Youth ministry transitions are inevitable. It surprises me that not too many student pastors actually talk about their transitional stages in youth ministry. We assume if a youth pastor left their church, they were upset and poorly mistreated.
Why isn’t there any youth pastor training or resources on how to transition well from one church to the next? It seems that transitions in youth ministry are frowned upon and something must be wrong if you want to leave. In contrast, the corporate world really embraces and encourages transitions. So why is transitioning out of and in a student ministry so awkward? The ministry life of Jesus, His Disciples, and Paul are full of transitions and disruptions. Paul and Barnabass have some what of a falling out and Barnabass leaves on great terms.
We rarely hear about how Paul’s or the disciples church staff and “sheep” were upset, crying, and mad for them wanting to leave. I am not saying that youth pastors should consider to transition if they are frustrated with their boss or church life. It is all about God’s timing, which may mean a fast-sudden or a slow-patient transition. I am saying two things:
1) Other Christian leaders (who have been through a few transitions) need to help youth pastors who are “in transition”.
2) Transitions are simply a way and part of life.
The statistics support that the student pastor position is one of the most transitional roles in the church. So why are youth pastors left to develop their own transitional model? I wonder if youth pastors transitioned better, they would stay longer.
I am arguing that transitions in youth ministry are great growth opportunities and no youth pastor should feel ashamed that they are leaving their church. Transitions are critical times when your actions can determine the success of your next youth ministry season.
So now it is time for you to shine in your new youth ministry role. I want to demonstrate how a youth pastor can transition in a church youth ministry position that will accelerate and foster personal and organizational growth.
1. Be Self Aware— Know who you are so you are able to better apply your gift set in your new church youth ministry setting. Also know how your issues, church wounds, and weakness will rub people the wrong way in your new organizational setting. Try to function like you are now a new creation in this new church setting starting fresh. The more self aware you are, the more aware you are to self correct your performance, fears, and failures.
2. Be A Learner — It is critical you observe and take many notes as the newbie. You should be a sponge, which means you shut your mouth and be a servant and listen. Learn about the other staff members, adult volunteers, church culture and history, and key families involved in your youth ministry.
3. Be Present – What can hinder growth opportunities is still functioning and thinking as though you are still in your last youth ministry position. It is clear that you probably transitioned into another youth ministry role because of one of the many reasons I listed here. When you transition leave everything at your old church. Emotionally and mentally be present in your current and exciting new context. Don’t project your old issues into your new context.
5. Be A Cheerleader- Define what little victories you can easily do in order to win early. Make sure to stop and celebrate the little victories. Set small and realistic goals as you move into your new position. Praise other staff members as you observe what they do well.
6. Befriend the senior pastor, administration staff, children’s pastor, worship pastor, and janitor– You need to play well and get along with especially the senior pastor, family pastor, and children’s pastor and more importantly the janitor. Intentionally seek these relationship out because you need them and they need you. The goal is to position your youth ministry in alignment with every ministry in the church. Reggie Joiner in The Orange Leader Handbook, states: staff members drift toward silo thinking. To integrate strategy all ministry leaders need to synchronize in order to achieve the same goal in mind. When ministries join forces their is a strong influence. In order to synchronize you need to meet and hang out and talk about life and ministry philosophy with the other church ministry leaders. I don’t care if they annoying, different, and smell. Jesus hung out with 12 different dudes who didn’t look, think, behave, and dress like Him.
7. Be A Hard Worker– Don’t be a lazy. I heard this quote multiple times in the past few days: If you want to be lazy go into ministry. Don’t be that entitled-lazy youth pastor who thinks eating pizza, playing XBOX 360, and going shopping is for “ministry purposes”. Establish a great work ethic. Establish clear expectations with your boss and meet and go way beyond your bosses expectations. Be productive. The key ingredient to success is hard work.
Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal. – Vince Lombardi
God ordained youth ministry transitions are amazing, normal, healthy, perfect, and great opportunities. If you are “in transition”embrace the complexity, be excited and smile about your new youth ministry opportunity, stiff arm your critics, and keep giving thanks and praying to God.
How many transitions have you had in youth ministry?
Did you transition well? Why or why not?
Did you flourish in your new youth ministry position? Why or why not?