Follow Us

Youth pastors face huge challenges and need help

The average youth worker got into the field because he or she wanted to disciple young people. But something happened along the way. The youth pastor embraced a flawed model of discipleship, and so, charted a course to ineffectual ministry and ultimate burnout. That doesn’t mea…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

The average youth worker got into the field because he or
she wanted to disciple young people. But
something happened along the way. The
youth pastor embraced a flawed model of discipleship, and so, charted a course
to ineffectual ministry and ultimate burnout.

That doesn’t mean that many youth pastors aren’t successful;
it’s just that the most prevalent model of youth ministry sets youth pastors up
for failure. They are trapped by
expectations, calendars, and a risk-averse evangelical culture which embraces a
theologically sanitized, politically correct version of Jesus. A Jesus who would never take on religious
authorities, much less try to cast out a demon or raise somebody from the dead.

It’s time for youth pastors like Pete Keady to stand up and
post their own 95 theses on their church’s Wittenberg Door. Pete is a
Somewhere along the line he got on a church’s payroll and all of a
sudden, found himself accountable for stuff that has nothing to do with
discipleship. And now he is asking, “How
many other youth pastors are in my shoes?”

I was talking to a group of youth pastors and posed the
question: What pressures to compromise
do you face as a youth pastor as you fill out your schedule?

A veteran youth pastor shared the following: “Just in the
past twenty-four hours, I have talked to five different former youth pastors.
One has begun attending an obscure mainline church just to disappear and heal a
bit, one is birthing a church in his home beginning this weekend, another is
meeting us to talk about our church for young people, I will have lunch with
another tomorrow, and the last has begun to pray about pastoring a church.

“All of them spent at least five years in their most recent positions, but
their desire to ask more of their young people was met with resistance. Add me
to the list, after spending ten years at my last church. All are hurting
because they buy your premise, and their churches were not interested.”

“Yeah, that’s me too,” you may be saying. “But what in the world do I do?”

If you’re a youth minister, you need to recognize this flaw
in the system. It may feel like I’m
being too negative, but the point is that in most churches, the system needs to
change. If you feel like a hired gun
with a future as precarious as your next paycheck, you’re not a bad person,
you’re being asked to do an impossible job and you need more support. Maybe if you asked for it and got it, you
could be a change agent, and if not, maybe you’re in

the Matrix and need to find a fire exit.

There is hope once one recognizes reality. Here are a couple of blogs where I took a
at some answers.

Comments (7)

  • The church elders are not giving the youths more chances in church to participate thus creating gap btwn them,how are you doing about that?

  • Seth – totally agree. But the “fight” or “flight” solution is difficult for many of the same reasons postmoderns have trouble with the traditional church. In short, at what point do we have to work with what we’ve got? The institutional church is a multi-million dollar machine with resources that can help do an incredible amount of change. I know it’s been incredibly difficult for me and my sister to find home churches because of this “fight” mentality where no church but the ones active, willing to change, cutting edge, relevant etc. are vastly few and far between. I would even propose that there aren’t enough buy-in churches out there to accommodate those who resound with your premise. Is the answer truly to start over (as many are doing with the house church movement) or is there hope for the millions involved in churches too caught up in tradition and fear to allow this “extreme” (if Biblical) approach to ministry?

    I’ve been struggling with this for a while. I think it’s why I drifted to the non-profit world.


  • Seth, I totally agree. To go where you didn’t, the unhealth of the church and it’s mission can be laid at the feet of the pastors of the church. Too often, there are other or hidden expectations in the church and from the pastor that make it impossible for a youth pastor to do what he should be doing. If you know a church that is doing this right and are currently looking for a guy who believes in discipleship, then let us guys in the trenches know. Especially me, since I am just out of a chruch and looking for a call.

  • What you are saying really resounds with me. I’m glad that some one is writing it! It’s so easy to loose Christ in the midsts of ministry. One of the struggles that I encountered as a youth minister is that most people expect you to do everything. Their mentality is not that we are a body and everyone has different gifts, it’s isn’t that what we pay you for. Dosn’t matter if some one else in the church is more gifted or called to that ministry, your the one paid to do it. Your the one paid to disciple more youth then you possibly can, clean the youth room, organize every event in order to keep our kids good an busy (it would be a sin to allow youth some time to think), to make every phone call… ok, I’m going to stop ranting. There has got to be a better structure and system for the church.


    yes it is true that youth pastors face many challenges and struggles in their ministry because of many unfor told problems. but it is mostly in undevelope counties like Africa

  • praise the lord,
    my name is daniel raju do the gods work in youthleague.i visit your site and saw the photoes and read the about your ministry.i am very impressed and spiritually strengthen.i request some litarature if any possible send me by grace of our lord jesus christ.sorry for direct asking.
    m daniel raju
    church compound,chirala,praksam (district)
    andhra pradesh,INDIA 523157

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Radical Living:

Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.

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.

© Adventures In Missions. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | RSS Feed | Sitemap