I landed my first paid youth ministry position just two months after graduating from college. To be honest, I wasn’t really even looking for a church position. I figured I would volunteer in a youth ministry for a few years and try to get accepted into seminary. I had no idea a church would hire me onto their staff, let alone trust me to lead their youth ministry.
My guess is that my story might not be too far from your story. It’s difficult to find statistics on the average age of youth pastors that include part-time and volunteer youth pastors, but I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that most youth pastors/directors are in their twenties when they get their first youth ministry position. Of all the youth pastors I’m friends with, I can think of only one who I know for sure was at least 30 years old when they became a youth pastor. Most who I know became a youth pastor before they were 25 years old.
I wouldn’t bet that the trend of hiring young or otherwise inexperienced men and women as youth pastors is going to slow down.
That being the case, I believe that veteran youth workers have a responsibility to help young, rookie youth pastors out.
When I was starting out as a youth pastor, I benefited from some veteran youth workers taking the time to pour into my life. Here are some things veteran youth pastors can do for rookies:
Buy a young/new youth pastor lunch or a cup of coffee.
One of my favorite memories from my early years as a youth pastor was at a youth ministry conference. I was still in seminary, and my friend had convinced our admissions office that it would be beneficial to send four youth ministry students to the conference to sit at our seminary’s booth in the exhibition hall. While our hotel and plane tickets were paid for, we were on our own for food. A veteran youth pastor from our city was also attending the conference, and he offered to take us all out to dinner. We spent time laughing and talking about ministry. It may have just been a dinner to that veteran youth pastor, but I was grateful that he was willing to take time out of his schedule (and money from his wallet) to pour into us as young youth workers.
Encourage young/new youth pastors to be a part of your denominational or local youth ministry network.
Of course, being a part of a youth ministry network is something that all youth pastors can benefit from, no matter how many years you’ve been doing youth ministry. A huge benefit of a healthy youth ministry network is that younger youth workers can benefit from relationships with some youth workers who have been around the block once or twice. In my first youth ministry position, some of my best friends in ministry were a part of a youth ministry network run by our denomination’s local office. It was a blessing to hang out with some youth pastors who had been in the same church for a long time.
Mentor a young/new youth pastor.
When I was in my first youth ministry position, I was required by the seminary I attended to have a “professional” mentor who was in ministry as well. My mentor was a 20-year youth ministry veteran with whom I still have a great relationship ten years later. Many people who point out that Paul tells young Timothy he should not be despised for his youth forget that he was mentored by Paul. Sure, it’s possible for a young youth pastor to make a huge impact, but it probably won’t happen without a mentor pouring into that person. You won’t be able to be a mentor during every season of your life, but when the time is right, don’t be afraid to identify a young youth pastor you can pour into from the wisdom you’ve learned from your many years of mistakes.
What are some other ways veteran youth pastors can pour into rookies?