Monday, February 2, 2015

Thoughts From a Struggling Youth Pastor (An Anonymous Guest Post)

Happy Groundhog Day! Many of us will take the opportunity today to watch the brilliant Bill Murray film in which a weatherman gets stuck living the same day over and over again. It becomes somewhat of a nightmare for him until he learns a few things about himself and escapes into February 3rd. This post has almost nothing to do with the movie- except for the repeated nightmare part...

I was asked to share the following anonymous post by a friend, and I am glad to do so. Youth Pastors everywhere carry heavy burdens. Too many many churches and church members fail to see the importance of the work, often viewing student ministry as glorified babysitting when it should be seen as ministry to one of largest mission fields around. They treat youth pastors as second class staff members who someday hope to be a "real pastor." I was a youth pastor for nearly 30 years, and while these are not my words they certainly could have been on several occasions in my own life. It is my hope that reading this post will open the eyes of those who take youth pastors and student ministries for granted. The Groundhog Day effect (it just KEEPS happening) will only end when we all step forward to offer support in word and in deed to these brave women and men who have such an impact on the students they serve in the name of the God they serve. Read this with the knowledge that YOUR youth pastor could have easily written these words. And then pray. Hard.


An Anonymous Post:

I feel broken. I am emotionally exhausted and burnt out. I have labored for years for this place I love and these people I love. But I just don't think I have it in me any more. Everyone seems to really love me and the work I do, but the church has given me no resources to carry out my job. My budget has been cut just about every year. I have been given the worst piece of real estate on the church property and the church sees to it that every building is cleaned and cared for except for mine. It seems the only priority that has been placed on youth ministry is my salary.

I feel while I'm paid to do youth ministry, I spend my time doing other things. If there is a problem in the sound booth, I'm the one who does it. Guess who runs the church website? Yours truly. I also assist the pastor with hospital visits. And the meetings...Church Council, Trustees, this committee, that committee. Most weeks at least one or two evening meetings. All of this is in addition to the two nights a week I'm already at church for youth meetings. I just run from fire to fire putting things out. There is no vision or direction. I just run around like a dog chasing my tail. Parents and kids tell me they want to go on more fun trips, but when I plan them they don't attend, usually because they are busy with some other event they feel is more important. Oh wait, they will go on ski trips. People will come out of the woodwork to go on a ski trip. But a week long mission trip? Forget it. I have had no support from adults in the congregation who have a heart to make our ministry what it needs to be. Parents will bend over backwards to support every other activity their kids are involved in, but when I ask for help, I'm on my own. 

I just can't believe it. I told myself when I came here I wasn't going to be that guy that tried to do it all himself. I wasn't going to be a Lone Ranger. I was going to have helpers and leaders and it was going to be dynamic. And it was for a while. But I wasn't able to sustain that. Now kids are starting to leave because the other groups have more kids. I feel like I'm supposed to make something out of nothing. I feel like there has been no fruit to my labor and it is really hard to feel inspired to keep plowing the ground. And now parents are upset because I don't have the emotional fortitude to keep farming this fruitless ground. Besides that, I have all of this other stuff I'm supposed to be doing anyway.I have no tools, and no support. I do have a couple of people I can depend on but they do everything else that needs to be done around the church and I hate to ask them for any more than they already do. 

People are now hurt because I think people know my heart isn't in it. But instead of asking how they can help or what they can do, people only want to go somewhere else where they can find what they're looking for. Of course this thrills my senior pastor. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) He wants me to continue to build this program with the ridiculous lack of resources that has been given me. So I not only have pressure from the church but from my supervisor as well. 

I want a fresh start, but I don't know where to begin. I want to right this ship but I feel it has taken on too much water already. I love the job. I still love the people. But I don't know how to continue. Jesus is the miracle worker and that is the only thing I think will save this program at this point. Come, Lord Jesus come.


  1. Anonymous2/02/2015

    You are so right, CJ. Any one of us could have written those words at various points in our careers. Thanks to Anonymous for sharing their heart. And Groundhogs Day rocks!
    ~ Chris Cooper

  2. Anonymous2/03/2015

    I have also felt this pain. It's hard to continue to work 60 hours a week when it feels like you are the only who cares about excellence in the ministry or when you feel expectations have become unreasonable. Not to mention the pressure for "performance" also often placed on spouses of youth pastors.It is no wonder we change churches so often. We just want to be able to make a real difference with people who will treat us and our families well. Thanks for sharing Carl. Anonymous, I hope you find peace.

  3. Anonymous2/04/2015

    praying for you anonymous

  4. My husband and I have been there. It was not an easy place to be and it was not an easy place to leave. We stayed when God told us to stay and we left when God told us to leave. We still have our baggage that we keep carrying with us, but it isn't easy to get rid of.
    Praying for you Anonymous. Praying that you hear the voice of God, that he gives you the strength to do what needs to be done, and comfort.

  5. Anonymous2/10/2015

    I've been struggling for several months with my place as a youth worker. The church is very supportive of my efforts and feels that we don't want to lose a "youth focus"but if the parents aren't prioritizing and the number of youth continues to dwindle--what is there left to do?

    1. For me (back when I was a youth pastor) I often got past the struggles of parent non-support and falling numbers by investing myself and my ministry in the community rather than the church. Students who come because they feel loved and appreciated and are there because they want to be can change the whole atmosphere of a youth ministry. The only issue is that both you and your church have to be ready for kids who don't know how to play church. They will act out, dress funny and ask tough questions. But for me it was always well worth it. It's funny how parents attitudes can change when students are demanding to go to youth group.

    2. I agree with CJ. When my husband and I started with our previous youth group, there were 4 youth. We focused on loving them and it grew. Not everyone was comfortable with kids that were coming in. But we loved it because we knew that we were doing exactly what God wanted us to do. And yes that was our previous youth group, so it wasn't all sunshine and roses. When it ended we knew we did good work and that was enough for us. Saying a prayer for you Anonymous.


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!