Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Day In the Life of a Youth Pastor

I was captured in action on a
Mission Trip- Nashville '99
Much of this post previously appeared on my other (now dormant) blog.  It appears here today by request.

One of the most commonly asked questions of Youth Pastors is this- "What do you do all day?"  It is usually asked by the youth themselves, but occasionally by their parents, the congregation, or under rare and very dangerous circumstances, by the Senior Pastor (TIP: If your SP is asking, it's time to polish up the old resume!).  I spent 28 years doing the job, and I can tell you that the answer is much more complicated than most people might realize.  I submit to you today that Youth Pastors are usually the most under-appreciated staff member in our churches. In fact, for myself (and I suspect many other Youth Pastors who have worked in small to medium sized churches) the real answer to the question is...EVERYTHING!

To show you what I mean, let me give you a list of some of the things I was asked to do during any given month at the churches I served. My tasks included, but were not limited to:
  • Planning, directing and executing everything related to student ministry.  This usually takes no more than 80 hours a week...
  • Serving as the fill-in preacher on rare scheduled occasions and every time the Senior Pastor woke up sick at 6 AM Sunday morning.  No one can "wing it" quite like a Youth Pastor!
  • Having office hours.  These exist for 2 reasons.  One, so youth (and some parents) can stop by and hang out and talk to you about things both important and unimportant. Two, so the rest of the church staff has a place to hang out and complain.  My office was always the one with candy...
  • Driving the church van for the senior citizens groups and women's groups of the church.  Why me?  Because I had logged thousands of miles in those vans without incident- and because they knew I would say yes after the Senior Pastor turned them down.
  • Playing guitar & leading music during worship when the Contemporary Worship leader was sick or off interviewing at a church that was actually contemporary.
  • Teaching the staff how to use word processing programs, data bases and graphic design software.  In later years, building and maintaining the church website.  I knew very little about computers, but "very little" made me the expert of some of those staffs.
  • Make the wild, creative and envelope pushing suggestions that really rattled staff meetings- then smile as your suggestions were discarded.
  • Bringing creativity to worship.  I wrote and directed dramas, made videos, introduced new music and taught volunteers how to run Media Shout.  And then when they didn't show up, I ran Media Shout!
  • Support the Senior Pastor in his/her ministry.  With some pastors this was easy.  With others (like The Pastor Who Shall Not Be Named & Reverend Not-Appearing-in-this-Blog) , it was a matter of gritting your teeth and forgetting that they had just thrown you under the bus...again.
  • Setting up the sound system in the Fellowship Hall for daytime events because no one else on the staff ever learned how (TIP: Stop learning how to do stuff).
  • Make suggestions about making the worship service more relevant for teenagers, only to be looked at like you just suggested actually singing the 3rd verse of a hymn...
  • Be the one person on staff who worked most every holiday and all summer long, because that's when students have the most available time.
  • Fulfill the final line of every Youth Pastor job description- "and whatsoever other duties as determined by the Senior Pastor and the Personnel Committee."  In other words, everything no one else wants to do!
Please understand- I am not complaining. I loved being in ministry for all those years, and I am sure my brothers and sisters in student ministry feel the same way.  But I also hope you understand that being a Youth Pastor is hard work.  They don't just sit around all day thinking of new ways to ruin the Jones Memorial Carpet or spend all of the church's money.  They deal with screwed-up families, broken relationships and one of the largest mission fields around.  They plan trips, go to ball games, concerts and dance recitals (you will feel their pain when you sit through a 3 hour recital to watch 1 student dance).  They study, pray and prepare to lead programs.  And many of them- in my experience, the VAST majority- do all of these things in a spirit of love and service, because they want so badly for people to know Jesus. So if you know a Youth Pastor, show them some love today.  If you are one, please know you are loved and appreciated.

So there you go.  A day in the life of a Youth Pastor is never, ever boring.  And it was, for me, a blessing beyond anything I can describe.  But that is life with Jesus, isn't it?  Wild, crazy, unpredictable and a greater joy than anything you thought possible.  Have a great Saturday!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous7/09/2011

    Running a mission trip tomorrow ... I needed that .. Thanks brother!

  2. So true Carl! Since I am the Minister of Youth and Young Adults I usually say I work with the 7th grader up to 30 year olds and other duties as assigned :)

  3. Perfect example, Dave. You get to do it all!

  4. The few, the proud, the... youth pastors! 0:-)

    (That's supposed to be a halo on top)

  5. We were in youth ministry for years - so we're right there with you, Carl! God Bless you for hanging in there and loving young people!

  6. A reminder to all of my readers- I am no longer in student ministry. This post is in recognition of all those who are!

  7. What do you do now, since you are no longer in Student Ministry?


  8. I am a stay-at-home husband and father and a writer, Don. Thanks for stopping by!


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