How To Be A Professional Youth Minister

Courtesy of bark/Creative Commons License

This past weekend I gave a message to the adult congregation. It’s something I’ve done before; however, what was different this time is how I introduced myself.  In the past it’s always been, “Hello, I’m Chris Wesley the Director of Student Ministry.”; however, this time I added “full time” before my title.  Why does it matter?
Its odd to think that it’s necessary to introduce yourself as full time at the church you’ve worked at for eight years, but you wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would) how many adults and teenagers still don’t know this is my full time job.
Youth ministry is a profession similar to teaching, but with a little less structure.  It’s like a business except your employees are volunteers.  It’s a job where:

  • Dressing Up Is Wearing Pants
  • Twitter and Facebook Are Necessities
  • Much Of The Budget Is Dedicated To Pizza

From an outsiders perspective it doesn’t look like a real job, it can look more like hanging out with teenagers.  In order to be taken seriously there are a few areas where we should act professionally.  Now that doesn’t mean dress in a suit and carry around a briefcase.  It means taking the necessary steps to change your perspective and theirs.  It means having:

  • A JOB DESCRIPTION: Imagine someone who has no concept of church asking you, “What do you do for a living?” How would you describe it?  Better yet, could you do it in a few sentences?  A job description will give them clarity and you focus.
  • GOALS AND PRIORITIES: If you are setting clear goals and then prioritizing how you will tackle them, you’ll find yourself being productive.  When you show productivity, you show drive and people will notice that what you do you take seriously. 
  • VISION AND MISSION: Why do you do what you do? And what does that look like?  Just as a job description clarifies what you do, vision and mission clarify why your ministry is more than teens just hanging out.  Craft it, clarify and communicate it, so that others know.
  • STANDARDS AND LIMITS: Are you hard to reach?  Do people know your office hours?  Do you keep a schedule? Do you know how to say, “NO”?  You need a schedule so that people know when to reach you.  You also need boundaries so that you allow yourself time to refuel and become refreshed.  When you have standards people see that and again they’ll take what you do seriously.

Youth ministry is still an unknown industry; therefore, people are always going to wonder, “Is it a real job?” There will be times when you question it yourself and then others when you know nothing gets more real.  If you want people to treat you seriously, then you are going to need to blend in some professional habits.  When you do this people want look at you like an overgrown teenager, instead they’ll see an adult who cares about their teens.

How do you get others to take you more seriously?