For the past 2.5 years my job has shifted from being a youth pastor to being a cheerleader, encourager, and fan of youth workers around the country.
And, not surprisingly, I’ve bumped into a lot of youth workers with a shared story. Careers flopping. Getting fired. Financial struggles. And marriages crumbing.
As you’d expect during a down economy (mixed with a season of re-thinking ministry strategies) there are a whole lot of people in full-time youth ministry who aren’t emotionally healthy.
But I’ve also gotten to know some pretty happy and satisfied youth workers. They face the exact same struggles in youth ministry but they seem to have figured out how to manage it. (For lack of a better term)
Rather than share what I think some of the problems are… I thought it would be more useful to share a couple of things that I see, universally, that emotionally healthy youth pastors have.
Two hallmarks of an emotionally healthy youth pastor
- Low ownership of the youth ministry program. They tend to have Sunday school (even if they don’t teach it) and a mid-week program with some events/camps/retreats along the way. They seem less focused on being on the leading edge and more focused on doing what they are good at. They see their role as the leader of the program more than they define themselves as the leader of the program. It’s a profession and they can turn it on and turn it off. It’s not a “it’s just a job” mentality. It’s bigger than that as its a healthy acceptance of their role in students lives.
- Belonging to adult community. This is the bigger of the two. We are made for community. Healthy youth workers have more than just a couple of friends they see occasionally. They have community. They have a group of people in their life that don’t see them as the youth pastor but as just another knucklehead in a group of friends. This is being a part of a softball league or a fellowship of star trek geeks or even joining a small group from a church across town.
The interesting thing about these two hallmarks is that they are completely within the control of the youth pastor. These are things you can actually do and change relatively easily. You don’t even have to tell anyone. You don’t have to preach about it. You can just do it.
If you are starting to feel like youth ministry isn’t for you. Or if you are thinking that you aren’t really built to do this for the long haul. I’d suggest looking at these two things, first.