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how do I become a youth pastor?

How To Become A Youth Pastor

I get this question a lot:  Jeremy how do I become a youth pastor?  Obviously becoming a youth pastor is an unique calling that entails a difficult and different process on how to land a youth pastor job.  In this post, I assume that one’s contemplation in becoming a youth pastor is constantly bathed in prayer.

1.  Start serving in your local youth ministry.

If you have an itch to enter the youth ministry field start volunteering your time and services in a local youth ministry.  Volunteer to clean the bathrooms after youth group, set up before  youth group, and do the odd jobs no one wants to do.  It is essential you serve behind the scenes before you get the microphone.  Make sure to pay close attention to the youth pastor.  Watch his/her every move and ask a lot of questions as you are scrubbing the toilet.

2.  Enter into a small leadership role.

After you have served in the youth ministry for a bit, start leading a small group.  It is imperative you begin to hone your leadership skills and abilities.  Identify what you are good at and what you suck at.  Meet regularly with the current youth pastor.  Be his/her wing man, trying to glean from his/her expertise and method.

3.  Go to a secular public university.

I highly suggest the youth pastor candidate receive their degree from a public university.  It drives me nuts when I run into youth pastors who were home schooled and went to a private Christian college to major in Bible and Youth Ministry.  I strongly argue that youth pastors will need to be well versed in the world’s culture to lead the next generation of teenagers.  It is not helpful if the youth pastor has spent all his/her time in a safe and comfortable Christian bubble attending “Christian Only Colleges”.  The biggest assets to becoming a great youth pastor is getting diverse youth ministry experience in different geographical locations and having a strong ability ministering to kids you are not comfortable ministering to.  Another disadvantage about attending a Christian college and majoring in Christian ministries will have no relevance outside of the church/Christian organizations.  There is a great value in hearing lectures from hard core atheist who hate the Bible.  In the public university, there is a social-psychology that future youth pastors need to be exposed to.  It is one thing to be cool at a Christian college, but it is another thing to be cool in a public university.  I have seen countless times a Christian ministries major get burned by the Church and they are stuff with a Bible degree in the real secular world.  I encourage a lot of my students to attend a public university and major in that can be easily used in the real world, namely Business, psychology, biology, engineering, journalism, and philosophy.  Maybe one day the youth pastor might not be paid by the church and may need a tent making skill.

4.  Intern

Find an internship preferably in a geographic location you are unfamiliar with.  Being a youth intern will give you the exposure and experience in order to land your first youth pastor job.  Remember experience is everything.  Do everything, even if you suck at it.  In your internship face your fears.  Make sure to leave a lot of room to contemplate, reflect, and to pray about your internship experience.  Ask these questions:

*  What type of church do I want to youth pastor?  Consider denomination, size, personality, theology, values.

*  What is the hardest thing for me to do in youth ministry?

*  What type of students do I attract?

*  What theological questions do I still have about being a follower of Christ?

*  Do Church politics bug me?  Do I tend to get heavily involved in them?  Or do I hate them?

*  Am I administratively strong?

*  Do I feel comfortable preparing a youth talk?

5.  Study, Read, Learn, and Retreat

Before entering your first youth ministry job, it would be wise to start constructing your theological values.  Where do you land theologically?  What camps do you find yourself resonating with more?  It may be helpful to start looking at seminaries and attending part time.  Simply get a great theological foundation under you before you fully enter the youth ministry trenches.  Remember our theology always shapes our methodology.

6.  Get Amped and Apply!

Interested in looking for youth ministry jobs click here.  Make sure to write a great resume and cover letter.  Also, ask 2 or 3 people to write you a great recommendation.  Start gathering past youth talks, youth studies you developed, and write your youth ministry philosophy.  Trust me looking for a youth ministry or youth pastor job takes a long time.   Be patient and make sure to utilize your friends and networks.  It is not what you know, but who you know!

If you are wanting to take the next step, please consider going through my youth pastor candidate application process.  I love connecting churches with youth pastor candidates and connecting youth pastor candidates with churches.  Click here to find out more about how to become a youth pastor at a church.

Last, I would love to keep connected with you as you continue to investigate your call to youth ministry. So if you want to get fresh weekly updates from REyouthpastor.com please subscribe below:

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About Jeremy Zach

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


  1. Interesting post. I find #3 quite interesting also. Would you reccomend going to secular university if one plans to be just an “adult” pastor? Also, what are your thoughts on seminary?

    • Lucas-
      It really depends on the context you wish to minister in. The only reason why I suggest youth pastors to attend secular university is due to the post-Christian context our teens currently live in. Immersing oneself into a public university the individual has to wrestle with and stumble into different world-views and other philosophies that are not rooted in a Christian worldview.

      Hmm… my thoughts on seminary… that is a great question. I only went to seminary because I didn’t grow up in church and was a little behind in my Bible knowledge. If your church pays for it, go for it.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the choice of “secular” (vs. Christian or “Bible College”) as the place for my son to attend to get a real-world experience for his undergraduate degree. I’ve tried to encourage him to attend one of our excellent state-supported universities here in Ohio (and to live in a dorm), but he instead insists that he wants to attend the local (poorly accredited) Bible College so that he can receive a degree to become a Youth Pastor. I’ve told him over and over again that I want him to wait to earn his Master’s in Divinity (preferably at Louisville or Princeton Seminary) after he receives his undergraduate degree in a major such as Speech/Communications or Creative Writing (which he excells in), but now he is taking a “gap-year” and is spinning his wheels instead of being in school with his peers. As a parent, I want my somewhat “sheltered” (but not home-schooled) son to see how the “other half lives” in a secular university, but presently he will not have anything to do with it. If you e-mail me, I can give you more details (we’re Presbyterian-USA, but now my son seems more influenced by non-affiliated Church of Christ leaders). Thanks!

