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The daunting job description of a youth pastor

Lately I’ve felt so overwhelmed with everything a youth pastor needs to do. How in the world can it be possible to fulfill all these things with some level of equal success? I’ve always thought it better to do a few things well than do many things half-way, but there really isn’t anything on my list that can be cut out or eliminated — they’re all important things!

1. Build relationships with students and spend time on their turf.

2. Ensure that volunteers are building relationships with students, too.

3. Train and equip volunteers to be effective in their various rolls.

4. Train parents and provide resources for them to be godly spiritual leaders.

5. Prepare ministry summary reports for church leadership.

6. Prepare students spiritually, emotionally and mentally for life in the “real world” after high school.

7. Plan, organize, and evaluate youth programs and then re-plan, re-organize, and re-evaluate them all over again.

8. Work to earn a voice and respect in the church community.

9. Become an expert on almost all teen issues, including (but not limited to) suicide, cutting, eating disorders, homosexuality, death, divorce, school drop-outs, hazing, incest, depression, pregnancy, rape, smoking, peer-pressure, STDs, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and various other addictions.

10. Become an effective communicator in both speech and writing.

11. Stay up to date on youth culture, trends, and value systems.

12. Develop counseling and listening skills.

13. Cast vision and recruit others to come on board.

14. Keep a current and accurate budget tally.

15. Learn to correctly handle God’s Word.

16. Maintain a healthy personal walk with God.

17. Enjoy down-time for yourself to relax.

18. Make sure your spouse and family comes first before everything else.

Youth pastors gotta work with almost everyone: students, parents, church leadership, and volunteers.

How in the world is it possible to keep all these balls rolling at the same time, plus everything else I didn’t even mention here, with only 40-50 hours per week (or, in my case, 30 hours per week)? Whew.


Posted on October 15, 2006

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  • http://bmblfrwrd.blogspot.com tk

    Hey Tim,

    thanks for stopping by my site.
    60 year old jr high pastors are few and far between. I’m not sure if you can fulfill the list you outlined and make it to 60 without alot of help.

    I’m not sure it’s possible to be an expert in all the areas in #9 either. It is critical for those of us on the front lines of Student Ministry to know when to ask for help or suggest help from professionals. That doesn’t alleviate our responsibility to stay involved in a student’s life. We need to know when to refer and then continue to walk along side those students struggling with the issues you mentioned.

    Any way you slice it, it’s a tough gig. Worth every minute of it, but tough.

    peace and prayers,

    tk

  • Jerry

    19. Educate the rest of the church who often think a youth pastor is nothing more than a recreation director on a cruise ship who does nothing but play games and get paid for acting like a kid.

  • http://blog.likeafire.net paul

    I was just thinking about this same think. There are so many expectations out there and so many ways we can’t do all of them. The best thing I have seen to make this worse is that most churches only want to pay a person a very miniscule amount of money to do this. That means it is usually a younger person with less experience trying to do this. That can be very dangerous.

    When I first started in youth ministry, I was in a church like this description. Because I was so achievement driven, I would work myself into a lather trying to do it all. Whether it is intentional or not, that is not a good position for a church to put a young leader.

    My new job desciription, and I am thinking of making something really big to hang behind my desk, is “Make Disciples”.

  • http://homepage.ntlworld.com/tom.kennar Tom Kennar

    Hey Tim – thanks for visiting my blog…my first overseas visitor I think! (The blog has only been running for a couple a wks). Had to laugh at your own job description…sounds very much like mine when I was a YMCA youth worker. And to think I gave all that up to be a minister! Now I have to be able to talk to all ages on every conceivable subject – as well as young people! Great to know you are out there. Praying for you!

  • http://faithengineer.blogspot.com Mike

    Great post. I liked the image of keeping all the balls in the air. Although for youth ministry I would add another person throwing more balls at you while you’re trying to juggle. It did make me think about how many guys and gals are out there doing youth ministry in addition to a full-time job. I know in our community, full time youth ministers are few and far between. And then add in seminary classes since most churches want that piece of paper, and then the list keeps growing, and growing, and growing.

