Time Out: Youth pastor as maestro

Time Out (by Jerry Schmoyer)

We’ve all heard many analogies of pastors (and youth pastors) being shepherds of their sheep. In the Fall of 1988, in the issue of Leadership Magazine, Fred Smith used orchestra conductors as examples of pastors. I’d like to apply that to youth pastors as well.

The purpose of an orchestra conductor is to make the chosen selection of music come alive through the musicians he leads. A youth pastor is to make the Word of God come alive in the youth he leads. Before he can do that he must have a reverence for the music and a very intimate knowledge of it himself. No conductor is born with a knowledge of the music he leads. He must arrive at it by hard work. Youth pastors must never stop learning God’s Word. Too many become “too busy” and stop studying the Bible for their own growth. They level off and coast. No good conductor would allow himself to do that. He must keep improving his own knowledge or he won’t be able to help others increase theirs.

When he leads his orchestra, the conductor must set a meaningful beat. The rhythm, volume, intensity and interpretation are his responsibility as he leads others. They know how to bring out the best in their players. They respond to his passion, his enjoyment and his enthusiasm. He complements them on a job well done and they strive to do even better. Youth pastors, too, set the tone and mood for the group they lead. The teens look to them to determine how to respond.

When one of the musicians makes a mistake, a good conductor knows how to minimize it and correct it without embarrassing the person or letting it spread to others. He knows mistakes will happen because he keeps stretching their ability and moving them to even greater levels of performance. He forms them into a team but relates to each one individually. His job is never finished. He patiently keeps moving ahead despite whatever obstacles may be in his way. He keeps his eye on his goal: reproducing the music of the great composers in the lives of his players. It’s a daunting task, but a worthy one. Youth pastors, too, must strive to bring the best out of their teens. They must keep moving them ahead but also know how to gently handle mistakes along the way. He knows his job is never done but gains satisfaction from the progress his group has made. His remembers that is main goal is always and only to reproduce the music of the Great Composer in their lives.

2 Timothy 4:1-2, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.”


  • How does this picture of an orchestra leader compare with how you see yourself as a youth pastor?
  • Entertainment, popularity, fun — all these are means to an end but not an end in themselves. Has anything sidetracked you from your goal of reproducing Jesus in the lives of your teens? What do you need to do to correct that?

Jerry SchmoyerJerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 15 years, ever since I became one myself. He authors the weekly Time Out series here at Life in Student Ministry in hopes to spiritually refresh your soul as you continually pour so much of yourself into students. God bless!

Posted on November 22, 2009

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