Saturday, February 26, 2011

This is what kills me about churches & youth ministry

I have a heart for youth ministry and especially youth ministers.  I cringe when I hear of wrongs being done to youth pastors, especially when their only fault is wanting to do Gods work.

The following is a job posting from a church in Missouri that is looking for a new youth pastor.

WEEKLY SCHEDULE IS BASED ON A 15 HOUR WORK WEEK 1This will include being present at ALL worship services, Sunday School hour, and Wednesday Eve activities. Anytime the church is open to the public, the Youth Director will be there to meet and connect with youth. Consult with the pastor on plans and activities, in order to coordinate with the church calendar. Submit monthly report to the pastor by the first of each month. Attend monthly Ministry Team Meetings. Prepare and lead weekly IGNITE meetings. Coordinate and schedule outside youth events. Plan and coordinate, and lead yearly mission trips. Coordinate with Sunday School teachers to oversee curriculum. Maintain regular correspondence with youth and parents regarding upcoming events and scheduling. Visitation to the youth as needed. Help to identify and encourage youth to consider full time professional service to Christ and His church. Recruit volunteers to assist in meetings and events. Must make sure that all volunteers are Safe Sanctuary Certified. Other duties assigned by Pastor. APPLICANT REQUIREMENTS This person must be a member of the United Methodist Church. This person should have experience leading youth, and youth activities. This person must be a role model for our youth. They must maintain a strong Christian character in all aspects of their lives. They must demonstrate a close relationship with God through personal devotion, worship, and prayer. This person must be passionate about youth. This person must be energetic, a self-starter, and encourager, and a visionary. This person must feel comfortable addressing small as well as large groups. This person must be comfortable sharing the Christian faith and the United Methodist understanding with both Christian and unchurched children and youth.

Before I go on, I do not know this church or their situation.  This church can have a big heart and only want to do what is right.  They may not have that much money and this is all they can offer.  I get all that but it doesn't change the rest of the blog.  

Now, in case you didn't catch the problem.  The hours they want to pay a youth pastor is only 15 per week but the work is really a full-time job.  They want them to be at all church services which is about 5 hours alone and then do the rest of the job description on top of that.  The sad part is, I know the church isn't trying to hurt the incoming youth pastor.  They are like any other church and want t reach youth.  The problem is that they want to pay the bare minimum and get the same as a full-person.  The sadder part, is that some poor person will get this position and will eventually burn out.  If they church is lucky, they will find someone who is coming in with their eyes open and willing to give more time than is being requested.  but more than likely, not.  This position will 
probably be available in a year or so because whoever is hired will burn out fast.

So, how can this be fixed.  Here are a couple of my thoughts for the church:
  1. Know what you want and what is realistic.  Everyone knows that there is no such thing as part-time youth work.  If the church knows the direction it wants to go and hires a youth pastor who can help them get there, that goes a long way.  If you are looking to hire someone to build the ministry without any guidance from the church, that person will fail.
  2. Heap on the love.  When you are only paying a part-time person to do youth work, more than likely they have another job.  Give this position as much leeway and love that you can. Be the biggest cheerleader for the position.  Help them find good adults.  When you hear something good that happened, make sure the whole church knows.  I would also do everything you can to get this position as much training as possible.  There are tons of training opportunities, conferences and networks that a local youth pastor can get involved with.
  3. Squeeze out more money.  15 hours a week isn't enough to live on, no matter the city.  This position will be filled with someone who either already has a job or who just really needs the money.  As a church, I would urge to try to find more money to help this position reach its full potential.  If youth ministry is important to you, see what in the budget can be cut to help pay this position more.
Here are a couple ideas for the potential youth pastor who will take this position:
  1. Open  your eyes.  You should know what you are getting into.  If you aren't clear on everything being expected, ask them.  The church probably has never had a youth pastor besides a parent or local volunteer.  When you talk with them in the interview, ask if the job description can be change.  Help them know what you are capable of.
  2. Set boundaries.  Doing youth ministry in a small church on a part-time basis is hard.  More than likely you will have to work another job in order to support yourself.  Determine when you are actually working and when you aren't.  Let the pastor, church and students know ahead of time.  Set some specific hours when you are open to do ministry and when you aren't.  This will save you and your family a lot of headaches.
  3. Be ready. Part-time ministry is hard work and never really part-time.  The students and the church will always ask you to do more.  Not because they are trying to take advantage of you but because they need your help.  No matter your background, you are the professional youth pastor to the church, students and parents.
I know that with some work, this position can be a blessing to both the church and then youth pastor who takes this position.  I also know that if not done right, we could lose another good youth pastor to the wrongful expectations of a church who really doesn't know what kind of youth ministry it wants.  I pray that the first part happens.