From Calling to Career: 13 Steps for Becoming a Youth Ministry Professional

By Lars Rood | Has served in youth ministry for 20 years and has been a professional youth worker for about 15. After working at a couple of churches in California, he resides in Dallas, Texas, where he oversees the youth ministry team at Highland Park Pr | May 11 2011
• It doesn't let you take a day off after a three-day weekend retreat with middle scholars or go home early after staying out late for a student function the night before.

Those are all red flags.

Here are other tips and advice I can offer as you transition into becoming a professional youth worker. Not all will apply to you, but I bet enough will that the list will be worth thinking through.

1. Becoming a professional youth worker is a decision, but it may not be your decision.

If God doesn't make your calling very clear and if it isn't confirmed by others, then maybe this is not the right decision or timing. Many people never take the step to a career in youth ministry because it's just not what they are called to do. That's OK. Do it for a season and love it, then do something else. However, if you are called to it for a career, embrace it and know that God has called you to something terrifyingly amazing.

2. Help your church view your job as a professional position.

Some churches don't view their youth pastor positions as professions. They either see the role as a steppingstone to something else or clearly do things that make that role seem not as important as others. If you are at such a church, it is hard to be taken seriously and be treated as a professional. You have little leeway to mess up or flexibility to try new things.

On the other hand, if the church believes the role of youth pastor is a professional position you often will be treated with greater respect, be provided more resources and receive greater investment into you. If you want to be professional and have this as a career, make sure you are at a church that wants this, as well.

3. Grow up, and grow in your skills.

I started in youth ministry in my early 20s. Initially I wasn't always organized, on time, a good communicator, solid with budgets or timely. As I've grown in these areas I've found that my church treats me much more as a professional. This took awhile for me to understand, but the longer I do it the more great results I see.

Figure out your weaknesses and work on them. Go to conferences where you can focus on specific areas. Read books. Ask for help.

4. Learn how to establish boundaries.

Most professional youth workers have figured out how to separate their lives from their ministries and how to appropriately say no to things. The truth is you either will learn how to do this, or you will burn out and likely quit or get fired.

Being professional means you know how to take care of yourself, your family (if you have one) and you don't jump at everything everyone wants you to do. The truth is that your church will value you more if they know you love your job but also value healthy living.

5. Build relationships with other professionals.

I love networking because I love learning from people who have stuff figured out better than I do. If you are a young youth worker, find some older youth workers and ask them how they have lasted so long.

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