth workers will definitely be attracted to your church.
  • There’s less anxiety in the hiring process because you’ve already been good friends for a year or two with the person you’re hiring. You feel more confident about what you’re getting and the role that person plays in your ministry.


  • It can be a long process. A typical resume/interview approach can go fairly quick, but this process takes considerably more time, prayer, growing pains and investment.
  • Families who associate the presence of a youth pastor with how much a church values its teenagers may feel unvalued and possibly leave the church.
  • Youth leaders and church members may not want to make the tremendous investment into the ministry and take the ownership that is required to serve families at a high caliber when they feel it’s easier to just hire someone else to run it instead.
  • Churches may begin to build relationships with other youth workers only with hiring in mind and later drop the relationship once they determine the person isn’t a good fit or when they hire someone else.

QUESTION: What are your reactions and thoughts to this process of church staffing?

Posted on April 21, 2011

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99