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Why Youth Pastor’s Are Not (Real) Missionaries

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I’ve heard through he years that youth pastors are like missionaries. I used to think that was true, but upon reflections, I find it is only partially true. I talked with my friend and missionary Larry Henderson. Larry and his wife Melinda were missionaries to the Canary Islands.

Larry was helping with a booth to support missions in Europe where only 3% of the population is Christian. We started talking about what is working in youth work in the Canary Islands and guess what? It’s no shocker, it’s relationships. They gather kids up weekly and play soccer and then share the gospel or invite them to a bible study. The whole thing is relationships.

Now, youth workers, do share some similarities with missionaries

  • We work in a foreign culture
  • We have the occasional language barrier (brush up on your lingo here or here)
  • We face cannibals on a weekly basis (that’s a joke)

We are missionaries in practice, up to a point. The differences are many

  • Missionaries are revered for their sacrifice to live in another country 
  • Missionaries are supported financially. (Need I say more)
  • Missionaries are applauded for reaching those God forsaken pagans (we are interigated about that strange kid with the purple hair)
  • Missionaries garner prayer support (prayed for any other youth workers lately)
  • Missionaries are invited to share stories from the front lines. (Can you name the last time you were invited to share what God was doing in the youth ministry with your congregation?)
  • Missionaries can try anything that might reach the indigenous people and they don’t get fired if it does not work. (youth workers get yelled at because the music is too loud)

What do you think,  are youth pastors true missionaries? Should youth pastors move to being independent contractors (ala Young Life and YFC) and we just tell churches, we’ll work in your community but don’t tell us how to do our job?

If only 3% of the teenagers in our country were Christians would the roles of youth pastors change? Sadly, we may get to find out sooner rather than later. 

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