How committed to your church community are you, youth ministers? How much would it hurt were you to leave them? Do you value them? Do they value you? Do you, together, value Christ above all and help each other do that?
It’s not often a youth minister sticks around somewhere for a long time. 18 months, apparently, is the average they stay in one place – then they either move on to a new church, or walk away from ministry. Why is this? Commitment is the word that I want to propose is the answer. In two ways.
Commitment from the youth minister to the church. I remember having a conversation with another youth minister recently in which he told me that he couldn’t imagine leaving where he is because he doesn’t want to leave the people behind – he cares about them too much. Oddly enough, that hadn’t occurred to me before. But his commitment to this church has meant that a lot has come of it. Those who used to be bratty youth are now lunchtime group leaders, ministering to bratty youth who will, God willing, become the next lot of leaders! I think this person’s commitment to this community has a massive affect on that.
Coversely, a lack of commitment will often mean a lack of relationship – and a lack of depth. It’s much easier to walk away. But also much easier to do ministry when you’re not mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice. Much simpler. But… that’s not what we’re called to. We’re called to commit. To share life.
But as with every coin, there are two sides to this…
A churches commitment to the youth minister. I tweeted about this earlier and was reminded by someone that often churches want new and exciting things out of youth ministers, and that after a while, a person just stops being so exciting. This makes me wonder about whether or not senior ministers and youth ministers are on the same page about youth ministry – and ministry in general, dare I say.
Youth ministry is ministry, just like every other. Just as valid as every other. Lunchtime groups, high school SRE, BBQs at skate parks… it’s all evangelism. Small groups are discipleship. Youth group talks are (dare I say it) preaching. Why do we diminish it?* If churches placed value on youth ministry, as they do every other ministry, we’ll see churches wanting and fighting for youth ministers to stick around. Not for their egos sake – but for ministries sake.
It is also a commitment to someone’s growth. I look back two years and wonder why I was hired for my current position. In spite of all the ups and downs, and all the triumphs and failures, they’ve remained supportive.
That amazes me. That blesses me. And if churches committed to seeing someone grow and change and do ministry and grow ministry… maybe it would be different. Maybe 18 months would turn into 18 years.
*Full disclosure: this thought is pretty much straight from one of Graham Stanton’s facebook statuses.