I regularly receive a blog (youthministry.com) in my inbox that I find helpful to my efforts in equipping the teens at our church to make disciples. This is a recent post of theirs followed the response I felt compelled to add. I am going to include their post here to aid in setting context:
Q. I’ve been volunteering with my youth group for a while and the church just offered to take me on full-time staff. I love working my other job, but this seems like an incredible opportunity to get paid to do what I love. Help!
A. Thanks for this great question! It all starts with prayer and knowing expectations. Make sure that what fulfills you as a volunteer would still do so if you took over the whole thing. Many volunteers love helping out but also enjoy retreating at the end. A paid-staff youth worker doesn’t have that same option and has to motor through the tough times in youth ministry—usually invisible to the volunteer team. So brace yourself for some new realities of being on staff, but if you’re called to it and it seems like God is in it, what a great opportunity. Jump in!
Q. I don’t get along with the senior pastor at our church. He doesn’t treat me well or respect my ideas, time off, and ministry. It’s slowly killing me… When it is time for me to just leave?
A. A few things to keep in mind: 1 No leader is perfect. Imperfect pastors give us a chance to develop a grace-filled heart…and thicker skin. Without a doubt some of the best lessons we’ve ever learned in youth ministry were from some pretty bad leaders. 2 You’ve got to have an open and honest conversation with them. You need to talk about your future and how he or she makes you feel as a pastor and fellow-laborer. 3 Get some wise counsel from a trusted mentor or coach. Frustration is part of ministry, and difficult supervisors seem to be part of the gig at times as well. Some wise words from a counselor will help you know if this is something to fight through or something to trigger a search for what God has next.
Q. I am the youth pastor at my church and we were just green-lit for another youth ministry position! I’m freaking out—what should I do?
A. First, be thankful. This is a scenario that is so rare we almost didn’t include it in the newsletter because just reading that is potentially wounding for a youth worker all alone in the trenches. Having said that…be thankful, and be strategic.
Find a person to compliment your gifts (someone who is VERY different from you is often a great hire) and probably someone who is capable to oversee/run the half of the ministry you are less passionate about. If you’re a creative, consider hiring an organizer. If you love high school students, it might be a good idea to hire somebody who tilts toward junior highers.
If you get to hire a co-laborer, count your blessings, pray it up, and hire away before the church changes its mind!
Wow, these are definitely interesting questions, and can be (read: are ALWAYS) very difficult to think through. Especially when you are the one going though them! While I can emphatically state that I do not think any of Kurt and Josh’s responses are wrong or unhelpful I would temper that with the this; I find them a little incomplete. If I could offer a few of my own thoughts to help round out the thought process:
Question 1: From volunteer to full-time staff?
As stated in the original response, prayer is beyond necessary in make any kind of informed decision on such a matter. However I would differ in my thoughts regarding the points on which you should be praying. First, burnout is ALWAYS an issue of connectedness to God, not about decompression. We avoid it through the reading of His word, prayer, and fellowship with His body. I.E.: It stems from pouring out what He is not filling up in us, because we are not seeking it from Him. This is true in every aspect of living as a Christian not just in “ministry”. (I am suggesting that we ALL, [as in all christians] are always in danger of burnout if we stumble in these pursuits. NOT, that we can fix it with “just three EASY steps to avoiding burnout!” Life is not a RONCO™ product, we can’t just, “Set it and forget it!”™). Second, what is the reason they are asking you to come on as paid staff, as opposed to volunteer? Are they hiring you to have the time to run a program AND/OR to give you the time to more thoroughly study the Word and rightly divide it? In what ways is your current role deficient that they would like to make it your sole occupation? Last thought on this question is not a question for the asker at all. Rather, it is an admonition for us all: to subjugate all aspects of our live to the cross of Christ. I lied, one more question: Is it the youth ministry that you love, or is it the fulfillment of the great commission; to make disciple making disciples?
Question 2: My “boss” does not respect me, my time, or the ministry I’m paid to perform.
I have to say that the response here is really well-considered and I only would want to add a few things to the ensuing thought process: What you are doing to reach the world with the message of the cross is not subject to being paid to do it. It is sound doctrine and the way it informs your everyday living that Scripture promises to use to open the eyes of the lost. That does not nullify youth programing, but it does put it on the back burner of “influence”. As for leaving: Does the hand desire to be amputated because the mouth does not respect it? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t leave. I am saying that if you don’t consider the separation as similar to divorce or amputation you might make a premature decision. A very painful premature decision. Painful like in amputation without anesthesia. Last thought: Don’t fight through. Jesus tells us that the world will know we are christians by our love for each other, love your way through.
Question 3: We are hiring another youth minister/worker. What do I do?
The first point of Josh and Kurt‘s response is fantastic! “…be thankful, and be strategic.” What are your ministry objectives and how will this, a. Aid in meeting them, OR, b. Hinder their completion? I think of Paul writing to Timothy: Guard the Truth I gave you and entrust it to men who will guard it and teach it as well. A common goal of fulfilling the two greatest commandments and the great commission should make this a win-win situation all around.
I don’t know that anything stated here is more profitable than the good advice Josh and Kurt already dispensed, but I hope that it lovingly and intelligently adds to the conversation.