I’d like to let my youth ministry friends in on a dirty little secret. While pay has dramatically improved for youth workers in the past two decades the most consistent reason people leave youth ministry once they reach their mid 30s and above is mounting financial pressure. In other words, there are some glass ceilings on the personal income side of things that will eventually cause you to look for higher paying work in the church or not in the church if you don’t plan ahead. Plan ahead and you relieve the pressure bit by bit. Don’t plan ahead and that pressure builds and leads to a catastrophic failure.
Here is a short list of those pressures:
– Housing expenses skyrocket: That rental gets old, doesn’t it? Buying a house can be great when you land in the same place for 10 years or more. But buy and sell a house a couple of times when you change jobs and you’ll quickly see that’s a bad strategy for financial security.
– Retirement savings becomes important: Most churches either don’t offer a retirement plan for their associate staff or it is extremely inadequate. Even if you are in a denomination that pays into a pension fund… getting ordained in order to get vested in that fund can be more costly than the pension you’d earn in the long run! (And with many mainline denominations tanking financially, you really need to wonder if that money will be there in 30 years.)
– Kids get more expensive as time goes on: When you first have babies you think diapers and formula is a blow to your budget. Just wait! Eventually those kids will need braces, outgrow clothes every two weeks, want to go to camp, need a car of their own, and gulp… want to go to college.
– Medical insurance won’t cover it all: Again, when you are young and/or first married this doesn’t seem important. But with premiums soaring churches are cutting back on benefits. So as you age into needing good insurance chances are your church is increasing co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses.
– Pressure to keep up with your peers: There’s only so long you want to live like college kids. Eventually, you are going to want grown up furniture, go on nice vacations, and have a little extra something here and there. I don’t mean that you’ll get more materialistic as time goes on… but you just get sick of scrounging.
If you do nothing, eventually these pressures will leave you with no other option but to leave the ministry. You can do everything right in the 9-5 activity of working at your church. But if you don’t have a plan to address these mounting pressures, it will sneak up on you and the pressure will grow so intense that you may have no other option but to leave the job you love for a job that pays better. If the choice is lose your family or lose your ministry you will chose lose your ministry 100% of the time, right?
My goal for this series is to encourage those in youth ministry– you don’t have to bail out!
If you want to join along I will help you with a few basic strategies that will lessen these pressures. My hope is to help you stay in youth ministry longer. While things like soul care and youth ministry strategy are super important for staying in it for the long haul… I’m going to help you deal with the dirty little money secret that could eventually knock you out of ministry.
Part two: Dealing with debt and savings
Part three: COLA- and I don’t mean Pepsi or Coke.
Part four: 401ks, IRAs, 529 and other numbers that are important
Part five: Outside income opportunities