  3. Your views on Homeschooling and Public/Private universities, in my opinion, are off. First of all if homeschooling is accomplished properly teens aren’t sheltered at all. Secondly,Christian universities are just as worldly/secular as many public universities these days. Some christian universities are branching out (good for them) and are involving students in secular internships to get the “nonsheltered” experience. I like the idea of a secular degree and a christian degree but the angle you have taken on this issue I don’t fully agree with you about. btw your articles are helpful and i agree most of the time with you on things, just not this one.

    • Brian-
      I appreciate your frankness and it is completely okay to disagree. In my experience I have found that the more social, intellectual and different world-views a teen can experience the better.

      • Jeffrey
        If I have a calling for youth ministry, is it possible to continue my major in BSN Nursing??? Or do I switch…

  4. I literally stumbled upon this by googling “how to become a youth pastor” after seeking some reason why I keep getting this strong pull from God. I am 28, and have lived a very secular life, and have found myself longing to know more but not quite even knowing how to do that. I grew up with a somewhat regularly attending church family, but was lead astray in my teens and early twenties, and here I sit feeling like this is absolutely the only thing in the world I could see myself devoting my life to besides my children and my family. At least this points me in a direction, all be it I’m getting a later start. After working as lower paid “aide” in an at risk high school program in the public high school setting, I’ve realized that I finally know where He wants me to be. Thank you for such a clearly honest description of your journey.

  5. thank for a website where a christian can get a deep breath
    I’m a combat veteren who’s had god and the holy spirit in his
    life…..know its my turn to give back to the little people… I
    was blessed by two people that adopted me very young and raised me southern baptist
    ..may the holy spirit be amoung us all
    best regards
    Travis Hitt

  6. I really love this article, for many reasons. I could go on and on about my story and how I feel called to youth ministry. I’m just going to say that I am entering college at Michigan State University this fall, and I was a little uneasy about how my education there could be good for my youth ministry/music/public speaking career. You have really made me realize that there is a reason why God put me here! Thanks a ton, great points in this article. God bless

  7. Jeremy,

    Thanks for the article…I had some things that I don’t exactly agree with…but I won’t go into it. Thanks for the info. May the Lord bless you and your ministry.

  8. i want to be a youth pastor, what do you think of Liberty University? i want to major in youth ministry and minor in biblical studies.

  9. Rev Drew Donovan

    BAFFLED BY NUMBER THREE: I am a career youth pastor now for over 20 years, and have pastored in three countries in various cultures with positive results and I went to a Christian University. Because of that training I know how to correctly handle the Word of God and to teach the word which is profoundly more important than being “culturally relevant” to my teens.

    I really feel I have to strongly disagree with your suggestion that a youth worker go to a secular university. I do get why you are saying it but I honestly think it’s way way off base. The main reason I think it’s off base is your premise that a youth pastor needs to be immersed in secular culture. It sounds good and seems to make sense, but it’s simply not true. We need youth pastors saturated in the word, not the world. And I don’t write that to be cute. Students don’t need another hip buddy they need a leader who can guide them into an understanding of the Word of God and teach them to make good decisions in life based on that word. I’m not talking about foolishly ignorant to the world and out of touch with reality, but you will be more useful to God with a deep understanding of His word than a deep understanding of humanistic culture.

    Second of all you seem to forget that most secular universities are a veritable cesspool of sin and throwing an 18 year old student out there and saying “go learn about the world” and you’ll come back prepared to do ministry is profoundly ridiculous to me. I would go as far as to say that once a person has gained a degree from a “reputable and grounded” bible college or bible university that some secular education might be valuable but only once a person has reached a level of maturity to handle it. Most high school grads shouldn’t be encouraged to go live in co-ed dorms with little to no supervision and expect good things to come out if it. That’s not wise and I am surprised you would suggest it.

    Your comments about being cool at a Christian university verses a secular one show me that you think coolness is a factor… that’s just strange to me. You don’t have to be “cool” to be a youth pastor. You do have to be interesting, creative, a good speaker, confident, etc… but cool is not a requirement.

    One thing I will say, don’t suggest they go to the bible schools that you seem to be meeting the graduates from, but don’t knock all of them because you have met a few that don’t cut it.

    I would ask, did you go to a bible school… my thought is that you didn’t. Because they aren’t safe “Christian Bubbles”. I don’t say this sarcastically or with any attitude, but maybe you should visit some more and see what they are all about before you distrust them so much.

    I don’t disagree in a angry or hateful way but I hope you will reconsider how dangerous advice of this nature can be. Although your point should be considered, the dogmatic way in which you write it implies it’s the only way and that’s simply not true. I would strongly suggest you stop bashing Christian universities that God uses every day to train students up to do the work of Christ in the local church.

  10. I am 17 and want to go into ministry. I plan on becoming a Youth Pastor. But I dont know if that is what God has called me to be. What do you think?

    • Clayton Ladell Mosley

      That is a good question Hannah, I asked myself the same thing not to long ago. God’s word teaches against woman holding the office of Pastor or leading men in church. This is not because men or better or anything, its just what God’s word says and the way He created it to be. However most churches have a Youth/Girl Associate position whose main responsibility is to minister to the girls. Whether or not that is something God is calling you to do? Only you or a spiritual leader over you can determine that through prayer.
      Good Luck and God bless!

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