The Role of Youth Pastor - Guest Post
How do you make youth ministry work? That is a solid question. From a student’s perspective, the answer to that question begins in the essence of godly leadership. Youth Ministry thrives under a pastor whose vision is clear, who conditions his own heart for God’s purpose, and who has a desire to invest in the lives of his students. I wouldn’t call my youth group story terribly unique, and definitely not bad. I would simply call it mine.
I have been a member of the same youth group, Fellowship Bible Church’s theSwitch, for six years starting my seventh grade year all the way through my senior year in high school. TheSwitch always provided a sort of safe haven for me to get my out-of-control-hormonal head on straight, with the guidance of many godly adult youth sponsors. Unfortunately, I never met any standout guys who were godly examples for me during those difficult high school years. And I also saw three different men take on the role of youth pastor for theSwitch; the first, Ben, leaving after months of driving back and forth between his job in Gardner, KS and his family in Winnipeg, Manitoba; the second, Damon, taking on the title while supporting six children and working another job; and the third, Cam, starting the fall of my senior year and immediately taking on the challenge of a student’s unexpected death. So, sometimes youth group was lonely . . . but I think everybody: sponsors, students, and the pastor included, feels that way sometimes. The point of this little backstory is that because of the friends I made, the Bible teaching, and the leadership opportunities provided for me as a student, I have developed a unique perspective and God-given desire for the betterment of youth ministry.
A youth pastor’s job is relatively—at least from a student’s perspective—straightforward: lead students to Christ and help young believers grow in their faith. Vision, however, is important for anyone in a leadership position and especially vital for someone in the pastoral positions. Vision, through the lens of ministry, is an understanding of what God’s will may be, and a pursuance of His perfect and pleasing will. Therefore, I think it is important for youth pastors to have a clear mission statement that articulates what their goal is for the youth ministry of which they are in charge. This mission statement should be concise and will be reflective of both God’s Word and the youth pastor’s own relationship to Christ. As the youth pastor grows closer to Christ in love and understanding, so should his mission statement become closer aligned with God’s Will for that ministry.
Any Christian leader must understand that his personal relationship with God comes first. If a youth pastor is not actively pursuing a relationship with the Creator, how can he expect to point students to that same deity? In other words, he can lead students only to that which he himself follows. That is why it is so important that pastors are hunting for God’s Will in their attitude, behavior, relationships, character, and focus. Sometimes leaders have a tendency to neglect their own needs, especially their relationship with Christ, for what they see as the general good of their flock. But it is fact more important that they “get right with God,” because the students can recognize the difference and will follow a youth pastor who acts in accordance with God’s Will rather than one who acts on his own accord.
Youth ministry is difficult. Anybody who gives youth pastors a hard time about finding a real job is a fool. Being a youth pastor is a full-time job commitment, even if it is a part-time position. Many students are looking to the youth pastor for a father figure, a counselor, a friend, a teacher, and/or a mentor. At one time or another, I know I have looked to Cam, Damon, and Ben to fill each of these job descriptions. Being a youth pastor doesn’t necessarily mean he is required to do these things, but it does mean that they need to be focused on their students’ needs and deciphering between those and desires. A youth pastor needs to be willing to invest INDIVIDUALLY and COLLECTIVELY with each of the students to whom he ministers. This sort of commitment will not only help each individual student to grow in their personal relationship with Christ, but will also help the youth ministry to grow closer to a vision in line with God’s Will.
I don’t want to give off the impression that I as a student expected my youth pastors to be there for me on my whim and call. I also don’t mean to communicate that the youth pastor is the center of the youth ministry, because I believe that ultimately, the leader of any ministry is Almighty Yahweh. The youth pastor is pivotal for showing lonely and confused teenagers the essence of faith, hope, and love. As a student, I looked to the youth pastor as an example of godly living, to redirect my own vision of God’s Will for my life, and to be honestly interested in me as a person. I strongly believe that the youth minister who pursues these three things wholeheartedly will see God begin, or continue, a work in his ministry.
Houston Enfield is a freshman at Taylor University where he is studying music and biblical studies. He graduated from Gardner Edgerton High School in 2011, and was a member of Fellowship Bible Church’s youth ministry theSwitch during his years in middle school and high school. Cam served as the youth pastor at FBC during his senior year.