Choosing Between Youth Worker and Ministry Leader

By Doug Franklin October 31, 2019

The difference between youth workers and ministry leaders…

Being a youth worker is all about engaging students with the purpose of bringing them to Christ.

Being a ministry leader is all about managing people and resources.

The truth is that they’re two very different jobs. 

Youth workers spend their time building relationships with students, teaching them God’s word, helping them grow closer to Christ, and releasing them to use their gifts in the community of faith.

A ministry leader spends their time recruiting volunteers, creating strategies, programming events and training adult volunteers. Ministry leaders also build momentum with parents and church leadership, all the while making sure everything in the ministry runs safely and securely.

here’s the problem…

Here’s where the problem really manifests itself.

Let’s play out the following scenario.

Your youth ministry is growing, and you decide to invite five new volunteers to join your team as small group leaders. Meanwhile, you continue to run your own small group and assume that all is well with your new volunteers.

Before long you notice that students are leaving the youth ministry. To them, it looks like you’re playing favorites with the students in your group, and they’re upset that they’re not in “the group.”

Pretty soon you begin to hear complaints from parents because they don’t understand who gets to be in and who is out. They see a favoritism issue, and what seemed like a great idea at the time (adding new leaders) turns into a big problem.

here’s more of the problem…

Or take a look at this example.

As the youth worker, you believe its your responsibility to lead the ministry and spend all your time building up volunteers, planning events, and making sure the logistics are all taken care of. 

But you notice that parents and volunteers expect you (and you alone!) to evangelize and disciple students. They’re under the impression that volunteers can and should handle the logistics.

The missed expectation regarding roles leads to frustration on both sides, and, once again, you find yourself in the midst of a major ministry problem.

what’s the solution?

The question becomes, “Can you do both?” Can you be both youth worker and ministry leader?

My answer is “no.”

I don’t think you can do both because these positions are very different and require different skill sets. And when we try to fill both roles at the same time, we end up doing a poor job of both and/or creating more problems along the way.

The solution is to determine which position you fill in the youth ministry and then communicate this focus to the church leadership. Their response will give you a better understanding of their expectations.

You will then need to show them who is going to be working with you and prove that they can handle those responsibilities.

Youth workers and ministry leaders serve important roles, but trying to fill both roles at the same time may not lead the sort of intentional and effective youth ministries that each of us would like to lead.

So take your pick, and communicate your decision.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More