I was recently talking to a young man who desperately would like to be a full time youth pastor, and I told him, “You might want to rethink that.”
Here are a few of the reasons I gave him for pursuing the full time opportunity.
If it would diminish your influence n the community
As a full time youth pastor, you’ll be taken out of those jobs that have you rubbing elbows with people who need a living example of what it mean to follow Jesus.
Full time church pastors, believe it or not, spend less time with non-church people. Pastors spend more time with church folk (who still need Jesus) and manage the flock. This doesn’t mean they are any less of a witness but this field has already been plowed.
Once you are on staff at the church, you are judged with a more critical eye by those in the community. In my experience, you become typecast. “Oh, you’re a youth pastor” which I read as “Oh, you preach and have no others useful skills.”
All communities are different and influence varies. Whatever job you’re in now, it might not be the greatest, but you have a direct line to hurting people. If you were on staff, you’d actually have to work harder to be a round them.
My friend, that I spoke of earlier, when asked why he wanted to be full time, said “Because I could make a greater impact.” God wants us to make an impact on students, but I just don’t believe you have to be a full time youth pastor to do that.
There are things you can do as a full time youth pastor more effectively than a part time youth pastor, such as
- message crafting
- work on the youth room
- plan the youth meeting
- plan events
But I would not equate any of these activities to having greater impact on students. To have an impact on students, ultimately, you don’t need to be a great speaker, a great planner, etc. but you do have to be a great example and a lover of people. Once again, you don’t need to be full time to do that.
Now, if my friend said he wanted to build a great youth program, then yes, I think a full time position lends itself to creating a great program, but program don’t impact people, people impact people.
My friend works for the city. He could retire in 20 years and be relatively set. There is no retirement for full time youth pastors. It is rare to find a church that offers any kind of retirement package and if they did, you’d have to be there a long while to benefit from it later.
If you’re single, working a crap job with low pay, then going full time is a no brainer. If you have a family and have a job that pays well and puts away money for you that could take care of you after you retire, going full time in a church may not be the best decision for your family.
I get it, though, there is also a God who calls us to do things that do not make sense. If you sense God’s call, and not your own pride, to make these decisions that’s a whole other ball game. Do what God says.
I am only making the case, as one who wished he had somehow reversed the process so my family would be in a better place today. I wish I had a 20 year job that I could have retired at 40 and then got the call to do youth ministry. I think the transition would have been much easier.
If you’re in the position to choose full time or part time, that’s a great position, but don’t romanticize the job youth pastor just because you’ve always wanted to do it. Do it because God asked you too. Any other reason doesn’t make sense to me.
If you’re interested in a few other articles on calling