This is post #2 of the 5 Year Youth Ministry Contract. If you have not already read the introduction, you will want to go here and read it first.
In this post, we will look at the difference a five-year commitment would make for the youth minister.
The Youth Minister Difference
When I begin a youth ministry, my desire is to stay at that same ministry for years (preferably until I retire) because I know the value of long-term ministry. I also know this is not always the mentality youth minister’s carry with them into a new ministry. Some youth ministers see youth ministry as a stepping stone toward senior ministry or a chance to gain experience before taking on a different form of ministry. Without the determination to stay long-term, a youth minister will lack the desire to make it through some difficulties. The dip (to borrow a term from Seth Godin) will be too great and will cause the youth minister to quit too early.
This mentality would have to change if a youth minister committed to staying at a local congregation for at least five years. When you are committed to a five year minimum, you are challenged to work through the difficulties. You are challenged to have a vision and plan for the future. You are challenged to acknowledge the naysayers. You are challenged to resist the desire to coast through the ministry. You are challenged to rely on the leadership for support and guidance.
Most youth ministers I know have some of their greatest struggles within the first three years of their ministry. During this time, there are some major changes to the way ministry is done and who is doing it. Even without trying to make a big splash, a new youth minister cannot help but accept this aspect of ministry. Youth ministers need not try to minister the same way a previous youth minister did, because her strengths may not be your strengths. During these first few years, there will also be people in the congregation who desire to do what they can to keep the ministry from changing. For some ministers, these first few years can be too stressful and challenging – ultimately resulting in a rather quick exit from that ministry position.
When you are committed to staying for five years, you have to find a way to work through this stressful period. The youth minister must learn to make changes with the understanding that he’ll be there for five years. The changes that happen need to be made by the entire youth ministry team, not just the youth minister. And since you know you’ll be there for five years, you will make very strategic changes – moving toward a very specific end result.
Another difference would be in your interaction with students, parents and leaders. There should be an increased level of communication and intentionality in how you treat these relationships. Knowing you will see at least two classes through all four years of high school should motivate the youth minister to be more intentional about lessons, events, and overall discipleship. You are guaranteed to be there for at least a handful of difficult times and tragedies involving your students or their families. It would be beneficial for a committed youth minister to allow the parents and leaders to know your vision and plans of the ministry, listen to their input and modify the ministry as needed.
With a longevity of ministry in one location, you will gain a higher level of credibility with schools and businesses in the area. The people in the community will know you are not going to come into town and then exit within a year or so. This should afford you a higher level of credibility right from the start. You will be able to build a strong relationship with the school systems and collaborate with them.
Beyond these differences, I think the biggest difference comes before the agreement is ever made. If you are committing to staying at a local congregation for at least five years, you are going to spend a lot more time praying and thinking about the congregation before saying “yes.” You should spend time finding out more about the congregation, the area and people you will be ministering alongside. If you are to truly think about the commitment of moving your family to a new city/state, you want to know as much as you can before you move. You will research the schools more, you will ask more questions, you will dig deeper into who the congregation is. You will spend more time seeking God’s wisdom – making sure this move is the best move for you, your family, and the congregation.
Are there negatives for the youth minister?
One possible downfall of this type of agreement would come in the fifth year of ministry. If the youth minister is unsatisfied or is ready to leave, there is a possibility he will try to coast to the end. He may mentally and emotionally “check out” and become lackluster about the youth ministry, waiting until the time is up.
What other differences do you think a five year commitment would make for the youth minister?
Do you think it would benefit a youth minister to have this commitment to a local ministry?