Giving youth pastors the tools they need to make and shape disciples.

What College Doesn’t Teach You About Youth Ministry

Normally, I would include all the notes from the podcast here, but instead I want to add my list of what I think should be taught in colleges about youth ministry. I must add, as I say in the interview, I was a Christian college drop out. I went for a whopping three months before deciding that academics were not for me.

I went a very practical route, going to one year school, much like the Anchor House that Rick is starting, and wound up with a 30 year career, a few books written, a few resources created and a coaching business. I recently became youth pastor again, at 53 so I am still learning which will probably lead to more books, resources and more to offer those who want youth ministry coaching.

I am not anti-education. I simply could not go to school for something that I already felt I was wired to do, so I went and did it. If you want to go four years and get a degree in youth ministry, I say do it. Now, on with what I think should be taught (and might be in some places) in college about youth ministry.

Common Sense

Rick talked about this in the interview but it’s worth mentioning it again. Even if a student gets a youth ministry position right out of college, that does not mean they will have the wisdom to do ministry well. This goes for anyone, in any field. Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you have good judgment. So, how can a college teach common sense? Let students fail in the class room not the youth room.

  • Let the class start a youth ministry form scratch, right off the street.
  • Let students plan a youth retreat, outreach or event and comment on how they do as they go.
  • Let students speak with parents who have had difficulties with youth pastors or better still, set up role play with real parents coming to class to talk to them (individually) about a problem in the youth ministry they have to answer for.
  • Let each student get called into a pastors office to “discuss” the youth ministry and the direction it’s heading or let a real pastor interview them for a job while the teacher takes notes on do’s and don’ts’.
  • How to set reasonable expectations while having big faith.

All of these scenarios are practical and can be taught in real time. Mistakes will be made but it’s better to let them make the mistake now than in the field.

Money, Salary and Side Hustles

Let’s face it, most students coming out of college, with any degree, are not going to land their dream job, immediately; let alone a job in a large church with a great paycheck. Teachers should,

  • Help students to identify their passions, beyond youth ministry, early and help them formulate “what if this doesn’t work out” plan.
  • How to do a family budget and not just a youth ministry budget.
  • How to start a retirement plan.
  • How to negotiate a salary.

Church Politic 101

I don’t know what state the church will be in in 20 years, but I know that there will be one thing that will remain and that is politics, powerful people who do bad things to benefit themselves, who fire staff on whim,

Teachers, teach these students how to

  • Defend themselves in the midst of unrighteousness.
  • Spot the losers before ever applying for a job
  • How to resolve conflict biblically.
  • How to maneuver/pivot when faced with being fired.

This list will most likely be ongoing as the challenges of youth work are ongoing.

My hope is that education will catch up to the real world issues every youth worker faces and prepares them well to face them with boldness and grace.

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