SEEKING INPUT FROM YOU
Question: Should I become a youth minister? Why or why not?
As I've been processing what exactly God would have me to do after seminary (beginning this January), I've been focusing primarily on pastoral positions in the college-to-young adult age range, as well as church planting focused on that age range, and have pretty well excluded everything else from serious consideration. But I'm beginning to wonder if I'm being too exclusive.
My wife has consistently encouraged me to consider youth ministry, because (a) I have lots of experience doing it and relatively little experience doing any other kind of ministry, (b) I am still very young as far as pastors go, and (c) she says I relate well to youth (and so do they).
So what's been holding me back? A few things...
- I'm relatively introverted and generally hate large group parties, because I'm a lousy small-talker.
- The impression I get is that a lot of churches conceive of the ultimate youth pastor as a high-energy, fun, charismatic person who can electrify a group of students with minimal effort. I, on the other hand, believe the church's primary responsibility to teens is to make disciples of them, and that ministries that are primarily evangelistic (i.e., numbers driven) severely undercut this objective. (This topic warrants a lengthy post of its own, but will have to wait.)
- Youth ministry tends to involve a lot of long, large group trips. And while I love trips and teenagers, the thought of me being responsible for keeping track of a large group of them and bringing them home to their parents in one piece is rather intimidating.
- I have strong convictions about issues that concern the congregation at large, issues that have a profound impact on teens, and therefore youth ministry. My belief has been that my impact could be greater as a lead pastor by shepherding the entire congregation, especially parents, to provide the kind of overall "nurture" that makes for solid, Christians teens.
After a good conversation this afternoon with my wife (where would I be without her?), she has talked me out of my cynicism regarding these issues. In short, they may not be problems at all. Here's the reality as I see it, in contrast to concerns 1-4, above:
- Youth ministry does not have to function like a party. (This is a common misperception. See this post.) What students want (and, ahem, need) more than anything is someone who will build them up in the faith.
- Not all churches conceive of youth ministers like this (especially once they've given up the myth of youth ministry as party). Plus, I relate very well with teens one-on-one, in small groups, and communicating biblical truth to them in large groups. None of these require me being the life of the party. (Praise God!)
- That's why they have chaperones!
- If I served under a lead pastor who did a good job at shepherding the congregation as described above, the problem disappears. Furthermore, if I'm under equipped to be the lead pastor of a church at this point in my life, it makes no difference how strong my convictions are about issues concerning the larger congregation. I'd be more effective serving where I was best equipped to serve, and trusting the Lord to supply leadership elsewhere.
After thinking more clearly about this issue, I've decided I'm more than willing to put youth ministry back on the table as a viable post-seminary vocational option. Given my passion for seeing young people become lifelong followers of Jesus, my ability to connect with teenagers, and my extensive youth ministry experience, this may be the most viable option for me at the moment.
So, those of you who know me, what do you think? Have I assessed the situation and myself accurately?
Looking forward to your feedback.