Should I go into youth ministry?

youth ministry?A female high school student is considering youth ministry as a full-time vocation and interviewed me with a couple questions. Here’s my response. She would love to have your input, too, especially from any other full-time women youth workers.

Would you recommend it to me as a ministry or career option?

Absolutely, but only if you feel a passion for your area of ministry. There’s a lot of glamor to ministry from the outside looking in, but from the inside looking out, ministry is tough. It’s often a struggle. Whenever you work with people who are just as sinful and depraved as you, it’s gonna be messy. There will be criticism, people who don’t like or understand what you’re doing, people with conflicting values, false accusations, misunderstandings, feelings of being undervalued, and so much more. It doesn’t matter what kind of ministry you undertake, this will be true wherever you go. If you’re not 100% certain of the Lord’s calling on your life into ministry, it will become easy to give up and move on to a less emotional vocation.

However, that said, the rewards of ministry far outweigh the conflicts and dealing with sin issues. For me personally, what I thrive on in ministry is seeing that “light bulb” go off for a student who finally “gets it.” They might have heard 100 times before that God loves them, but when it finally hits and you can see the realization in their eyes that, “Woah, God really does love ME!” Man, I get tingles inside just thinking about it. Seeing the spiritual connections take place and knowing that my relationship with a student could impact the rest of their life is an incredibly sobering responsibility that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

So, to answer your question, would I recommend ministry, and specifically youth ministry, to you as a career option? Absolutely, as long as you’re passionate about it and feel the Lord calling you to it. Youth ministry is in desperate need of good vocational female youth workers. So many paid youth pastors are male that it’s almost crippling! We need solid women to help in this role.

What challenges do you think I would face because of the fact that I am a gal, not a guy when it comes to relation to different churches?

Well, it depends on what position of ministry you’re going into. In the context of youth ministry, there will be some churches that won’t hire you, but those are fortunately becoming fewer and farther between.

Honestly, I don’t foresee many unique challenges in youth ministry because you’re a girl. Maybe I’m completely disconnected from what’s happening in this area, but if anything, I think being a girl probably works to your advantage because female youth workers are fewer and thereby in higher demand. Some churches who are hiring specifically an ordained youth “pastor” might not consider you, but I’m not ordained either, so it’s possible to get hired. I think you’ll find several churches looking specifically for female workers and not enough girls out there willing to take the call.

What courses did you find most useful during college?

Oh man, my college has the best youth ministry program I’ve come across yet. Every one of them was totally down-to-earth, practical and impacted my ministry in various ways. I’m not sure I can name just one of them. Here are the ones that come to mind, though:

1. Philosophy of Youth Ministry
2. Teaching Process
3. Youth Culture

Other non-youth ministry courses that were helpful to me in college are:

1. Ministry Management
2. Theology of the Christian Life
3. Doctrine I, II, and III

What has been the most important preparation that you have had under your belt for your ministry?

Honestly, it’s all the scripture memorization that my dad made me do when I was a little kid. He made us memorize about 12-20 verses every week that we had to recite before we could eat lunch. Although I don’t quite agree with that tactic myself, it got the point across. We even memorized books of the Bible and many Psalms. I think memorizing scripture has helped me in ministry more than both Bible college and seminary put together.

What have you enjoyed most with youth ministry and what have been your biggest troubles with it?

Well, I kinda answered that one earlier, sorry. What I enjoy most is seeing life-change take place in students’ lives, watching the “light bulb” turn on when a spiritual truth finally hits home and they “Oh, I get it now!” moments take place. My biggest trouble are working with people who are just as sinful as I am. The depravity of man is an awful thing that complicates even the best thing in the worst ways. Conflict, disagreements, criticism, and judgments are unfortunately all a part of ministry.

Posted on April 30, 2007

  • Hey Tim,

    I’m a woman in youth ministry. I’ve been involved in youth ministry for about 22 years and started as a volunteer when I was 16. If I could tell your student anything, I would tell her to get all the experience she can get. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of churches that won’t hire women in a youth pastor role. I feel that I’ve been blessed and fortunate. I would also tell her to get a lot of experience in training and recruiting volunteers and to specifically learn how to relate well to men. Being a woman, I really believe it’s important for me to get the best men volunteers I can, so they can relate to the guys in our group. There are some things that guys just need to talke to guys with. I love the diversity that men and women bring to the table. I would also tell her to go where God leads her and to not be personally offended when a church won’t hire her because of her gender. It’s not worth being at a church that doesn’t really believe in her and what God has called her to do. I would also encourage her to ask a lot of questions at any church she might work in. Really press them hard about what they believe a woman’s role is in the church. And make sure she knows what she believes a woman’s role is in the church. I would also encourage her to find a group of women who are already in ministry, some who have been in ministry for a while and some who are just starting out! It will be a great support to her as she starts out in ministry. Hope that helps.

  • Tim

    Wow, that’s very helpful, Sandy. Thanks! The girl knows I posted this and will be reading your comments, so I’ll let her follow-up here with any questions she has for ya, but your input is really helpful even for me.

  • Kathy

    Hi! As another female with a passion for youth ministry I thought that I would add my two cents worth to the discussion. I have been a volunteer youth sponsor and the coordinator of my church’s Junior High youth group for a little over 5 years now, and about three years ago I left my job to go back to university to study youth ministry. I don’t regret it for a second. However, I have to be honest and say that finding a position has proved to be much more difficult than I expected, and I have returned to my previous career as a way of “tent-making” to allow me to do ministry. Our church has a full-time youth pastor (a male) whom I enjoy and appreciate working with, and I absolutely love the ministry that I’m doing. It’s just on a volunteer basis, not as a paid position.

    I think that it’s wise to find out about where your particular denomination stands on women in ministry, both on paper and in practice if possible. I would also suggest talking specifically with other women in ministry within your denomination. As I said, I don’t for a minute regret the decision to pursue my calling to youth ministry, but had I done my homework and had a better idea of what to expect I could have avoided some pitfalls along the way.

    Either way, there’s no better place to be than ministering to and with youth, and I am loving every minute of it.

  • When it comes to what sort of classes to take. One of the things that I wish I would have taken are graphic design and advertisement classes. I’m not saying that a youth ministry should be all about marketing, but I spend lots of time making newsletters and mail out and such and it would have been nice to have a class or two that would help me in that area.

    Also, if you are in a secular school try to take electives that move you around to various majors. Any chance to learn more about different types of people should be embraced. I loved being involved in my school’s English department because I got a chance for the first time in my life to actually hang out with atheists and agnostics. What I learned from those relationships has been invaluable to me in my ministry. (Funny story: I was a religion minor and over half of my classes were taught by a self proclaimed Shaman. Now that’s a liberal arts education)

    But if you can find a college that teaches it I would say that “Chair-Set-Up 101” would teach you skills that you will use every week.

  • Tim

    Shane, I’ve also found that design is very important. It’s just like a sermon: it doesn’t matter how deep and how solid your content is, if its delivery and “packaging” doesn’t attract attention and communicate well, then it’s worthless.

  • Alex

    Thank you so much everyone for the advice and info. This is so helpful!

  • Tim

    Alex, I think Kathy’s advice to find out how the denomination views women in ministry is important, but as we’ve talked before, I think it’s more important to figure out what you believe personally about it first. And make sure that belief is founded on scripture more than anything else.

    I’m praying for you!

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