Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is a Youth Pastor Necessary?

Granted, the 21st century model of youth ministry seems to demand excellent programming (sometimes at the cost of real fruit - we've talked about that).

And granted, those who call the shots in most of our churches (i.e. boards, senior pastors, etc.) have expecations that often push us in unhealthy directions (such as a fixation on numbers, big shows, and raised hands).

Because of these things, a youth pastor seems necessary. The demands of the job are way too great for the "average" layperson (a term that, by the way, is not found in scripture).

I've seen lots of great youth workers doing great ministry with teens come to the conclusion that they a youth pastor because they can't keep up with the demands of the youth ministry job that's expected of them.

The verdict's still out on this. I'm not lobbying, just facilitating. Several questions:
  • Is a youth pastor necessary? When? Why?
  • Is there scriptural support for the position? If so, why did it take 1950 years for us to discover it?
  • Can youth ministry exist without a youth pastor? Can it exist without a youth pastor WHILE the people participating in the youth ministry are thinking "We don't need a youth pastor."?
  • Is it healthy to build a structure that rises or falls on the back of one person?
  • If this structure is unhealthy, what kinds of changes are necessary? Is there a way youth ministry can continue to exist even when it's "head" is chopped off?

Not sure this was one of my most thought-out posts, but hopefully it'll generate discussion.

8 comments:

DaYouthGuy said...

Not sure this will be one of my most thought out answers but let's try:

# Is a youth pastor necessary? When? Why?
Yes, sometimes. Hmmm, just looked at the question again and see something I missed - youth pastor. That's not how we organize it in my denomination. I WOULD argue that a youth minister (lay or clergy, paid or volunteer) is often needed but not always. Specialized ministers are needed to 1: insure that special needs are met and 2: ease the burden of a single person trying to pastor everyone. I realize I've jiggered the question a little but that's what I've got at the moment.

# Is there scriptural support for the position? If so, why did it take 1950 years for us to discover it? Hmmmm, this one gives me the hiccups too. There is support for specialty ministries (basically what the deacons were formed to do) so it's not a stretch to see that expand to help all groups with special needs. Add to that Jesus calling out for the children especially (Let them come to me). No such call to seniors or men's bible studies or women's groups. I'm just sayin'

# Can youth ministry exist without a youth pastor? Can it exist without a youth pastor WHILE the people participating in the youth ministry are thinking "We don't need a youth pastor."? Yes, so long as everyone in the congregation is willing to step up and fulfill some part of the mentor/teacher role. Again same "church culture" hurdle for me on the word "pastor" but even substituting my usage of "minister" the answer remains the same.

# Is it healthy to build a structure that rises or falls on the back of one person? Unless that person is Jesus the answer is NO! This is one of the greatest failing of the current model of youth ministry. It becomes about the minister and not God. In case you're interested I preached a sermon on this subject (not too long, I promise!) you can find it
http://youthmissioner.blogspot.com/2008/03/thoughts-on-cart-and-horse.html#links

# If this structure is unhealthy, what kinds of changes are necessary? Is there a way youth ministry can continue to exist even when it's "head" is chopped off?

Yep, see above. We need to make everyone in every pew responsible to at least some degree for ministry to their youth. We need to recognize these folk (the youth) as brothers and sisters in Christ and not just "the Wilson kids". We need to get away from thinking about youth group and programs and events and start thinking about community. Of caring and sharing and walking along with them.

Just some thoughts at the end of the day.
Peace
Jay

cmcgill said...

(random thoughts late at night...)

The one thought that came to my mind was how unhealthy a church that must be! Maybe it is the church that should go through some re-evaluation and "not necessarily" youth ministry. The church and the family are certainly God-ordained. Maybe we've twisted them a bit to suit ourselves?

There are all sorts of things that exist now that didn't exist in biblical times, including the term "teenager." In light of that we have chosen to use biblical principles to determine how best to meet the needs. Is that any more or less wrong than using people trained to raise up other spiritual leaders (Eph. 4:11,12) and specifically help parents and teens?

Health of a structure cannot be placed on one person if it is to be healthy. If that is the case, and we do rely on our youth pastor or senior pastor too much, maybe we should reconsider our reliance on the Trinity and how God is moving in His people.

Dan said...

Is a youth pastor necessary? When? Why?

In a time where Fathers are passive and absent and families are falling apart, there needs to be some one to bridge the gap in the training and rearing of kids. A YM should be a partner to help students minister to friends or the same age and a liaison between parents and kids.

Is there scriptural support for the position? If so, why did it take 1950 years for us to discover it? Teens did go to synagogues to study and Titus 2 says that older teach younger. As for timing, it was about then when families starting getting jacked up and Liberalism took over.

Can youth ministry exist without a youth pastor? Can it exist without a youth pastor WHILE the people participating in the youth ministry are thinking "We don't need a youth pastor."? Good Question. IDK

Is it healthy to build a structure that rises or falls on the back of one person? - Never - the whole village raise a kid thing.

If this structure is unhealthy, what kinds of changes are necessary? Is there a way youth ministry can continue to exist even when it's "head" is chopped off? I don't know what this means.

Matt Schaffner said...

I'm gonna wrap a lot and not be super organized, but here goes.

