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The Replacement Theory: Convincing Youth Workers To Make 1 Critical Change

I have transitioned out of 2 church youth ministry positions.  Exiting and transitioning out of a youth ministry that you poured your life and soul into is not easy nor exciting.  And what may cause some more anxiety (or maybe anger) is thinking about what your replacement will change right when he/she arrives.  What exactly will the new replacement deconstruct right when he/she gets there?  What things will parents and students request the new person do that you the old guy didn’t do?

When I transitioned out of my previous youth ministry position, the youth committee who was tasked to find my replacement asked me a series of questions about the current state and health of the youth ministry.  One of the questions was: “What do you think the youth ministry needs next?”

I remember talking about how I  worked so hard to build a foundation but neglected to have some serious fun with the students.  I suggested that my replacement will need to bring a lot of high energy and fun to the programmatic structure.  In fact I was right.  My replacement (who in my mind is probably one of the best up and coming youth pastors in the country) doubled the middle school ministry attendance because he knew how to do throw engaging events that got a lot of students to come and stay.  Him and I still keep in touch and he keeps me up to date with how things are going in the youth ministry.  I couldn’t be more happy and proud of “my replacement”.

My only aim of this post is to get youth pastors to make (or to think about) that 1 change they know they need to make.  The replacement theory forces youth pastors to operate under an assumption that IF they were to transition out or be fired from their youth ministry position– what 1 thing would the new guy/gal change immediately?

To think about the changes “the replacement” would make– encourages youth pastors to take a honest and humble look at what may be overlooked in their youth ministry department.

The best way to figure out what is being overlooked is getting a fresh pair eyes (who knows youth ministry culture and that you trust and respect) to take a hard, objective and critical look into your youth ministry department.  The beauty is that fresh eyes not only bring new ideas, creativity, direction and momentum but asks the hard questions in order to spot the white elephant.

So now it is your turn to answer the question:  What is the 1 thing your replacement would change about your current youth ministry?  

Here are some possible changes:

–  prioritze parent engagement

–  rethink programmtic structure

–  tweeks in student environments

–  identify and clarify how students serve

–  restructure and re-assign volunteer tasks

–  foster better relationships amongst students, parents, church staff and volunteers

***  This post was inspired by Carey Nieuwhof‘s new book:  Leading Change Without Losing it.  Carey challenged me why change is so critical for every leader and why it is never to late to lead change.  



About Jeremy Zach

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

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  1. What a cool opportunity to assess the needs of your group and help name them even as you were leaving. Thinking about that experience in terms of youth pastors that aren’t leaving is a really interesting way to self evaluate. Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. This was the same question I’d use with our leadership team to push us forward. “What is the one thing that the new guy would change when he starts?. Why don’t we just go ahead at do it right now and save him the trouble?”

  3. Such a great question. We just did this with announcements. We noticed that no one pays attention for announcements. So we cut them completely in our weekend services. It makes the service run smoother and we have been using our other sources for announcements (Facebook, texts, etc) and it’s still effective. No change in attendance in events. Great post.

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