“Stuck” – By Youth Minister X

Youth Minister X

Youth Minister XThis post is a guest post and latest installment in the Youth Minister X series. In my experience, Youth Ministers lack the voice they should have. Thus, on occasion, I’ll provide this forum as grist for conversation. “Youth Minister Xs” are unnamed but real Youth Ministers who have been invited to speak candidly on life in Youth Ministry, or Youth Ministry itself. These youth workers come from different denominations, locations, and backgrounds. Their names have been withheld to allow them to speak freely without fear of reprisal from their employer–though not from our comments :)

Good Youth Ministers are a treasure from the Lord. They bring energy and creativity to churches while helping spiritually form the young. Whether right or wrong on a given issue, their voice is an important one. This feature is an attempt to learn more about life in Youth Ministry–and in so doing help churches grow healthier in this vital area of ministry.

Please note: these unedited comments are not necessarily those of this humble blogger. Without further ado, let’s hear from this month’s Youth Minister X:

“I want to start this off by saying I am blessed. I know it might not appear to be this way when I’m laying out some of my frustrations, but it’s true. I am blessed.

That being said, We’ve been at our Church for a few years and feel stuck. Our Elders and Preacher are constantly on my case about growing the Youth Ministry, but our congregation has not grown in years. We look at the other churches in our town that are growing and criticize them for doing something unscriptural in order to grow. I look around our youth group and see tremendous growth in knowledge, but our Church only gets to see that on a couple of Youth Sundays.

Whenever I’m asked to take on another task, it’s assumed that I’m going to say yes. If I say no, I get accused of not earning my paycheck. If I say yes, I get separate meetings with the Parent Team, the Youth Deacon, The Elders and probably the Preacher too when I inevitably drop the ball on another task.

My wife is the most underpaid person on staff. She earns $0 as a youth minister but has almost as many expectations as I do. She goes above and beyond what any other volunteer at our Church does. She does get recognition for her effort, but she’s also exhausted.

When times get hard I start daydreaming about what would happen if I just up and left youth ministry all together. I could go work for my father-in-law, or go back to school. I wonder if I’m qualified to do anything else.

The big problem is that there are plenty of us here that want to help create momentum, but we have no outlet. Our oldies but goodies no longer have the energy they used to. And any new ideas get bounced around leadership meetings until any ounce of energy has left. Every once in a while someone will step up and create some movement. Whenever that happens there is this spark in our Church and those invested eyes’ light up, and then shut tight again when it typically fails due to lack of support.

The highlight for us is always the youth group. They have an endless supply of energy, and typically have an optimistic spirit about our Church. Whenever we start to get down about something they serve as a constant reminder that God’s love is never-ceasing. Most of them don’t know any other way of youth ministry or Church which makes it easier to carry on.

I know we’re not alone. Long conversations at NCYM [National Conference on Youth Ministries] have taught me that there are plenty of others like us that struggle with frustration. We feel called to ministry, we feel blessed with the teens we get to work with, but battle with a steady stream of ‘if only’ questions.

I also know that there are plenty of others have it worse off. We are by no means martyrs. We’re simply stuck. My hope is that others would read this and have the courage to talk to someone about their frustrations. We’ve have taken the past few weeks while writing this to invest in another couple at another Church and are seeking that outlet in our own congregation as well. Our prayer is that God opens that door for us soon.”

Youth Minister X

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Share Your Thoughts

7 thoughts on ““Stuck” – By Youth Minister X

  1. “I know we’re not alone. Long conversations at NCYM [National Conference on Youth Ministries] have taught me that there are plenty of others like us that struggle with frustration. We feel called to ministry, we feel blessed with the teens we get to work with, but battle with a steady stream of ‘if only’ questions.”

    Definitely not alone. I had been a youth dude for 12+ years (up until May 2011) and have seen a form of this at all 4 churches I have been at. Youth Ministry is a very difficult thing to navigate and I wish there were more grace given. I know that many-a-preacher is given far more grace. But at the same time, they get a version of this too.

    I love Silas Shotwell because he knows so well what all ministers face. I don’t know if I will ever be a youth dude again because of the frustration I have had with churches.

  2. As a former youth minister, I’ve been there. Most youth ministers are overworked and under-appreciated. One of the biggest challenges I faced was partly my own doing. I needed to be stronger to set boundaries for what I would and would not do, based on my abilities and limitations. I realized this one Wednesday night when I was at another youth group function late and missed a call from my 2 year old daughter. She left me a voicemail that said simply, “Come home daddy. I love you daddy. (giggles)” I realized that my inability to fit the ministry to my schedule was leading down a path of neglect toward my family. That 10 second sound bite is still on my iPod as one of my favorites.

    The smartest thing I ever did as a youth minister was to recruit two of my elders and their wives to be youth volunteers. When they saw exactly what I was doing and knew the stories of my students, it impacted them greatly and they became invested in the student ministry as partners with me rather than detached supervisors over me.

    When it was time for me to leave ministry I floundered for a year, working for a non-profit and making peanuts. Now I’ve been at another job 5 years and see that I can still make a kingdom impact without having a ministry title. I’m able to keep my family a healthy priority. And I spent 3 years volunteering with the children’s ministry in my church, because I am acutely aware of the struggles faced by people leading that ministry.

    Thanks for sharing your frustrations. You are not alone.

    • Great response, KJ. I love that you’re doing well, and thanks for sharing that story. I think the best way to learn is by having those kinds of experiences…and one step in making it through these kinds of things is to find out, “You are not alone.”