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If youth pastors make the wrong decision we have parents, senior leadership, students, and other congregational members down our throats. In the youth ministry context, what are the dimensions of decision making?

Decision Making in Youth Ministry

“Don’t fight the problem, decide it.”
–George C. Marshall

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
–Theodore Roosevelt

Making decisions is a very vital part of being a effective youth pastor.  I think the biggest thing that hinders people from making decisions is fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of rejection.

If youth pastors make the wrong decision we have parents, senior leadership, students, and other congregational members down our throats.  In the youth ministry context, what are the dimensions of decision making?

Every day, week, month, quarter, and year youth pastors are having to make many-many mini and big decisions.

I argue there are two levels–spiritual and practical, that help guide youth pastors to make the best  decision possible.


Obviously youth pastors are in the spiritual/church business, so we need to consult God about our current decision.

In decision making, youth pastors can seek God by:

– Praying asking for God’s will and to remove our agenda and intentions.

– Read, mediate, study and pray through Scripture.  Look for characters in the Bible who are going through the same problems you are going through.

–  Seek wise counsel and senior leadership that you trust and respect.  More importantly they should have a strong tract record in dealing with making difficult decisions.

– Enter solitude.  Get away from the busyness.  Leave the church office, turn off the cell phone, disable email, and shut down your social media sites and just listen…..

Employing and discerning the spiritual side of decision making acts as the behind the scenes portion of “deciding”.  Inviting God into your decision is huge because He can do anything and everything, it is just a question of when.


After  inviting God into your decision mess, action needs to happen.

6 steps in decision making in the youth ministry context

1.   Seek God – Repeat this step as many times as necessary. (For more info see above)

2. Define problem – It is imperative you know what you are trying to solve or figure out.  Clearly defining the problem will give you a clear target. 

3.  Know what you want and your outcome – Clarify what you want and need and keep fixated on your target.  Then, try to predict how your decision will play out.  Worst case scenario, you make another parent mad at you.

4.  Just do it – just make a decision and move on.  Don’t get stuck in the past.  I call this paralysis by analysis.  There is NEVER a perfect decision.  If God hasn’t spoken to you, go with your gut.  Researchers have concluded that your instinct is your best decision compass.

5.  If what you are deciding is not working, change your approach – check your pride/ego and try another strategy that might work better.  The best outcomes come from multiple failures.  There is nothing more painful to watch than a ministry leader who keeps making the same mistake over and over again because it was “great” idea on paper.  The only great ideas in youth ministry are ideas that work.

6.  Follow through – Finishing the decision to the end is key.  Finish well.  Often, we don’t follow through because we don’t know what we want, and when we do know, we’re afraid to take action.

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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  1. I feel like the term “seek God” or others like it are over-used and under-explained.

    What does it mean to “seek God”? What does that look like?

    How did God get lost?

    I think questions like that fall into the category of things-everybody-wonders-but-nobody-asks-cause-they-don’t-wanna-sound-dumb.

    We have to answer those questions anyway… even if nobody is asking them.

    • @Ray- you raise a pretty good point of “we must question everything (1 Thess 5.21)”. Although this point of “seek God” simply may be semantics problem. When I use the statement of Seek God, my assumption is that everyone has a working knowledge of what that means. I think (like you suggested) it is very healthy to question one’s assumptions and assertions. It is important that our questions lead us to a great place and not simply deconstruct everything. Let’s be honest, deconstructing is very easy to do, look at Nietzsche– he deconstructed all modern paradigms and God. He basically blow up everything and didn’t clean up the mess.

      To seek God has both a theological and practical understanding. Unfortunately, Satan is lord of the land here on earth (Luke 4). We are subject under his rule, principalities, and dominion (Ephesians 6). So as Jesus following people we have to work extra hard to to be strong in the Lord and also have a strong pursuit for God. God never got lost, his creatures just need to be really intentional in going after Him. Having a relationship with God is not natural for humans. NIV Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

      Now for the practical side. As youth workers we really really have to work hard to be with Jesus. I would consider this “seeking or desiring”. Seeking includes practicing the spiritual disciplines. At some level, we have to desire God. Basically we need to love hanging out with Him. Thankfully he gave all of us an option so our our affection for God would be real. Following Jesus is difficult. We get lost a lot and it requires a lot of work on our part to re-orientate ourselves back to the cross.

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