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Top 9 Mistakes Made By Youth Pastors

Youth pastors are notorious for sticking their foot in their mouth.  Youth pastors blow it a lot.

Here are the 9 most common mistakes made by both veteran and rookie youth pastors.

09. Mis-budgets youth ministry events

It seems like youth pastors are not very great with money, so we can never make a dime when putting on an event.  Some how if a youth pastor is planning an activity, they will lose money.  If you are youth pastor great at accounting, please contact me.

08.  Don’t take their critics seriously

9 out of 10 times if someone does not like us or our youth ministry strategy, we write them off.  We get very angry at them and say a lot of unChristian stuff about their lazy student and their bad parenting.  You can still say that stuff, but do it in a safe place and give them a call asking them why they don’t like you.  At times this can be really unproductive and regardless what you say/do they will still not like you.    Getting mad is fine, just don’t sin. 

07.  Love students, don’t love God

Students don’t need anymore “friends”.  They actually really don’t want your friendship.  They need more adults passionately following Jesus.  Some times youth pastors reverse the greatest commandment:  Love People, Love God. 

06.  Adores their youth ministry mission and vision statement

Youth pastors love showing off their youth ministry value statement.  Students don’t really care about your fancy-pithy vision statement.   

05.  Neglects the value of church

Many youth pastors alienates their youth ministry from church.  It is really hard working the bigger church.  It is soo much easier doing things by ourselves.  Things get done quicker and more efficient.  However Scriptures clearly commands the youth ministry department to get along with big church.

04.  Underestimates adult leader recruitment

Again, youth pastors like to fly solo.  Why waste so much energy developing leaders? It is difficult hearing NO from someone we know will be a great youth leader.  It seems like the people who want to really help, are only wanting to help for selfish reasons.  My advice:  keep asking and praying God bring you more leaders.  

03.  Doesn’t pursue and cultivate a relationship with senior pastor/senior leadership

Our assumption:  Senior pastors do not have time for youth pastors, so why should youth pastors pursue a relationship?  We are the children, so why should we seek a relationship with our parents?  Well…. because it will drastically help at a personal connection  level with your boss and establish a synergy within the staff.

02.Does not serve the good of the community and school

Youth ministries enjoy staying inhouse.  A youth ministry can become a lot more complacent within it is inward focused.  Give a call up to your local school and ask them what their needs are.  Your students spend more time on the school campus then they do on your church campus.  If your students are spending more time on your church campus, you have bigger problems to worry about.

01. A constant refining of character

Not enough youth pastors take a long and deep look inside their soul.  Many are not feeding their soul.  Some youth pastors jump from job to job wondering why they have the same problems with church?  Honestly youth pastors typically come with  a lot of personal baggage.  Constantly refining and developing your character is the best investment as a youth pastor.  Always ask the question of:  How am I changing–in my theology?  as a husband?  as a church leader? as an individual? Character is everything. As youth pastors we need to take seriously our sanctification process.  Read a lot and take personal retreats…. heck even get a Christian psychologist.  Youth ministry is too damaging for one’s soul, so we need to enroll others to help us navigate the youth ministry trenches and our own issues.  Far too many times, we let our personal issues get in the way of how we do youth ministry and how we do life.  If we don’t value our own sanctification process, youth pastors tend to get more angry, cynical, and bitter at church.  Youth pastors blame their church, when they should be blaming themselves.

About Jeremy Zach

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

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  1. Great list brother. I would add to it…

    Tempted to short change the more important ministry they have to their own family.

  2. I am terrible terrible terrible with numbers and could not create a good budget for an event if you threatened to stick bamboo shoots up my fingernails. HOWEVER, I am very good at sitting down with our business guy and walking him through the event and expenses and having him help me figure out what to spend and what to ask the students to pay. He has saved my budget a thousand times.

