Is youth ministry a good preparation for leading a church?
A different form of leadership is required and many youth pastors who have been cut from the ‘charismatic cool’ mould will need to re-skill and patiently learn a new culture. A few differences I have been pondering :
Young people say yes easily. Whatever the idea… it’s not that young people don’t think. They just don’t have the same cynicism and innovation-weariness adults bring. They like new ideas and generally will say yes to a charismatic leader because they want to be ‘on board ‘. Adults… Hmmm… they make you work just to get your idea heard because they’ve heard so many many before.
Young people have time to burn (often) and they get energy from participating in what you come up with. Adults might buy passionately into your ideas, they may more likely support your ideas dutifully, but only for so long. I keep hearing people say they want ‘young families ‘ in their church, and I ‘get’ that they give the church a good look, but they are the most time poor, overcommitted group you will come across. If you enjoyed having volunteers coming out of your ears as a youth pastor then get used to working with people who struggle to find time for you. Note: They aren’t bad people. They are just at a different stage of life where expectations need to be adjusted. If you can’t handle that then don’t make the shift.
Young people still believe they can change the world while adults smile, yawn and wait for you to settle down. They have heard the whole ‘sold out for Jesus’ spiel so many times now that it just brushes past them with little effect. They tried changing the world and it didn’t work. Now they just come to church. Yeah – there are some exceptions, but for many just ‘turning up’ is their radical demonstration of faith.
In youth ministry innovation and change is normal. It’s expected and young people roll with it. There are very few ‘leading change’s seminars for youth pastors because if you want to change something you simply announce it and do it. Maybe it’s a little more complicated than I just made it sound but the level of autonomy and freedom a youth pastor has is significant.
Youth ministry is often fun... no really… you get paid to have a ball. I know it’s not always like that but I remember my youth minister days as a hoot. There can be some awesome times in working with adults but it’s often a bit more serious. Time is precious, the issues are generally a bit more significant and no one really wants to cram another marshmallow in and say ‘chubby bunnies’.
So if you are making the shift then at least go in aware of the issues. When I reflect on my first days in leading adults I sometimes want to sheepishly say ‘sorry…’ because I had little appreciation for the lives people were leading or the struggles they were facing. I just needed them to behave like an older version of our youth crew and when they didn’t I pushed harder thinking that was the answer.
I’m 50 now…