This post is not to criticize any of my youth pastor friends. We are writing job descriptions at my church, and I was wondering, if I ever became a youth pastor again, what would my philosophy be?
The first thing to understand is that generally, youth pastors do not numerically grow churches (at least not in the short term. I’ll explain what I mean by that later). The youth pastor should certainly be an evangelist, as I have heard that 85% of people who become Christians do so before age 18, but generally if a teen comes to Christ, they do not bring their whole family to church. At best they bring their younger siblings; it’s dad brings the whole family. So what the youth pastor is really doing is building the church for the future, 10+ years out.
So if the youth pastor is growing the future church, what should he or she being doing with their teens? I would say: 1) teaching them the foundational principles of Christianity and 2) having them involved in real church ministry. This way, when they graduate from high school or college they have at least some the knowledge and skills they need to be lead, as they continue to grow in wisdom and maturity, and since they have been involved, there is buy in that this is their church not just their parent’s church.
What the youth pastor would need from the church is real ministry opportunities for teens. Teens can do more than wash cars and babysit. Sure, maturity is required for some ministries, but why couldn’t a teen play on the Sunday morning praise team, make a benevolence run with a deacon, or go with the pastor to pray with someone at the hospital? Teens can pass an offering plate and hold a communion tray without spilling. Most teens I know are better at using new and old media than their adult counterparts. These thing could be in addition to evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and developing spiritual disciplines among their peers. I don’t think in the church adolescence has to last until age 30.
So what is the youth pastor’s job? Front line evangelism, spiritual formation, and ministry training, and the first real evaluation happens when his first group of junior highers graduate college. I think there is still room in there for making it fun.
©2010 Paul Tillman