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How did you get to be successful in youth ministry?

I am going to college to get an M. Div in Pastoral Studies and I plan to be a youth minister. How do I make sure I can be successful in this? #leadership #youth #ministry #youth-ministry #youth-leadership #christian #ordained-ministry #youth-advocacy


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Marc’s Answer

I second Shelly's response above. I was a youth minister for 25 years in United Methodist Churches and camps. At my last church, I was on staff with youth for 17 years. I also worked as a youth ministry consultant through Ministry Architects for several years as a side gig.

The work of the youth minister is really about empowerment; empowering youth to develop a faith of their own, empowering families (in whatever formation) to allow their kids to grow, flourish, fail, learn (all of it), and empowering volunteers to have ownership in the program you oversee.

Youth ministry programs and the leaders that manage them are NOT sustainable if everything revolves around the person in charge. Youth ministers are not superheroes. It doesn't matter if you have one volunteer or 40, empower them (as well as the youth) to run the show with your support.

Planning at least a year in advance makes the work so much easier. Keep records on how everything gets done - for example, if you have a fall retreat, keep your records and create a "how-to" notebook that you could hand to someone else and it could serve as a starting place for planning next year's retreat. Do this for all events and regular programming.

Finally, it really is about the students. My experience is that building meaningful relationships with students yields far more fruit than messy games or flashy events. Not that those things don't have a place, but IMHO they should not be the center of the church's youth programming.

I was in charge of a large program and there was no way I could build meaningful relationships with all youth - that's okay! That's why it is important to empower adults & volunteers to build relationships. In many ways, my volunteers were my youth group and they, in turn, focused on the youth.

I loved working with students and in the church. I did decide in my mid-40s that I needed to move on (I just wasn't as creative as I used to be). I changed careers but will always be thankful for the students, families, and volunteers I served with along the way.

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Shelly M.’s Answer

Prior to becoming a family therapist, I was a youth director in a large church for several years. It was hugely successful in terms of numbers, reports from adults in congregation, and after training my successor, it is still going strong 8 years later, exactly how I developed it. My suggestion would be to make sure you have a long-term (5-10+ year) plan, so regardless how long you're there, they will continue strong. Keep the focus that you're teaching youth, so they can become adult members of the church. Many youth ministers make the mistake of putting themselves as the center of the ministry, when it should never be about you. Your job is to connect the youth to one another, to adult mentors and volunteers, and to God. That's how they get involved and stay in the church long-term. If they only show up for flashy lights, cool events, or to see you, once that's gone, their faith may be gone too. Build as many adult volunteers into the program as possible, so the kids have plenty of mentors and points of view to learn from, plus it means less day-to-day work for you. Burnout is extremely high, so be sure to take care of yourself in healthy and meaningful ways. This is what I learned in my experience, and I hope it is helpful for you.


I love that this is your path. many blessings to you! To add onto the first response, I was talking to my 16 year old about this on our way home from mid-week last night. At our church (CC Eastside), high school-age youth does not have a separate Sunday service; they sit in the main sanctuary with us. She asked her youth pastor why and his statement was quite simple... the best way to build a strong foundation is to engage with adults. easiest way to do that is to attend the same service they do. yes, there are your-centric activities and mid-week is youth only. but that bond with adults is really crucial to their spiritual growth. Aracely Cuadra

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Vineeth’s Answer

Handling youth especially in ministry is always a challenge. You need to be one among them and you need to talk for them. These days youth goes through multitudes of issues. Try to address those. solve it for them. Get the trust and be trustworthy. Then you will have better handle of youth. Which can really break the ice and slowly start your ministry.

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