Building a Healthy Youth Ministry, pt. 2 – Hire Well

Because so many churches in their heart-of-hearts don't really value Youth Ministry, they have a tendency to be less thorough in their hiring of Youth Ministers than other roles at the church. Some of you may disagree with that, citing the lengthy process the "search committee" has done. However, the search committee method of hiring is often one reason why hiring is done poorly–especially in Youth Ministry. A long process does not mean a thorough process. In fact, the length of the seach committee process is one reasons churches find themselves having to settle for "good enough" in their hiring. I'll have to write another post on that subject. For now, let me encourage you to look for the following things when hiring a Youth Minister:

Character. They are striving to grow in a relationship with Christ. They don't have to be sinless. But, their sexual purity in particular must be unwavering and their walk with Christ a priority in their life. Teens deserve a good role model, and a sin bomb in Youth Ministry can be devestating to the church.

Competency. This covers at least three vital areas when it comes to Youth Ministers: Work ethic, emotional intelligence, and follow-through. Do they finish what they start. Look out, for instance, for the minister who is constantly changing the youth schedule, or seems overly interested in protecting their family boundaries. Too much schedule changing sometimes demonstrates poor planning and inability to finish what one starts. Concern for matters at home is right, but enmeshed families can form a nice excuse for dodging responsibility, as well. 

Chemistry. Here, you're looking for authority issues, their understanding of the "team" concept, ability to keep confidences, and the Holy Grail–the ability to see Youth Ministry as a ministry of the Church, not the only thing the church should be concerned about. Tunnel vision is a common trait in ministers in all areas, but I've found that if a Youth Minister has this affliction, they will be at odds with parents, elders, and preachers. They will cause unnecessary conflict because they don't understand the systemic nature of the church. A mature Youth Minister will understand the preeminence of Christ's cause and cherish their role toward it while acknowledging that of others.

Fit. This is a big one. They need to fit the culture of your church, the kids you're trying to reach, and the culture on staff. They can be a little bit different than the adults in the church, but they can't be from another planet.

Look for a Leader, not a Doer. Good ministry requires the recruitment and involvement of others. People gather to leaders, not doers. Leaders easily gather people to charge the hill. You'll better off finding someone who can build a Youth Ministry in which the teens and parents are involved that getting someone just to spend time with the teens. They need to do that, too. But, that model will allow for a Youth Group of 15 kids or so. Building a comprehensive Youth Ministry will allow the church to bless kids in a group of any size. Lastly, leaders will have many of the personal responsibility traits mentioned above.

Look for gifts that can bless the whole church, not just teens. I'm sure a lot of Youth Ministers have an allergic reaction to the concept of a Youth Minister being asked to do more than just Youth Ministry. Their reasoning is good–workload concerns and ability to focus. It's true that many Youth Ministers have been overwhelmed or distracted by such things–and I make this point not to suggest that Youth Ministry is not a full-time job. Far from it. I'm suggesting that without being tied into the broader life of the Body in some concrete ways, tunnel vision will develop and Youth Minister will likely be siloed. At New Vintage Church, DJ Iverson is also our Graphic Artist. When I was in Dallas, Jason Herman served on our Executive Leadership Team. When something like this takes place, not only does the whole church then know them better…they know the church and it's clockworks better. Youth Ministry more organically become part of the whole church. This will work well if we don't ask so much of the YM that she/he actually loses focus. Where does the time come from? It comes from building a Youth Ministry the right way–through leadership not doing. There is always some doing, but the ministry is built to where the Youth Minister is doing what only they can do, while empowering others to serve Christ in other areas.

Thoughts?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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