Youth workers have a terrible reputation. That statement should not come as a shock to you, most people don’t even think of a youth pastor as a real job. You may have fielded questions like, “So, what do you actually do?”, “What is your real job?”, “They actually pay you for this?”, or “Are you working toward becoming a real pastor?” more times than you care to admit. It is true. A lot of people do not see youth ministry as a real job but it definitely is.
Many of the comments we get are simply because people are ignorant, but there are a few that carry some weight and youth workers as a whole have contributed to those stereotypes. That is where we need to step it up and change the way people view us. We can do this with our actions and the way we conduct our ministries.
First, let’s address the problem… Wrong motives!
Far too many youth workers get into youth ministry for the wrong reasons!
1. Youth ministry is just a stepping stone
Too many youth workers are only involved because they eventually want to work their way up to being a senior pastor, associate, or executive. They see youth ministry as a stepping stone, an entry position if you will. The problem with this is that students lives are not stepping stones. If you want to be something other than a youth worker that is fine, and if God calls you out of youth ministry to something else, that is awesome. But when you are involved in youth ministry, do not view it as merely a stepping stone. Be passionate about students and doing ministry to them. Using youth ministry as a stepping stone is the wrong motive for being in youth ministry and is a major contributor to people thinking it is not a real job.
2. Well, I don’t know what else to do
Too many youth workers are only involved because they don’t know what else to do. They grew up in the church, started volunteering after high school, and somehow ended up getting paid. Part-time or full-time, they end up on staff because they didn’t know what else to do and they were there, so why not? They are not passionate about youth ministry but it’s paying the bills while they figure out what they really want to do with their lives. Obviously they aren’t against serving God, and the job is getting done, kind of. If this is you, make the decision to either dive all the way in or get out. Youth ministries need someone who is passionate about students and doing the job well!
Some may say they are passionate about students and ministry but too often their unwillingness to do the work required to make the ministry professional says something completely different. Maybe they got into youth ministry because they thought it was easy. Maybe they thought it was all fun and games. Or, maybe they knew it wasn’t easy but they are just unwilling to do the work needed to make the ministry thrive and their church isn’t willing to have a tough conversation with them. Way too many youth workers are just flat out lazy when it comes to doing what they need to. This motivation is completely wrong because youth ministry is not about you; youth ministry is about Jesus and students. We need to be passionate enough to facilitate an environment that makes that happen well.
1. Commit to the long haul
If youth ministry isn’t your thing for the long haul, it probably shouldn’t be your place right now with that mind set. If you are done with youth ministry, or feel God might be calling you elsewhere that is COMPLETELY FINE! But if that is the case, then go pursue what God has for you. Staying in youth ministry when you can’t mentally commit to the long haul is not going to help your students or help the stereotype of youth ministry not being a real job. Commit to making it your career and work hard to build yourself as a professional. When we are committed to youth ministry, we are more likely to do it well and continue to grow and learn.
2. Don’t just go through the motions, do it big!
Making a real job out of youth ministry happens when we decide to not just survive but to thrive. We must quit going through the motions of youth ministry, playing it safe, and doing what has been done for 50 years. Pour passion and excitement into your ministry and strive to do it BIG! I am not talking about size but rather the mentality that comes with being a go-getter. Don’t do things half way, do them with all your energy and do them well! Also, note: this includes the things you don’t like doing, still do them well!
Too many people view youth workers as unprofessional, unqualified, and lazy. That is because too many youth workers are just that. We need to make a real job out of youth ministry because it is a real job! Work hard, have passion and do things well because not only do students desperately need it, but God has called us to.