10 Qualities of a Professional Youth Pastor (1-5)
After spending time this week refuting the idea that Modern Youth Ministry Süks, and what makes a bad youth worker, I’ve decided to spend two days on the attributes of a good, professional youth worker. I haven’t ordered this list as I feel they are all important.
These go hand in hand. While I think that for those going to be a life long Youth Pastor a Seminary Education is a must, I believe that some level of education and continuing education is necessary for the youth pastor. Learning areas should be spread out in areas such as Bible, Theology, Culture, as well as areas that add to the youth pastor’s abilities to communicate (technology, social media, communication skills). Being teachable is the ability for the Youth Pastor to learn from their mistakes, to learn from other’s mistakes, to glean from other’s good work or to be taught by someone else in humility. There are too many know-it-alls giving youth ministry a bad rap in the local church. Don’t be one of them.
Three areas of availability that need to happen to the professional youth pastor. One is available to your staff (bosses, colleagues, underlings). Being available to your staff helps increase team unity and builds a better network inside the church for you to work with and for others to get their work done in as well. Another area is available to parents. Parents like knowing they can get a hold of you when they need you. Being predictable to some measure helps this out. Attempting to have regular office time or phone availability hours that they know can help increase this feeling of ‘availability.’ Thirdly (not least) is available to your students. This may look like different things to different contexts, but being more than just a pastor at church. Getting out into their environment where they (and their friends) see you is essential for longevity in ministry.
Another point on being available is being present. Some believe that they always answer their cell or text for their wife the second they call. I don’t think this is right. You should be available for your wife, but always checking on your cell immediately tells the person you are with that you that they aren’t that important to you, and you are just waiting for something better to come along. I agree that you should be their for your spouse, but develop a system so you know when it’s just a “bring home some milk” call versus the kids have locked me in the basement closet and duct taped grandma to her bed again call. Mine is that my wife calls back twice in rapid succession, otherwise she leaves a message, a text or she sends me an email. I also let her know my schedule so she knows when I am more interruptible than not. 🙂
Don’t steal other people’s ideas and use them without vetting them and tailoring them to your groups needs. Read the bible for yourself and create your own sermons. If need be, ask others what they have done with this scripture and use it. Get on websites and ask about events, don’t always do the same event, but throw in twists that keep it original. Be open to ideas that are not your own. Be open to trying new things and sometimes jumping out in faith for it. Just don’t stagnate. Keep reading, (education), innovating, seeing what works for others, begging borrowing stealing ideas also. But spend the time making them your own. Building them into your vision and your ministry. Just because program X worked at the last 3 churches you were at, doesn’t mean it will work here.
Being a team player is all about being present for your colleagues. When their back is against the wall show up for them. Find ways for your ministry to come alongside theirs and help them out. Sometimes this will mean helping VBS or the Christmas/Easter Cantata hand out fliers, sometimes this will mean you recruiting some more mature teens to volunteer in the churches children’s ministries. The more you are seen as a team player the more valuable you are to your church. The more you are reliable, the less likely you will be seen as a lone ranger youth worker who is only out for their own ministry. Also the more likely you will be afforded grace if you do mess up, or if you advocate for your ministry above another ministry. (it’s nice when we all get along, sometimes there are competing facility or tangible needs of two ministries at the same time.)
Being a good communicator starts with your preaching/teaching abilities (see Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change). However, it goes far beyond that. It also goes to your written skills. It goes to informing people what you are doing and why you are doing it (casting vision). It also gives everyone enough time to know the who what where when why of all events that you are doing. When you do email or communicate via mailing. Remember your audience. Are you emailing teens, or are you emailing adults (who may also be business people expecting a certain level of decorum in the email). Are you using jargon that they might not get? Are you being concise with your email and hitting the high points. When you hold meetings, (parent, staff, etc). Do you have a good solid outline with some room for change, or do you just walk in and go off the top of your head?) (HAVE A PLAN). When you communicate well, people assume you have it together and are doing a good job. When you communicate poorly, people assume you are a moron and can’t get your act together. Then they extrapolate that to your entire ministry. Communication is often what gets judged in your ministry.