  • http://www.harleyghost.typepad.com harleyghost

    not to be cute or curt … because I dislike both … but, pray a lot.

    It is a good thing that you have a target of what you want to see happen. I guess if you have a lot of things to aim for … you are bound to hit something … and to some degree it will all be good. I've always struggled … not with the good and bad …. but with the good and best. You are one of the best guys, Tim. Keep it up Bro …

    HG

  • http://bigjolly.com david

    Tim, you are not alone! Look at the new Barna survey. Survey says – people just want a good nights sleep!

    Relax. Running the world is God’s job.

  • http://www.wildfrontier.org Brenda Seefeldt

    I noticed in an earlier posting you correctly identified that the problem with today’s teens keeping their faith is more than just the youth ministry. However, in this job description the entire youth ministry is centered on the youth minister. Indirectly, this job description makes it the youth minister’s job to be responsible for the youth. All from good intentions, we have set ourselves up to be blamed for the teens faith failing. Maybe we need a new job description.

  • http://www.studentministry.org Tim

    I guess I should specify that, although the feeling can be overwhelming to all us youth pastors at one time or another, this isn’t my personal job description nor the one I submit to. This is mostly a list of what is sometimes expected of us by church leadership, parents, students and the church body and the various pressures we face. My point was to show just how unrealistic the pressure and expectations can be. There’s no way I see this as a legitimate job description that anyone should follow.

  • mike

    good call on that article tim… add one about making no money a lot of money just so you can have something in your budget… that would be cool… enjoyed the talk and thanks for your prayers.

    mikey

    • Bufordd90

      My advice to any youth pastor is to be simple. Teach kids the Bible. You don’t need to be an expert in any field to be a pastor (a youth pastor is a pastor). A genuine person who knows God is qualified for this job. The job deserves better pay and a higher level of respect than is currently given. Keeping our tasks simple allows us to focus and accomplish the mission in front of us. Young people will respond to this message the same way that they have for the last 2000 years. It is a timeless message.
      A youth volunteer,

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  • brooke

    Tim,

    My name is Brooke. I feel the call in my life to be a youth pastor and worship leader. God spoke to my heart at 12 years old. I am preparing to go to college this year to work towards my passion and to embrace what God has instilled in my heart. I love poeple and want to show them Gods love… thank you for this site and for talking about being a youth pastor. It has helped. :) God bless!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/timschmoyer Tim Schmoyer

      You're welcome! And glad to hear you're going into youth ministry! The field definitely needs more solid women!

  • http://www.rockfellowshipchurch.com Debi

    Tim…
    Wow!! Thanks for the refresher course!

    I used to be a youth Leader (20 years ago – was not ordained at the time) for our church when it was brand new… no-one else would step-up to the plate to do it, and since I had 2 kids in Youth… I said I would lead.

    I had no idea at the time what I was getting into… but the overall experience and rewards was priceless.

    I am a pastor now… under my senior pastor and husband. We are in the process of planting a church and are right now visiting with and getting ready to appoint our Youth Pastor. I am trying to put together an accurate job description for him, when I came across your blog.

    Just as we are starting this church from scratch… so will he be starting the Youth ministry for the church (clean slate to work with sounds cool, huh??) He will be the architect so to speak. And he only has 2 youth to start with.

    If you were me… what do you think is the most important thing to include in the job description (aside from the obvious walk with Christ) ??

    • http://www.studentministry.org Tim Schmoyer

      That's a really good question. I'm actually getting ready to write a blog post about a new and better approach to hiring a youth pastor than the typical search committee approach. That should be up this week or next. Last week I wrote about 10 tips for youth pastor search committees, which you might find helpful, as well.

      To answer your question, since you have a clean slate, I would focus more on hiring the right person and then working with them to write a job description that fits their skill set, passion, giftedness, and more. It's better to frame a box around the right person than to attempt to fit a person into your box, ya know? Overall, you should look for someone who has an equipping heart for the body of Christ rather than someone who will accept responsibility from the church about the youth ministry that should really rest on the shoulders of the church body. Too many churches hire staff to outsource ministry to instead of hiring staff to help equip THEM to do the ministry God calls them to do.

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