About a week ago I wrote a short Facebook post out of frustration:
“Another day, another horrible position description for a youth and young adults pastor.
Sorry churches, Superman/woman can’t even run a youth ministry, facilitate the young adult ministry and lead an evening congregation on 12 hours a week. #wecandobetter #rantover.”
I don’t like to complain too often in public, as it seems most social posts these days are that way inclined. However, this comment did receive a little traction, including some private messages from people hoping I wasn’t referring to their church’s search for a Youth Pastor!
But I did write out of frustration.
The particular position description I came across was horrible for its expectations on the Youth Pastor, its lack of time allocated to do a good job, and its focus in outlining specific tasks. And, it is not uncommon to see horrible job descriptions for Youth Pastors like this. Expectations and responsibilities stated on paper, in black and white, often far exceed the capabilities of the possible employee, particularly if the position is part-time.
But rather than just write a frustrated Facebook post, here are some further reflections and suggestions on youth ministry job descriptions.
(1) It is positive churches want a youth ministry practitioner.
Having a church willing to give time and money and resource to help their young people and families is extremely positive. Whether it is 1-day per week or full-time, we must acknowledge that the willingness of a congregation to do this is a positive one.
(2) Budgets, more often than not, drive the time allocation.
It’s worth naming that the church’s budget is a huge determining factor in the time allocation of Youth Pastors. It is obvious that the church has to have a certain level of income in order to pay their staff. However, this can also skew the thinking of leadership teams when they are driven to fill a role rather than use it as a vehicle to help the church’s vision in ministering to young people and families.
Just because the money is there does not mean you should automatically search for a Youth Pastor. And just because the money isn’t there doesn’t mean you can’t have a vision for youth ministry in your church.
(3) The time allocation for the role will determine the quality and experience of applicants.
A person with over 10 years experience, a theological degree, and a young, growing family isn’t going to be looking for a Youth Pastor job that’s 2 days per week. A newbie to youth ministry in their first year of Bible College, with an internship under their belt, is unlikely to be the person for a full-time role.
The allocation of days per week will have a factor on who applies for the role. The number of days the church puts into a role will determine the quality and experience of applicants. This should determine the expectations, development, and breadth of responsibility put upon the YP.
(4) Understand how long tasks, events, and projects actually take.
From reading a number of position descriptions over time there seems to be little understanding of how long things actually take. It may surprise some that it actually takes time to prepare a bible study, to run a youth group program, and to develop leaders. In any week a variety of things can pop up that mean the ability to complete some tasks will take longer or be pushed out.
That’s what happens when working in the people business.
It would be worth churches talking to other Youth Pastors to gain a realistic understanding of how much time certain tasks and events take so they are done well.
(4a) Include every commitment necessary into the time allocation.
If there is a mid-week bible study, a Friday night youth group, and a Sunday morning and evening service then by my reckoning there is around 10 hours of actual program time. This neglects to include the time for preparation of said programs and the time for setup, pack-up and debrief. If they’re included then it balloons to around 16-20 hours depending on the length of the programs.
That’s already 2-days per week for a Youth Pastor to do some very standard, line-and-length youth ministry.
This doesn’t include the 1:1 meet-ups, pastoral team meetings, administration, follow-up of young people and families, the development of leaders, church or committee meetings, professional development, and any space for visioning, thinking and brainstorming of what is to come.
It’s important to include everything. Churches should be just and fair workplaces, if not better.
(5) Understand that people are at the core of the Youth Pastor role.
While the tasks, events, and projects are important the Youth Pastor views the role in terms of people. As I’ve said, the church is in the people business.
When the position description simply states all the programs the applicant is responsible for then it doesn’t inspire much. But, if the PD states the vision for the ministry, the goal of helping people understand and grow in faith, help families and children grow closer to Jesus, and provide care of the youth and families in the church, then there is something more appealing.
All the programs and activities that happen in a church are simply vehicles for ministry. The ongoing check-ins, catch-ups, dinners, and the like are what help, grow and care people.
Sometimes a vehicle can get too old or the needs for a particular vehicle change. Going from a couple to having a family often means the change of car. The needs change. The same can happen in churches and their youth ministries. Understand it revolves around people.
(6) Provide time for growth and development.
It is not easy to find a position description for a Youth Pastor that specifically states they will grow and develop the person. I haven’t found churches overly great in professional development. Sure, we all grow in the job, that’s definitely the case. However, if funds and time are allocated for conferences, further training, and study then this will help the person, and will more than likely keep them in the role longer.
(7) Be specific about what your church is hoping to achieve, be broad in how that will happen.
It’s all well and good to want a Youth Pastor, but why do you want one?
Is it because the families in your church are wanting their kids to be looked after at certain times of the week, given a bit of Jesus, and a sprinkle of fun? Or, is it because there is the recognition that young families, young people and young adults are a priority for the church going forward?
Is it because you need to fill particular tasks and so hiring a YP will mean Friday nights and bible studies will happen? Or, is it because there is a vision to develop lifelong faith in children, young people and young adults?
Be big on vision. Give a sense of what you’d like to achieve. But don’t dictate the path. Allow the congregation and potential YP to capture the vision and then let them fulfil it using the appropriate vehicles. A dictatorial position description shows a lack of trust. A vision-orientated one doesn’t.
(8) Have confidence in knowing the Youth Pastor will be putting more pressure on themselves than anyone in the church.
It’s true. The YP will be tougher on themselves than anyone else. They will be more willing and more driven to see people come to faith and grow in that faith. Trust that. Believe in them.
I think that will do for now.
More could be said around support from superiors and the church’s leadership, which I have mentioned previously.
Hope this helps.