The rate of turnover in Youth Ministry these days is rather astonishing. I'm told by Youth Ministers I know that under two years is the running average in Churches of Christ in California. Unless that improves, it will be virtually impossible for the Church to bless and nurture teens the way we're capable of. Below are some tips for church leaders looking to cultivate health and continuity in Youth Ministry in your church.
Serve and Protect. Take a posture of service, not "accountability" first. Look for ways to bless the Youth Minister and his/her ministry. Don't make it your goal to keep the Youth Ministry budget from growing. Make it your goal to see the Youth Ministry flourish. By "protect" I mean don't let crazy parents have an open shot at the Youth Minister. View yourselves and offensive linemen for the ministers. One of primary reasons people leave is because moms or dads hammer on them freely. Church leaders, always eager to avoid conflict, tolerate it or tell the Youth Minister to stop doing whatever they are doing that is causing the parent to be upset. This communicates lack of support, undermines ministry, and empowers ungodly behavior. If the Youth Minister did in fact mess up, deal with that gently, while showing support by helping them avoid a ministry-ending injury. Also, if they begin taking a lot of hits…their ministry will suffer, and a vicious cycle begins.
Pay them Fairly. This is a tricky one. Here's the way we try to do it. When hiring, separate the "paid" from the "called." Then, pay the called. Look for those who really have a pastor's heart, along with the character, competency, chemistry and fit. Then, pay them more than it takes to keep them alive. Pay them a decent wage.
Care for their family, without giving them a pass to mediocrity. This is a delicate one, as I mentioned in yesterday's post. Not wanting to cheat one's family is becoming the new "my dog ate my homework." That's really sad. What is in fact an extremely important concern cannot become a free pass to mediocre ministry. Instead, leaders need to take it upon themselves to offer some rather easy blessings to the family that will help cultivate health while preserving what's needed for quality ministry:
In addition to the two previous suggestions (protection from massive injury and good pay), I would add flexible work hours. There needs to be a certain bandwidth of time when the whole staff is together. However, Youth Ministry is a night and weekend gig. If they are in the office along with everyone else, and doing Youth Ministry on nights and weekends…hmmm… If someone doesn't want to work nights or weekends, they should choose a different line of work than Youth Ministry. However, the church needs to understand the challenges that can bring a young family and pastor them in a way that would honor Christ.
Freedom. Most ministers…all they want is freedom. Give them absolutely maximum leash to make decisions, create things, make things happen. If you cannot trust them to do these things, you are either a control freak (knock it off!), or you hired the wrong person. It makes little sense to pay a trained, experienced, gifted person tens of thousands of dollars only to do what untrained, inexperienced, likely ungifted (in Youth Ministry) people tell them to do–and then fire them if it doesn't work. If you make the jump to hire someone. Don't tie their hands. If they can't handle it, adjust freedom accordingly–or hire differently next time.
What would you add? What else can we do to contribute to continuity in Youth Ministry?