We have all seen it happen, a youth minister who goes into their job excited only to leave a couple of years later completely burnt out. When the youth minister leaves it creates a void that can hold a church back from where it needs to go.
A church can ignore the situation and hire the next college graduate hoping this time it’ll be different OR they can address the issues. When it comes to why a youth minister would leave it starts with them feeling:
No one goes into ministry believing that their salary will be competitive with a neurosurgeon. They know there is a sacrifice, but not to the point where the decision is:
Do I work in the local church or Do I support a family?
There are ways to work around it with dual incomes (Either two jobs or working spouse) and simple living, but those can wear someone out. A church can ease the burden by:
- Offering comparable salaries from different industries (i.e. volunteer coordinator)
- Researching the cost of living in the area.
- Focusing on giving towards staff salaries.
While it’s not possible for every church to offer a fair salary it is important for them to understand what it costs. Once you understand what’s required it comes to figuring out a plan of how to get there.
Youth ministers work odd hours that can be difficult to track. If not monitored it will wear them out. As a leader, you need to be flexible with and encourage time off. Make sure a youth minister is investing in them as much as the ministry.
This is the biggest reason a youth minister will leave. Doesn’t matter the pay or the hours if he or she doesn’t feel valued they’ll leave. To increase the value and reduce turnover you can:
INVEST IN PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Youth ministry is a growing and changing field. As a church, you might not be able to increase a salary, but you can invest in professional development by providing your youth minister with:
- Conference opportunities.
- Professional coaching.
- A budget with books, online courses, etc.
The more confident a youth minister is the better they will not only lead the next generation but the rest of the parish.
FOCUS ON HEALTHY TEAMS
You might value the youth minister, but what does the rest of the staff think? If your staff doesn’t connect well it’s going to cause unnecessary issues. Instead of working towards a common vision they’ll be fighting for what benefits them the most.
Focus on healthy teams by investing in a healthy staff culture. I recommend reading Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage and 5 Dysfunctions of a Team to start. But, if a youth minister feels like they are connected to a team that cares about them they’ll make the sacrifice.
CHECK-IN ON THEM REGULARLY
You don’t need regular meetings when you review their progress but you should have a gauge on what’s going on. Swing by the office and ask them about:
- Their family and how they are doing.
- Any weekend or holiday plans.
- An upcoming project or initiative they are working on.
Make it informal and casual. Once in a while invite them to lunch or grab a cup of coffee. Even if it’s outside of your comfort realm know it’s building trust.
Youth ministry can be isolating even on a large staff that gets along well. It’s because there are parts of youth ministry that only the person charged with leading it will understand. That’s where cohorts and networks are important.
Help and encourage your youth minister to connect with others. It’s in these networks where they can grow professionally and get the solidarity they crave.
While you cannot prevent every reason for a youth minister to leave you can avoid the big ones. Focus on their development, and invest in them as a person. They’ll stick around for a leader that they know cares.
Question: What’s the biggest struggle you face with investing in youth ministry? You can leave a comment by clicking here.