How to Help Your Youth Pastor Become a Mature Pastor

Caricatures of youth pastors are comical, even if they are unfair. Ignatius tops the list, but I bet you could imagine your own. The funny thing is, from rock stars to game experts, there are few youth pastor stereotypes that include pastoral responsibilities.

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“I think youth ministry perpetuates my immaturity,” one youth pastor friend told me. Yet he rigorously studied biblical languages and led a God-centered, non-programmatic youth ministry.

At one extreme, there are youth pastors want to grow up. They disdain the inherent barriers toward maturation that characterize their ministry. At the other end of the spectrum, there are many youth pastors who embrace the immaturity of a fun-and-games ministry. In between these two extremes lie guys who, if they enjoy any growth as pastors, primarily do so within the boundaries of youth ministry.

Youth pastors can’t stay young forever, nor should they want to. What I’d like to suggest in this article is that the best way to mature youth pastors is give them responsibilities outside youth ministry.

Is the pastor a specialist or a generalist?

Part of this issue pertains to how pastors are deployed in the congregation. Some churches utilize pastors as specialists. In this case, the pastor is hired for a specific aspect of ministry within the church, and has little responsibility outside that role. Other churches use pastors as generalists. Each pastor serves the church at large and carries a similar title, though probably has particular responsibilities appropriate to one’s gifts.

At College Church, we function with a hybrid between specialists and generalists. We are specialists because we each have different titles that designate us over a particular ministry within the church. In addition to our Senior Pastor, we have pastors over jr. high (yours truly!), missions, high school, Christian education, congregational care, etc.

But our pastors are not partitioned off from the broader church body. We each preach occasionally in Sunday morning and evening services. We each have a day where we visit people in the hospital. We each have a shut-in that we make contact with once a month, including administering the Lord’s Supper. Three weeks out of the month, we each have responsibilities in our worship services, whether that be announcements, prayer, or something else.

Broader exposure raises the bar

My exposure to the wider scope of ministry in my church has been the biggest catalyst for my pastoral growth.

No other church I’ve been a part of has offered that kind of opportunity to their jr. high pastors.

Furthermore, how many churches do you think expect their jr. high pastors to be able to minister to the church on that level?

I don’t say this to brag about me. When I started here at College Church I was petrified of all the duties listed above. The first thing I had to do during a Sunday morning service was the Scripture reading. I almost blacked out six verses into it.

I am bragging about my church, though. Their expectations of what each pastor ought to be and do – regardless of whom they minister primarily to – forced me to raise my pastoral game. I’ll be thankful for this the rest of my life.

Why it’s good for youth pastors to branch out

I’m suggesting that you expand your youth pastor’s responsibilities outside of the youth ministry itself in order to help him mature as a pastor. Here are some ways this has benefited me:

1. Whenever you are stretched beyond your comfort zone, you grow. Regular exposure outside youth ministry has had this effect on me.

2. New situations have allowed me to discover latent gifts that I didn’t know I had. Then I put those strengths to work in student ministries.

3. Weddings, funerals, and administering the sacraments regularly remind me of the gravity of gospel ministry. Quite frankly, this can get lost during a round of Shuffle Your Buns.

4. For better or for worse, I try harder when I teach adults. Ideally, I’d preach my best every week for my students, but it doesn’t always happen. But the several times I’ve taught in our corporate services I have improved in my preaching, which carries over into my regular preaching for my students.

Are you a youth pastor who wants to develop as a pastor? Ask for – or take – these kinds of opportunities. If you’re not a youth pastor, does your youth pastor want to raise his game? Do you want to see him grow (perhaps in ways he’d prefer not to!)? Get him some gospel opportunities with some post-pubescent people.

Comments

  1. I see your insights as valuable.

    Question though…do you presume that every youth pastor has aspirations “above” or “more grown up” than serving or pastoring teens? That is another unmentioned youth pastor stereotype.

    I stand heartily with you on pastors being generalists and seeking to serve the body overall. That should go both ways…youth pastors out, “real pastors” inside youth ministry at times.

    I’m almost 20 years in youth min and have no leading away from it. I love and serve and pastor outside eagerly, but I’m not biding my time in the minor leagues until a “real” pastorate
    comes available.

    Keep learning and writing…I’m enjoying it.

    Serving the Name with you,

    Erik

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      Erik,
      Great question. I don’t presume that every youth pastor desires a lead or associate role someday. In this post, I had in mind both “career” youth pastors and those who would eventually move on (not necessarily up) to other positions in ministry.

      The ministry of long term youth pastors to the rest of the congregation should steadily increase over time. If such a pastor truly has a pastor’s heart, he will desire this. Those who will be in youth ministry only for a season (hopefully longer than the 18 month average) ought to get as many broad church experiences before they make a move.

      Thanks for your comment, and for reading!

      • Noted. Thanks for the clarity.

        I appreciate the fact that you are serving in Junior High. I wonder if you chose that.

        I’ve had to hire a few youth workers/pastors over the years and of the thousands of resume’s I’ve read, maybe less than 1% “feel called” to middle schoolers.

        It’s a challenging mission field.

        I’m appreciating the content you are generating for the rest of us to glean from.

        Erik

        • Eric McKiddie says:

          I sorta chose jr. high. Partly it was simply the opportunity that was presented before me. But I also, I said “yes” to the opportunity!

          I was a part time jr. high pastor for a year and half, then I stopped to finish grad school full time. After grad school I taught 9th grade Bible at a Christian school, and quickly saw a difference in the students’ attitude toward God’s word. A lot of them were apathetic compared to the jr. high students I served with. When the opportunity came to switch from high school to junior high, part of the reason I wanted to make that switch was to get the gospel into students while they were still soft hearted.

  2. Travis Albea says:

    Eric,

    I really appreciate this blog post – its good to see how College Church has grown you, and how you are using that to encourage other pastors.

    Travis

  3. I think this is a great article. My church here in Irmo, SC is very similar. I’m the youth pastor here but I’m expected to be able to operate in whichever way the spirit leads. There have been times when our pastor called us up to deliver a message before the congregation without any prior “formal preparation” – but due to the teachings we have received about being ready in season and out of season we were able to deliver God’s Word. Stepping outside of our comfort zones is always great – we are able to become weak so that God is strong in our lives. The uncomfortability of following Christ – not always knowing what’s next is so sweet and so needed in our walk with God! Great article again!

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