This Youth Ministry Stuff Takes Energy!

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I was talking with a friend of mine who was a youth leader for many years and is now a senior pastor of a large church. We laughed as we remembered the crazy stuff that we experienced as youth leaders. We both expressed our thankfulness for the blessings we experienced AND we both agreed it was the most exhausting time of our life.

I’m pretty sure most youth leaders will agree that youth work, while incredibly rewarding, consumes time and energy in ways most of us never imagined. I suspect you could name a half dozen really good youth leaders who for a variety of reasons left youth ministry. Those reasons often include getting another job that takes up more time, getting married, having children, going to seminary, etc.

How many really gifted youth leaders have resigned because they didn’t have the time or energy to continue at the pace it takes to do good youth ministry? Then the next question becomes, how do we support those youth leaders so that they can continue to do the ministry for which they are so gifted?

Just this morning, a colleague reminded me of the story of Moses holding out his staff as the Israelites were in battle. When his arms became tired and his staff was lowered the tide of the battle turned away from the Israelites. So Aaron and Hur held up his arms. You’ll notice they didn’t take the staff away from him and start leading themselves. They simply supported him.

Great story, and I think it can be used to show the opportunity to support your youth leaders. You don’t have to lead for them, but you do have to support them.

How can you do that? Plenty of ways I can think of and probably many more that readers can add to the list. Are you praying over your youth leaders regularly? Are you providing help, through parents or others in the church who have time or talents to share? Are you encouraging balance in their lives?

I would love to hear of other ideas to support and care for youth pastors, who are so often more than willing to put in the hours and energy … but will ultimately pay the price in exhaustion and burnout.

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Certainly, youth ministry takes a certain type of gifted individual;

The proof that it is an extremely difficult task is in the statistics..."the average life of a youth pastor in any given church is 3 years" I have been working with youth/young adults since 1984 and wonder where did all those years go and how much of an impact did I really have on the lives of youth. But that's not for me to ponder....God has that all figured out (thank goodness)!

Certainly, when a church supports you (rather than directs you), there is no question that the job becomes easier and has a life of it's own. What many youth pastors aren't told is that you need to love kids, love what they love (sports, music etc), be flexible (because everything always changes), be a great multi-tasker, not take things that kids/parents say too personally, have lots of ideas and understand like life, some will be huge successes and others will fail miserably. These are the things they don't usually tell youth pastors which is why so many get frustrated and leave either a church or the ministry altogether.

When you have a church community that is invested in the entire process (eg interested in actually how the kids are engaging in their faith journey) and not just another program (or worse a "christian babysitting service") then you have a viable program and a youth pastor that is challenged to take the playing field with his team of young adults and to seek the prize.....developing Christian leaders of tomorrow.....youth, parents, add'l leaders, church members, support (service, prayer, financial) and a youth pastor (the coach that calls the plays) is ALL needed to carry out a God-honoring program....

Here is my suggestion: the most "successful" youth development programs I have witnessed over almost 25 years have occurred when churches have made it part of their Church's Mission Statement. It may take a yr, 2 ys or more, but when it is put as a challenge for the entire church body, every member has a vested interest in directing their youth.

In my humble opinion,

Albert Huizing IV

Great post Albert!  I absolutely love your suggestion that youth development be part of the church's mission statement.  I wonder how many churches have done that?  Thanks for sharing.