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The rest of the story – tracking 5 youth pastors who got booted

I love Paul Harvey’s show, “The Rest of the Story” – he shares stuff that we probably didn’t know about famous events and people. Yesterday I blogged about how hard it is for youth pastors in many churches and the guy who I quoted from a conversation over a year ago wrote me back with the re…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I love Paul
Harvey’s show, “The Rest of the Story” – he shares stuff that we probably
didn’t know about famous events and people.
Yesterday I blogged about how hard it is for youth pastors in many
churches and the guy who I quoted from a conversation over a year ago wrote me
back with the rest of the story. Here it

Just read your blog entry, entitled “Youth
Pastors Face Huge Challenges and Need Help.” I think the “veteran youth pastor” you quoted was me.

The quote mentions “five former youth pastors.” Here
is a quick update on those five guys:

First, none are involved in youth ministry today. Not
one. They run the gamut as far as experience in youth ministry goes; their
resumes would list at least ten years of youth ministry leadership experience
each, and none were novices when they began their programs. The youngest just
turned 28; the oldest just turned 51.

Two are planting churches, and two are worship
leaders. The fifth isn’t involved in an organized fellowship at present. Three
had seminary training, and one of the other two has gone back to school (I’ve
done the same thing, as you know).

The churches that dismissed them are certainly not
better off for having let them go. One of the churches is actually about a
third its former size. Two others have lost significant membership and are down
at least twenty percent each. The other two seem to have reached a plateau, and
-— in part, because family ministry programs have suffered -— have
significantly fewer families and youth attending. In each case, the “veteran
youth pastor” was responsible for his church’s commitment to local outreach and
short-term mission. None of the churches have continued doing anything similar
since dismissing the youth pastors who led them. In the three cases with which
I’m most familiar, the main reason is the absence of other leaders, as folks
who shared the vision left the church in time, as well. Interestingly, though,
four of the five pastors who fired these guys still pastor their churches. The
fifth retired.

One of the most heartbreaking realities is the status
of the teens that were part of these youth groups. Without their strong
leadership and the continuity provided by the kind of men and women they
attracted -— building godly programs through years of discipleship, caring,
counsel, pray and instruction —- the kids and their families suffered too. The
incidence of problems involving troubled teens more than doubled in the absence
of exemplary and experienced leadership.

One parent still involved in one of these churches
with whom I spoke just last week, for example, doesn’t even know where his
seventeen year old daughter is. He is a deacon at his church.

When church leaders work every bit of sand out of
their clams, they get what they want -— they get churches with very little, if
any, innovative irritation. But, brother, God also blesses them with very few
pearls. When we exercise our stubborn self-centeredness and our propensity for
safety, we sometimes get exactly what we want, and it’s so rarely what God

Those five men will carry their scars for the rest of
their lives. I know, because my story is so similar. It’s a shame that there
are fewer and fewer opportunities for guys like that because they are actually
far better equipped to serve now than ever before. I pray God will honor their
level of brokenness, and additional opportunities lay ahead for them to serve.

However, it is increasingly
more and more difficult for me to imagine many open doors will come -— with any
predictable regularity —- in our infirmed, established churches where people
desperately need their gifts and leadership.


  • Seth-

    I was just having a conversation with my team over lunch about these issues. I would suggest that it goes beyond “gifts and leadership” to “creativity, innovation and passion.” We were talking about why youth leaders leave and everything from the “stepping stone to the senior pastorate” to “burnout from lack of mentoring and training” came up.
    What’s interesting is that I would venture a guess that these pastors would not agree that “innovative irritation” had nothing to do with their decision. After all, who doesn’t want a healthy, growing congregation. In your own words, it’s “risky” to allow such things and uncomfortable to those who thrive on admiration, respect and popularity to permit such creative options to be developed.
    Rarely is a senior pastor a “well-rounded” minister. I would suggest that they exist to preach. The worship pastor exists to lead music (maybe worship), the children’s pastor exists to lead children. Youth leaders are considered the “experts” and churches want results. That being said: it is the precious few that are willing to allow youth pastors the autonomy to make this a reality.
    It’s so frustrating, but so common!
    I support exposing it for what it is. Thanks for your post.


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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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