Should You Fire Your Youth Pastor?
As I share the vision of family discipleship with church leaders here is a frequent response: “So Rob, if the Bible calls parents to disciple their children, does that mean we should fire our youth pastor?”
Answer – No, but if you want to move your church toward the children’s and youth ministry model of the early church, your youth pastor’s job description will need to be transformed. Note, the changes I am proposing below will likely need to be implemented slowly as you carefully lead change in your church’s culture.
A radical new job description
Before we talk about a new potential job description, we need to address a potential difficulty. The role we are talking about is of a full-fledged “pastor” in the church. The qualifications for this role are found in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. I am not trying to take anyone’s job away, but it may be that someone currently serving as a youth pastor may not be biblically qualified to serve as a pastor/elder. As difficult as it would feel, there might be a need to have the current youth pastor “reapply” for the new position.
To all my friends in youth ministry, I want you to imagine sitting before the elders/pastors of your church as they proceed to lay out the following vision for your ministry. Your new job description has four points. I will write this as if the pastors/elders were speaking directly to you.
The most important thing in this new role is you live like a Christian at home. We are counting on you to spend personal and private time with God, studying His Word, and in prayer. Your relationship with your wife needs to be your highest earthly priority. When you think of “loving your neighbor” and “making disciples” we want you to think of her first. Your next spiritual priority must be the discipleship of your children. We need you to lead family worship in your home. You will not be able to lead the church in things you are not practicing yourself. Spiritually leading your family is a foundation and prerequisite to serving as a pastor in the local church. We are here to love you, encourage you, and keep you accountable to this, your most important Kingdom ministry.
Train the trainer
God has called parents to be the primary spiritual trainers of their children at home. If you are going to minister to children and youth, you need to spend time with parents. Have lunch with them. Have coffee with them. Talk with them before and after church. Invite them over to your home. Accept invitations when you are invited to their homes. God has given you a gift and expertise in communicating biblical truth to young people! We need you to give all of that expertise to the parents and grandparents in our church, so they can be as effective as possible in shepherding their children.
In regard to the curriculum you are using, I want you to go through it with a fine-toothed comb and be sure it is teaching biblical doctrine, simply and clearly. Then, instead of putting that curriculum in the hands of volunteers to teach the youth, I want you to put it into the hands of parents. To do this, you may need a team of volunteers, and they need to join you in this key mission to “train the trainer.”
Bring them together
Include parents in everything you do. Youth retreats become family retreats. Youth mission trips become family mission trips. Youth group service days become family service days. Youth group night becomes family night. Small groups in homes become family groups in homes. Right now most parents just drop their kids off for you to minister to them while a few stay around as volunteers. We need you to turn that around! We want you to develop a ministry where the default setting is families come together. Then we will be equipped and prepared to care for the students who do not have Christian families because they will not just connect with peers, but with entire families from our church. When new students come, your mission is to connect them with a godly family in the church.
Now instead of splitting everyone up by age and putting them in different Christian education rooms, we need you to partner with other pastors and fill those rooms with people of all ages—parents, grandparents, singles, and their children of all ages. A key part of your pastoral role is to link arms with all the pastors so all ages come together for worship and discipleship.
Get out of here
Our community is filled with children and teens who are lost and they come from families who are lost. This is a matter of the utmost importance and urgency. We need you, as a Christian man, to set the example for other believers and the Christian families in the church. Do you remember what they called “Sunday school” in the 1800s? Christians and Christian families went out into the neediest parts of the community, not to run a local church program, but to bring Christian love and share the gospel. Invite other Christians to join you in coaching a sports team through the park district or YMCA. Pull families together to serve and build relationships at the homeless shelter. Volunteer to help with after-school tutor programs and pray God will enable you to build relationships with unsaved families. Equip the saints in our church for this vital ministry!
Unsaved students and their families aren’t here in the church building. If you are going to lead the families of our church to reach them, you have to get out of here.
If we are going to reverse the generational spiritual decline in our nation, we must return to the methods God has given us in the Bible for the evangelism and discipleship of the next generation. The methods He has given us in Scripture not only are what is needed to disciple our own children, but also to reach the millions of children and teens from unsaved homes.
Would you like to dig deeper into a Bible-driven vision for reaching the next generation for Christ? This post was excerpted from my new book, Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom – Uniting Church and Family in the Great Commission.