How does a church select a great youth pastor?
1. Look for a youth pastor who knows and understands what it means to suffer. What does their own personal brokenness look like and how do they handle it and lean into it? Let’s be honest a church may not necessary want a guy/gal who has been in church their whole life and is basically a byproduct of Christian church. My point is: this person needs some “worldly” experience and wounds, but more importantly they need to be healed from their brokenness and issues. It scares me when youth pastors are youth pastors because their dad was and they feel extremely comfortable in the church bubble. This is why I always love to take a Christian bubble person in a very HIGHLY secular place and observe them as they get a preview of what the real world is like. If were you only cool in your youth group, that is a problem. : )
2. A solid theological education. I am very biased about this one because I have a MDIV. A youth pastor needs to know, understand, and know how to articulate deep and complex theological issues in a way that connects with a student. A youth pastor needs to have an ability to portray the theological landscape to their students. A theological education will (hopefully) open them up to see the complexities to theology and open them up to be open to other theological perspectives. I argue that in the 21st century youth pastors will need to be deeply thinking about theological issues.
3. A listener and a problem solver. A great youth pastor is one who can listen to many perspectives, personalities, and opinions and NOT react or be offended, and still have the ability to lead is the man/woman! Every situation has a solution, but it is up to the youth pastor to listen, assess, and implement. The great leaders are the ones who can solve problem with effective and smooth decisions.
4. A storyteller. We live in a postmodern world that heavy relies on narratives. If a youth pastor cannot convey an animated, entertaining, profound message through story, they will have a problem capturing their students. The art of storytelling is a gift and needs to be practiced.
5. A deep passion for God and students. Passion is contagious and an emotion. To be honest, finding a balanced passionate youth pastor is not an easy task. There are plenty of fundamental, cynical, jaded, and burnt out youth pastors out there, awaiting for their time to shine, only if a church would give them a chance. One can detect passion in the overall persona of the person. A simple question to ask yourself is: Would a lot of people like to be around this guy/gal? Is this passion for students an emotion that will last for a while?
6. Understands fund raising. If the YM actually has a youth ministry budget in a small church setting, than your YM is a rarity. The cash flow in small churches are limited and the youth pastor will need to be VERY creative in how to fund the ministry.
7. Is self motivated? Can he/she work alone? In a small setting, the youth pastor needs to be a self starters and know how to follow through. In small (town) youth ministry the church is lucky if it has a youth pastor, so all of the work will fall on the youth pastor.
8. Knows how to generate and close a group discussion. Small church youth groups need more of group facilitators, than preachers. Asking questions and keeping the conversation going is a task. I use the Socratic method in how I organize my group discussions.
9. A counselor. In a small setting, predominantly everyone knows everyone, which is an advantage. However the disadvantage is the gossip and drama that comes with that. Guess who gets to hear and listen to all of the drama of the students? Yup…the youth pastor.
10. The obvious. Loves Jesus, loves students, and their parents. Has great integrity and character.