Categories
youth ministry

How to Keep Your Youth Ministry Job

Spring firing season has begun.

The end of the school year is a dangerous time to be in youth ministry. With the program year winding down it is prime time for church leadership to make a decision on whether to keep their youth worker for another school year.

Hint: If you get invited to an unscheduled meeting with the elders in the next few weeks, you’re getting fired. I’m sorry. (Er “forced to resign” which is the same thing but makes the elders feel better about it.)

I have several friends who are going through this right now. And it really sucks. 

Here’s two things you need to nail to keep your youth ministry job

  1. Measurables. Oh sure, we talk about the importance of relational ministry. But don’t kid yourself… it’s about numbers. If you want to get paid to do youth ministry (a pay check is a number, by the way) than you better deliver something everyone agrees is measurable and communicate that measurable well. This might be your career, but to a church leader the youth ministry program is just another mouth to feed. (It’s an expenditure.) They want to look at the financial investment they are making and see the results. You’d be wise to start the ministry year communicating clearly defined desired outcomes with  measurables and then preparing a presentation in February/March to show what you’ve done to meet those desired outcomes as well as the measurable impact. Flow charts, graphs, and case studies. If you think I’m being ridiculous… go talk to someone who works at a non-church charity, they have staff people whose sole job is to keep the funding coming by creating desired outcomes and presenting measurables to donors. At the end of the day the only way leadership will continue funding your ministry is to constantly prove it’s working.
  2. Donor relations. Earlier this week I wrote a post called Skin in the Game. As a church staff person you need to know that those who attend the church, especially those for 10+ years, have a lot more skin in the game than you do. Don’t buy the lie that the staff have the most skin in the game at a church… it’s just not true. You are an employee hired to do #1, you are not an owner. I could point you to dozens of friends who have learned this the hard way. They thought being friendly with all the leaders or doing really important, hard work meant that they were safe. Or they thought that if they simply cared a lot and gave everything they had to it that their career would be fine. And then they got invited to a meeting and asked to resign. Spiritually, the owners might be “under your authority” but that doesn’t mean they won’t fire you. I don’t care if you’re the best youth pastor in America. If you don’t deliver on #1 above you’re in big trouble. In professional sports terms, they are the owners and you are the coaches. You job is to win and attract “fans” aka potential owners. If you’re aren’t delivering results than your job is hanging purely by your ability to manage donor relations. Manage those relationships well and you can probably hang on until you deliver on #1. But mismanaging those relationships makes a board decision to fire you a whole lot easier. (Hint: It’s not always the board who are the people you need on your side. Make sure you’re managing the right relationships.)

When I talk to friends in youth ministry who have just been let go, those are the two things it always comes down to. Measurables and donor relations. (aka “politics.”) You might disagree with me on that, and you can probably point to a case where that wasn’t true. But let me reassure you… nail those two things and you are eliminating 90% of the reasons my friends have gotten fired.

Maybe this post is too matter of fact for you? Trust me. I’m only sharing to prevent your pain. I know that I’ve taken something so personal, so much a part of you, and so much a part of your faith and narrowed it down to two bullet points for how you can keep going. I know it seems simpleton and I don’t really get your context. But you just need to know the truth. Don’t be naive. We are all capable of getting fired. Manage these two things well and all the other things you love about your job can continue. Mismanage them and you’re in for a world of hurt. It might not be this Spring, but your Spring is coming.

UPDATE: Brian Berry has a continuation of this post on his blog. Go check it out.

Tip: Get canned? Check out our free job board over at The Youth Cartel.

Categories
Church Leadership illustrations

3 Things I Don’t Want to Hear From a Pastor…. EVER!

Now that I’m a regular Joe sitting in the pew on Sunday morning, I’ve gotten a chance to discover some things that are awkward for the audience to hear. In short, I don’t think pastors should say these things… EVER!

  1. Talk about your sex life. How gross is it to hear any 40 something year old man talk about sex with his spouse? It’s especially gross for a pastor to talk about having sex with his wife while she sits and blushes in the audience. And Ed Young, yeah… we know sex is beautiful… but no one wants to know how many times you had sex in a week. I think I just puked in my bulletin.
  2. Talk about your past careers. I know working at a church can pretty redundant and boring. And sometimes you feel like your role is insignificant next to the corporate types who write the big checks. Get over it, you aren’t a _____ anymore. You’re a pastor, your congregation loves you, and we know you could make more money elsewhere. Please don’t remind us of that every week, we don’t care.
  3. Using your kids sin as an illustration. Holy smokes this has got to damage kids self-image. Can you imagine the horror of not only being busted doing something bad but then having your mom or dad tell hundreds… or even thousands of people about it? No wonder so many pastor kids grow up hating Jesus. Cough. ***golden rule*** Cough. Cough.

Thankfully, Stephen rarely does any of these.

So what do I suggest? I know that these 3 things tend to come up because you need a good illustration. And typically, when I’ve let these types of things sneak in it is because I don’t have time to really research a great illustration. But you know they are “winners” and will go over with the core audience well because it’s personal and the people love you. But, be honest, these three things tend to come out most often when you have little time to prepare.