Why Every Youth Pastor Should Get a Job (Part 1)
I can still remember the first time someone called me “Pastor.” At the age of 22, I was presiding over the wake of a student in our ministry who took her own life. With hundreds of tear filled eyes looking to me for answers, the weight of that title—Pastor—sank in. I had been given a great deal of responsibility with very little training. I had to be shepherd, leader, event planner, preacher, curriculum writer, and counselor. Yet I was willing to carry those responsibilities. That’s what I had signed up for.
Fast-forward four years. My fiancé accepted an out-of-state position in residence life at a college, so I resigned from my youth ministry job. We married, moved, and transitioned into a world very different from my days as a youth pastor. I found myself working behind a desk in a sales position at a private health and tennis club.
In a matter of months, I went from teaching, preaching, leading, traveling, setting my own hours, and managing my own budget, to punching a time clock, working on commission, staring at a computer screen, and leading no one. To say that the first year in my new job was tough would be an understatement. Most days I didn’t want to be there. Some days I don’t think my employers wanted me there either. However, in the three years I worked there, I matured in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
What I share here is the first of three lessons I learned during my time in the marketplace. God used those years to shape me, mold me, and grow me, not only in the business world, but as a pastor too.
As part of my current job, I have the privilege of talking with hundreds of youth workers every month. One thing I hear over and over from youth pastors makes me cringe: “Administration is not really in my gift set.”
From my years in youth ministry I learned that we love to know our unique wiring and spiritual gifts. In the marketplace I learned that no one cares. When a task needed to get done, I was expected to do it. And if I wasn’t good at it, I had to learn. Administration, contrary to popular belief, is a skill set that anyone can grow in. Being a dynamic preacher is absolutely not an excuse to get out of hard or monotonous work.
The truth is, when we grow our administrative skills, we grow our leadership. People follow great administrators because great administration provides clarity, organization, and safety for followers. A successful youth worker will not only move their audience through energetic speeches, but they will also move their ministry forward through clear goals, defined roles, and well-executed initiatives.
Sadly—and I am not alone here—I fell short as a youth pastor in the area of administration.
It is a powerful temptation to neglect the areas of our ministry we don’t enjoy. This pattern, however, builds a reputation of laziness, forgetfulness, unprofessionalism, and immaturity. It furthers the stereotype held by the receptionist I just got off the phone with:
“Hi, is Tom in today?”
“Tom? I never know where he is. He’s a youth pastor, you know.”
Here are some simple suggestions for increasing your leadership by improving your administration.
1. Clarify your schedule. Determine where you will be and when so others can grow to depend on you. Write your schedule down, and send it out to those who need to know. Things will always interrupt that schedule. Just tell others when they do.
2. Improve your communication. Whether writing emails, returning phone calls, or standing in front of your congregation, consider the way you present yourself. If you don’t take yourself seriously, others probably won’t either.
3. Increase your organization. If you haven’t started using folders for paper and digital materials, start using them now. Take time once a week to organize the content that has been shuffling across your desk. When your church secretary comes asking for your receipts, have something more to show her than a ball of lint from your jeans pocket.
4. Come prepared. I know we love to think of ourselves as masters of wingin’ it, but people see through our lack of preparation. When it comes to meetings with volunteers, youth leaders, senior staff, or your youth group, come prepared. Your preparedness speaks to your dependability and your genuine care.
Or just get a job outside of ministry. That will teach you these lessons even faster.