As youth workers we are people in transition.
- The teenagers we serve are often in transition
- The churches where we work are often in transition
- Therefore we become people engulfed by transition
A net result of this tribal transitionalism among youth workers is that there always seems to be more people looking for jobs in youth ministry than there are actual jobs in youth ministry worth having.
Simple supply and demand means that even though the youth worker has usually mastered a role that very few people are equipped [or actually want] to have in a local church– they are usually paid less because there are more hyper-qualified people than great jobs.
“You don’t do this for the money” they say.
And that’s true. But if you’re going to stay in youth ministry for a career you’re going to, at some point, need to stop struggling and have access to the resources you’ll need to succeed.
The Cost of Not Thriving
Here’s the simple reality. If you’re just surviving, you ain’t thriving, and you won’t last.
- A cheap apartment will work for a while.
- A crappy car is charming for a while.
- Being around people with disposable income while you’re thinking of re-using disposable diapers is OK… for a while.
- Watching your high school friends talk about stuff they are doing on Facebook that you can’t do is cool for a while.
- Not going to grad school is going to be fine for a while.
- Getting handouts, hand-me-downs, and generous gifts for your kids will be awesome for a while.
- Your spouse will be fine with your work hours for a while.
- Not having real hobbies or friends will work for you for a while.
- You can convince yourself that you’re making everyday sacrifices for Kingdom reasons for a while.
- Changing jobs so much that you’ve perpetually got 2 weeks of vacation will work for a while.
- Not having a decent budget to work with is manageable for a while.
- Not being supported or appreciated is alright for a while.
But here’s what I know. The cost of not thriving catches up to you.
A long list of my friends eventually gave up on vocational youth ministry. They’ve moved into the marketplace or other church roles– or more commonly– “felt called to plant a church” which is a place where they could have some say in:
See– the cost of not thriving for their family meant the long-term cost vs. benefit analysis of perpetually struggling and dealing with job insecurity just stopped making sense. Given the choice between living and thriving, people pick thriving every time.
“I did all of the right stuff for all of those years and after all of this my family is struggling in several different ways.” So they moved on to something else.
Not something less, something else.
Stop Calculating Cost of Living
The next time you’re in transition– looking for a new job or talking to a church about coming on their team– forget calculating the cost of living. For some reason researching the cost of living leads to churches offering you a package of salary and benefits that’s just wedged between terrible and tolerable.
But if you want to be in this for the long haul? You’ll need to figure out the cost of thriving.
And you know what? That might not even be about money. It might be about work flexibility or working from home or flex time or more paid time off or the church paying for more of your housing or grad school or a better conference budget.
Say no to calculating your cost of living.
Say yes to calculating your cost of thriving.