Here is what I personally think.
Youth pastors make the best senior pastors. ( I know I am bias!)
As youth pastors, we spend our time doing a host of things that spam the gamut of ministry.
We are constantly meeting with students and parents, counseling, talking, listening, praying, and mentoring.
Youth pastors are about relational ministry.
We also spend time actively involved in our local communities, finding creative ways to bless our area and make a difference. From community blood drives, free car washes, serving at food pantries, or park clean ups…
youth pastors are about engaging our communities
We spend time preparing lessons, teaching bible studies, and preaching. We try very hard to make the Word of God relevant, understandable, and practical to our students. We desire not only for them to learn more (obtain more knowledge) but to live more (follow Jesus).
Youth pastors are about the proclamation of God’s word in real, relevant, experiential ways
We spend time assembling volunteer teams to help our students grow spiritually. We find people to complement us and fill the voids where we are weak. We see the value and need for shared leadership and accountability and utilizing others gifts, passion, and callings for the blessing of all.
Youth pastors are about team building and shared leadership.
We spend time trying to connect with other youth pastors, going on retreats and mission trips with other youth groups,and trying to get our students to see they are part of a much bigger family than simply our group. We (hopefully) don’t compete with other youth groups, nor try to monopolize a certain area or demographic. We partner and join together with youth groups of all denominations, seeing both strength in number and the rich value of diversity.
Youth pastors are about networking and kingdom building across denominational lines.
We spend time in God’s word and in prayer with others, because we realize we have no clue what we are doing, and realize the enormous task which we are called to. We never fully “arrive’ as youth pastors and are always looking for new ideas, casting vision, and finding creative ways to increase the effectiveness of our ministry.
Youth pastors are dependent on God’s strength for everything we do, and are not ashamed to be life-long learners.
We often get criticized and reprimanded for speaking our mind, pushing the envelope, and asking tough questions that ruffle feathers (usually of the old birds!). However, we do so because God is stirring us to think differently, think of those who do not yet know Jesus, and because we are attempting to discern where God is leading the church in the future.
Youth pastors think big picture and are not afraid to rock the boat.
As Mike Yacconeli advocated, youth pastors are not afraid to get fired for the glory of God!
But things seem to change when the title “senior” pastor gets slapped on someone.
Of course, none of us are perfect youth pastors. I continually fail and fall flat on my face in many of these areas. But as I continue to meet and dialog with youth leaders around the world, I see these things resonating and permeating our ministries.
Please, don’t let time or a change in role or title change your passions and callings.
I have seen it too many times. There should be a TV series called “Youth pastors gone bad”, documenting the unfortunate changes so often accompanied with transitions into lead pastors.
Now, for many of us, youth ministry will be our career. But for some, God may be preparing you for an eventual transition to lead pastor. But don’t be alarmed or afraid, because I do believe that youth pastors can be the best lead pastors. The emphasis of course is on the word can.
My hope and prayer is that the things we strive for now will remain consistent over the years. May the worries and stress of “big church’ and ever increasing demands of adults not squelch the fire the burns within us.
I hope that this generation of youth pastors (future “Senior” pastors) will work together to redefine those roles and break apart some, if not all of those stereotypes. For those who will eventually make this transition (and possibly the number will decrease with each new generation), make the transition with hope, courage, and faith.
And even if twenty years from now, we are wearing loafers and don’t understand the newest technologies, may we still be about the things we are about today.!