Church, we need to go out for coffee. I have been watching. I see you struggling. You are anxious about many things and sometimes anxiety can lead to poor decision-making.
I’m aware that church attendance is waning and along with it, so is giving. I know that making salary payments for your youth pastor is becoming more and more an act of faith. Ultimately, under these conditions, you might decide that it is prudent and “good stewardship” to move to a part-time youth pastor. Many churches are doing so, and I understand their anxiety as well, but we need more creative solutions.
I consider us friends, so like every good friendship, sometimes difficult discussions need to be had. So, here it is—should you choose to move from a full-time to a part-time youth pastor position I feel like you need to know what you might contend with—
Limited Access to the Youth Pastor
Do you want your youth pastor at the weekly staff meeting?
Typically they will not be able to attend because they are working at their “real” job. I know that you intend to make due with technology, but Facetiming during a distracted lunch hour is not as effective as meeting with and praying for the youth in your ministry face-to-face.
Want a weekend away with the staff to strategically plan the year?
Your part-time youth pastor will likely also have a family that rarely see her because she is working two jobs. Do you want her children to miss their mother for an entire weekend too?
I have seen you struggle as you assume all ministry commitments are “mandatory,” but a part-time youth pastor will likely see these same commitments as “flexible” based on their pecking order of importance.
Example— 1) Family time 2) First Job (The one with benefits) 3) Their own children’s activities. 4) Your “mandatory” church commitments.
Limited Pastoral Care
Did you find out that one of your youth had emergency surgery?
Your part-time youth pastor may not be able to immediately visit and minister to the family in their time of need because they are at their first job.
Do you think a part-time youth pastor will be at the game, recital, or concert of the young people in your church after work in their first job is completed?
Even the most committed part-timer will have to juggle countless commitments just to keep the momentum of their ministry job rolling. Likely, the most “visible” ministry programs—youth group and Sunday school—will end of getting the most attention and the relational opportunities that are the glue of every youth ministry will be shifted to the back burner.
Prepare yourself to provide more, not less supervision to a part-time youth pastor.
With full-time youth pastors it is often a struggle to capture “working” hours and the nuance of “ministry time” is difficult to quantify. For a part-timer, this is even more difficult. You must prepare for that.
Why Downsize When You Can Upsize?
Have you given any thought about combining positions to create a full-time salary instead of downsizing?
Consider these options—
Need someone to lead worship? Your youth pastor may have training and abilities in worship leadership. Why not utilize them?
Your church newsletter is struggling and your social media is unattended. Why? A youth pastor who designs incredible retreat t-shirts and builds websites while shooting Instagram live videos can likely transform your dated communication efforts.
Is your I.T. is a mess? This seems so unnecessary. This generation of youth pastors has grown up with a fearless approach to technology. Why not turn your I.T. over to them?
Check your attendance roles. You are likely losing your 4th-6th graders. Why? They are ready for something more suited to their changing developmental needs. Who can fill that role? Perhaps someone they already admire from afar—your youth pastor.
Do you have a gym or an athletic field that sits empty during the week? I suspect you have no one to run your recreation programs. Why not give your youth pastor a shot?
Do you have ongoing difficulty with your soundboard? Are you struggling to set the correct mix for the band? Is getting what is on your computer to the screen on the wall a crapshoot at best? You know who is often very capable with things like that? You guessed it…your youth pastor.
My friend, I know that this is a difficult discussion. I hope you are ok, but this is what I know about you—you are resilient when you choose to be! If a hail storm shatters your eighty-thousand dollar stained glass window there would be no discussion about whether you would fix it or not. You would simply find a way.
I hate to paraphrase Jesus here, but, “If stained glass falls to the ground and God even knows about that, aren’t the little ones in your youth ministry more valuable than those colored shards?”
Your buildings and your buses are important and they are necessary. But if you aren’t careful you are going to find them empty because the folks that ministered to the ones that used to fill them was well…only part-time.
So, church, I love you. You need to know the realities if you decide to move your youth pastor position to part-time. But, if you CAN, stretch to make it happen. If you CAN, make the sacrifice to provide a full-time salary, you will be blessed with an accessible, accountable youth pastor and your ministry to youth will have a chance to be fruitful.
I’m glad we had this little chat. Let’s talk again soon.
TONY AKERS has been in ministry to youth and families in large and small churches for three decades. He is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and just entered his 14th year in ministry at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama where he serves as the Director of Disciple Life. Tony is also a youth ministry coach and writes fairly frequently at WWW.STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM
This post was previously published by STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM.