Recently, I got to thinking about youth ministry and the amount of time youth ministers stay at one local congregation. I have a friend who was at a church for only a few days and I know a few ministers who have been at their current congregation for a few decades. Most other youth ministers fall somewhere between these two extremes. Every minister has a different story to tell about why they left a ministry, but ultimately it comes down to two things: you quit or you were asked to leave. Yet, as I ponder this ministry commonality, I am left wondering if there is another way.
And my thinking led to this – How would ministry be different if the youth minister was committed to staying at least five years?
You can apply this same question to the senior minister, worship minister, children’s minister, or any other minister a church happens to have. But for the sake of this blog, I will focus solely on the difference it would make if the youth minister made this commitment. There are four specific areas of ministry that will be affected which I want to focus on: the youth minister, the church leadership, the members and the students. Before we get into those areas, we need to look a little deeper at what would need to happen in order for this five-year minimum agreement to become a reality.
At this point in the discussion, allow me to make this disclaimer: I know we do not know the future and we need to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying this has to be a commitment with no way out. There may be a family emergency that needs your time (and may cause you to move back home) or some unforeseen situation. But if we allow these “what ifs” to keep us from making a commitment, then we could really not commit to anything, could we? You would not be able to sign your kids up for soccer because you do not know what your life will be like over those few weeks. You see, in reality, we make commitments all the time with the understanding there are no guarantees about the future.
A five-year minimum commitment would need both parties to commit. The youth minister would be committed to serving as youth minister for at least five years. There would be no looking for a new ministry during this time – you are agreeing to work through any struggle. At the same time, the church would commit to supporting you (as the youth minister) during the next five years. Even if there are struggles, the solution could not be getting rid of you. (Cases of moral failure, for example, would be a different issue).
I do not think this is an impossible scenario, but it would take some adjustments in the mindset many people have about youth ministry tenure. I strongly believe the benefits of this type of ministry commitment would far outweigh the negatives or needed adjustments.
Before we get into the four areas of difference, I want to ask you what you think. Do you think this type of ministry agreement/commitment is possible? Who would have a harder time making this commitment: the congregation or the youth minister?