In the 1980’s and 1990’s a lot of churches hired Youth Pastors, often with pure and great motives, but also with underlying hopes that this Youth Pastor would be their “saviour” – growing the church, pleasing parents, and attracting a younger generation.I’m sad to see in this current day era, where finances tend to be a little tighter and in some cases parents are less vocal (often because parents aren’t in the church either any more), youth pastor positions are disappearing or being squished into part-time hours or part-time responsibility in an ever increasing job description. This concerns me greatly. We need Youth Pastors! Not to be a saviour. Not to attract (that doesn’t work so well any more). But… We need people who will lead us in connecting with this younger generation! We need people who will lead us in showing and telling the Gospel in relevant ways to this younger generation! We need people that are inviting the church to ask the tough questions of whether we are truly making new disciples and remind us why the church exists today. If anything the gap between the younger generation and the majority of our church cultures has gotten much wider and we need Pastor who will help us and lead us in bringing that gap.
Here are eight important reasons we need Youth Pastors today:
1. To help us engage in relevant ways with the culture today. Churches need help to understand and engage the culture. Youth Pastor must keep up on culture, trends and influences to understand the younger generation. They can help your church know how to stay relevant and apply God’s Word to meet people where they are today and invite them onward with Jesus. Youth Pastor train adults, youth leaders and all of us in the church to engage well and meaningfully with today’s culture.
2. To lead us in connecting with the younger generation. Youth Pastors can be our bridge builders between generations, helping us to understand each other. They can be bridge builders between parents and youth, helping parents understand their youth, youth culture and how to connect faith to their youth’s real life, every day. Youth Pastors are not meant to do the work of sharing the Gospel with youth and discipling youth for us, they are to lead us into doing that work together. Youth Pastors are to equip us and lead us into the culture, not do all the work for us. Youth ministry is not meant to be a silo of the church, but part of the body of Christ, with inclusion and bridges between generations in the church being the rule. Youth Pastors are connectors.
3. To be translators for us, articulating the Gospel in ways the younger generation will grasp and understand. The Gospel doesn’t change but the method and ways we present it and share it changes, it has to, to make sure it is truly understood. Youth Pastors help us re-articulate and re-package the Gospel for today’s younger generation. And then they can help us see where we are using “insider” language or old language that is not understood.
4. To create an environment where youth can explore Jesus. Youth Pastor create an environment where the younger generation can safely explore Jesus and His ways. Yes, this environment needs to look very different than your Sunday morning church service! It needs to. Please note, this isn’t a contradiction to the statement above, that Youth Pastors are not to do the work for us nor are they to be a silo. It’s a both/and situation. Youth Pastors, with their team, help create an environment for youth to explore Jesus, but they also build bridges to the wider church and community and train youth and adults to do the same. Youth Pastors create environments where students can explore Jesus and His ways.
5. To engage the younger generation with their tough questions. Today’s youth are faced with (or will be faced with, in their near future) tough questions about sexuality, tragedy, the validity of faith, end-of-life issues, relationships, decisions about the future, consumerism, media, multi-faiths etc. Youth Pastors help ensure there is a group of caring adults who are not avoiding these tough questions, but entering into these questions with youth. Youth Pastors need a robust theology, to lead us into engaging youth with their tough questions. (This is also part of the reason I’m a strong advocate for Youth Pastors having seminary training. Full disclosure, I also work a percentage of my time for Acadia Divinity College.)
6. To lead the Church forward now. Youth Pastor invite youth to use their leadership skills and gifts now. We need youth to help the church move forward and flourish in being the body of Christ in our churches’ neighbourhoods. With the support of Youth Pastors and mentors youth are leading the church now, if we listen and let them. Youth Pastor develop and support young leaders.
7. To continue the work of making disciples of all nations, all ages. The job is definitely not done. There are 340,400 children between the ages of 0 and 14 in Atlantic Canada. Our job is not done. There are many youth and children out there who don’t know the real Jesus and His invitation and what it’s like to be a child in His Kingdom. Sorry churches, but a lot of what you are currently doing will never reach them. Youth Pastor can train youth to reach their peers and create an environment that’s conducive for the younger generation to explore Jesus.
8. To help us innovate as a Church. Youth Pastors often have more freedom to experiment with ministry. They can try new things with the younger generation without the same scrutiny of trying something new with the older (or all) generations. Churches can learn from the younger generation and their experiments of doing community, being the church, worship, format, using media and much more.
Pat your Youth Pastor on the back today, they have a tough job. Let them know you appreciate them. Don’t have a Youth Pastor? Pat your volunteer youth leader on the back today, they are trying to do this vital and important job in their spare time! Don’t a Youth Pastor or Volunteer Youth Leader? Let’s chat!
You know, some churches are deciding the Youth Pastor role needs to be full-time, while the Senior Pastor role is part-time. I’m just saying.
I am thankful for our professional, passionate, dedicated Youth Pastors in Atlantic Canada. We need them! Value them churches!
Share your thoughts below. -Renée @r_embree