Youth pastors, children's pastors, senior adult pastors, college pastors, Christian Education pastors, executive pastors, teaching pastors, are only a few of the positions that have become part of the church in the modern era. Are any of them absolutely necessary? NO. Can they be really great spots for God to do great things? Definitely! The whole reasoning behind the ideas of "specialized ministry" came from watching the world around us (and not just humanity!). In society, specialization came about as a necessity: a specialized worker could do their task better and quicker than someone who did a lot of tasks (hence the idea of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc.). The application in the church is a good idea (and I don't just say that because I am involved in youth ministry!) because it is still about doing things better and reaching the most people. When we look at doing things in our church or student ministry it is based on knowledge of who we are trying to reach and what would be most effective in communicating the message of Jesus Christ to them. What it all comes down to for me is this: "I have become ALL things to ALL people so that by ALL possible means I might save SOME." That is my mission, to save as many as I can in the time I have. The way I do that is by using the specific makeup of gifts, abilities, personality, experiences, and passion I have. God made me passionate for teenagers, equipped me with experiences, abilities, and spiritual gifts to reach teenagers and then led me to the place where I could do everything in my power to try and save some. That's who I am and why I do what I do. It all comes back to knowing Jesus and making Him known. That is the one thing I exist to do and I try and do it in the best way I can using what the God who made me gave me.

Diana said...

I think there needs to be someone who has authority in making decisions when there are differences of opinion among the volunteers. But whether or not that needs to be a paid position probably depends on the size of the youth group.
When I ran a youth group as a volunteer, once it got up to 60 that was too big. Kids started falling through the cracks simply because I couldn't devote enough time to equipping more leaders. The church I'm at working at now has 300 kids and the youth pastor position is necessary. But there is definitely an attitude (that he's trying to change) of things resting on his shoulders.

Dave said...

Took me a long time to get to this and these are very general comments, but...as a lay yute leader in a yute-pastor-less church, it's been an interesting ride. A team of dedicated volunteers (6 in all) have been trying to 'run things' after our long time yute pastor resigned last year, which inevitably means simply keeping the programs going. All of us have full time jobs, etc, and thus it's been a challenge to do the true work...and that is empower/equip parents and mentors to be an integral part of spiritual development.

Recently, church leadership is calling for a new team look, made up of yute and parents and a few workers, to promote, I hope, less programs and more disciplining.

I think we have 'suffered' a bit from not having someone at the helm...i.e., when we had a staff person who was the yute pastor, he was the one who scheduled, taught (for the most part), equipped, visited, etc. He did a great job of training us volunteers but it was always a comfort to know someone was 'in charge'.

However, in hind sight, that traditional model fed into the whole parental refrain, "yute ministries are the only place my teens can get spiritual help", or an unhealthy focus on numbers. That model left volunteers like myself and others unchallenged (not the yute pastor's fault--actually he tried many times to encourage and motivate us to build relationships and disciple kids) in the sense that we were so used to having 'the boss' do everything, that we could cut loose after a program and easily disengage from kids.

Wow, this got long. In closing, yeah, I see the traditional model as being 'unhealthy' because it can promote that the yute pastor is the 'go to' person for all things spiritual, while the parents and volunteers can stay on the side line, sighing in relief that somebody is taking care of their kids.

Dave Furst said...

You bring up great questions. I often wonder about the need for a paid youth pastor. But then I realize that no one knows more about the youth culture, how each generation lives, communicates, and functions in their world. I take a tremendous amount of time learning and keeping up on youth culture. I am uniquely qualified to counsel and teach in a way that Teens really understand becuse I understand where they are and the culture they live in. Most people are unaware of the culture of the teenagers and this creates a natural barrier in a sense. I want to make sure that I also say that regular communication and involvement with the older generations is vital but it will take some effort to facilitate. Youth ministries can exist without a youth pastor but they excell with one. Anyone you have a person who is trained and experienced and burdoned for something it creates an atmosphere of excellence. There is a huge need for someone who can be the cheerleader, the father figure, the counselor, the teacher, the friend, the confidant, and so much more. This is a full time job and deserves someone who can devote all their time to this. That usually means paying a youth guy singe has the time to pursue the lives of teens. So call it what you want, pastor, minister, leader. It doesn't really matter. As long as there is significant investment in the lives of teens. And as far as te numbers go, this is a poor way to evaluate success. Jesus only had twelve disciples. That's right, not thousands, just twelve. The majority of his influence came from those he influnced directly. His twelve carried the message that has rocked the world. Jesus did this through twelve men. What to say that a youth group that never goes beyond twelve is a problem.
Just my thoughts.
Dave
www.themindmeld.blogspot.com
www.thefurstfamily.com
www.cbcministry.org

Dave Furst said...

You bring up great questions. I often wonder about the need for a paid youth pastor. But then I realize that no one knows more about the youth culture, how each generation lives, communicates, and functions in their world. I take a tremendous amount of time learning and keeping up on youth culture. I am uniquely qualified to counsel and teach in a way that Teens really understand becuse I understand where they are and the culture they live in. Most people are unaware of the culture of the teenagers and this creates a natural barrier in a sense. I want to make sure that I also say that regular communication and involvement with the older generations is vital but it will take some effort to facilitate. Youth ministries can exist without a youth pastor but they excell with one. Anyone you have a person who is trained and experienced and burdoned for something it creates an atmosphere of excellence. There is a huge need for someone who can be the cheerleader, the father figure, the counselor, the teacher, the friend, the confidant, and so much more. This is a full time job and deserves someone who can devote all their time to this. That usually means paying a youth guy singe has the time to pursue the lives of teens. So call it what you want, pastor, minister, leader. It doesn't really matter. As long as there is significant investment in the lives of teens. And as far as te numbers go, this is a poor way to evaluate success. Jesus only had twelve disciples. That's right, not thousands, just twelve. The majority of his influence came from those he influnced directly. His twelve carried the message that has rocked the world. Jesus did this through twelve men. What to say that a youth group that never goes beyond twelve is a problem.
Just my thoughts.
Dave
www.themindmeld.blogspot.com
www.thefurstfamily.com
www.cbcministry.org