A few days ago, I met with a group of youth pastors to discuss what is the state of youth ministry in our denomination.  Our discussion evolved into where the profession of youth ministry may be heading towards.  For some of us, we think of youth pastors as the primary spiritual influencers in the lives of youth.  Some people think of youth pastors as glorified babysitters a church pays to “keep their kids good” until they graduate from high school (unfortunately, some youth pastors embody this and perpetuate this misconception).  As I stand back, it seems that youth ministry as a profession is evolving possibly into 1 of 2 directions (though there could be other tangents):

YOUTH PASTOR AS CEO

As I look at some youth pastor job descriptions (particularly in churches with membership over 200), while the title says youth pastor, really it looks like they’re looking for a youth director i.e. someone to manage “the machine” of youth, volunteers and parents all reporting to a board.  Their primary responsibility isn’t to be the spiritual caregivers to those youth or necessarily even to have significant connections with students.  Really, it’s managing all the volunteers, ensuring they are cared for, that the youth ministry is following the directives of the church.

YOUTH PASTOR AS SPECIALIST

The other tangent I’m speculating on is whether youth pastors will actually remain focused in their engagements just with this specific age demographic.  Will the days in which a youth pastor just cares for those ages 12-25 exist later on?  As there is talk of family ministries, integrated ministry, intergenerational ministries, I wonder if what we know as “the youth pastor” will stay that way.  I know some churches as the question, “If a volunteer is willing to pour into the lives of youth, then why should we pay a person to do it?”  So what becomes the reason for “paying someone to do youth ministry”?  I wonder if the youth pastor will become more of a “specialist” (almost like a consultant) who is an expert about that demographic, but then works alongside all the different working groups (e.g. parents, church boards, etc.) to know how to best integrate youth in all aspects of the church, and works with pastoral staff to carry out the mandate of that local church.

By no means are these thoughts thoroughly developed.  Rather, it’s part of the discussion on where professional youth ministry may go in 10 years, and how do we prepare people who are called by God to that.  It asks how should be training people heading into this field, whether through conferences, undergraduate or seminary studies, or even in our own churches.

May we be humble enough to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as He continues his ministry.

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