    Numbers 2 and 6 can be particularly difficult, but particularly helpful to the long-term success of a group and well-being of the students. I struggle with making time for things like that… they require more thought and effort than more inwardly focused and ‘important’ youth group business. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. I agree with Chad on a possible number 10. I see it all the time and I have experienced the tension many times. It’s hard, but ultimately, if we choose to have a family, they come first. I have seen too many youth ministers (and ministers) turn their job into their family while their real family loses.

    I also love #6 – I don’t think I have ever heard 1 student in my 12 years of ministry ask me what our vision statement was/is.

    Very good points Jeremy – thanks!

  4. Love the post and insights
    I have made all of these mistakes and more (and still make a few as a go, but have learned a great deal along the way)
    I agree 100% with each one
    let me add 2 (one may seem to contradict one of yours but in truth it does not)
    1) takes critics too seriously. We can never let negative people move us away from our passions and what we believe God asking us to do or us. We will always have upset parents and elders (and should take them seriously) but cannot let them dictate our leadership or mold our program to cater to them

    2) we seldom find a healthy balance between personal and professional. We need friends who are not part of our church and need to focus on our families and our personal health more than our students….otherwise we will not be around for our students for too long

    • @Dan
      You are right. Your first point balances out my point. The key is discernment. I always find it fun touching base with the unhappy parent explaining to them why I said NO to their request. I probably cater to them to much.

  5. I try to use the church administrator more and more and spend an extra hour or 2 on money matters becouse I know Im rubbish at it! However, Im trying to get out of my office more and do face to face community stuff, spend more time at the local school etc (as Jesus didnt do much admin).

    • I have got to figure out a way to use “rubbish” in my vocabulary. Is there any straight up “american” terms we use that sound as awesome as that word does to me? Just curious Tilley.

  6. Great pic to go with the mistakes page. Misspelling oops…awesome. Did you make that with photoshop?

    Serious about the photoshop thing…i find myself spending too much time generating photos for my upcoming blogs…

    much love.

  7. Being relevant is key to youth work. I’m on Team BuzzPlant and they are asking us to make sure youth leaders know about this new book coming out called “The Day Metallica Came to Church”… pretty interesting stuff about how things that seem ‘worldly’ can also be very spirital in nature! Check our their FB via the link I posted! Thanks, and Godbless!

  8. I think #6 is too simplistic of an answer. I remember being a high schooler and enjoying the mission statement of my student ministry because it gave me direction on how I could grow spiritually.

    Now that I’m in the driver’s seat, so to speak, of a student ministry, I figure I need to have an idea of where to drive this thing. Sure, a lot of that needs to start with a love affair with JESUS and not some vision statement, but simplifying the vision for your volunteers and leaders is important, imo.

  9. #8 and #5 are huge, and avoiding those mistakes require a lot of spiritual maturity. I’ve been guilty of both.

  10. Number 10… The overuse of the word “relevant”.

    I’m guilty of this one too. :)

  11. Beyond this, I think the biggest mistake a youth pastor makes is seeing themselves as something other than a pastor.

    Lots of guys see themselves as some kind of “youth-savvy guru” rather than a guy that isn’t just called to love on kids, but to teach them the word, preach the Gospel, and lead by example. They think tricks, hip video preaching, and over-the-top moments are what are going to draw students to Jesus. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve met some youth pastors who have big ministries, or are really good at social media, but couldn’t teach if I gave them a “preach by numbers” book. And these guys are leading seminars at ministry conferences!

    Students will follow someone they believe cares about them and that they believe is genuine. That’s it. I’ve tried having a hip, experiential, relevant youth ministry and it just doesn’t work for us. But, when I let our students have a genuine place they feel comfortable, and have teaching that challenges them and doesn’t belittle their ability to comprehend, they get engaged. We gotta stop exchanging the excitement of cultural relevance for the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. Stop talking about “twerking” and start talking about Jesus. It’s not our job to be SNL, or Late Night for teens; it’s our job to be salt and light and represent the Kingdom.

    And to tell fart jokes.

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