By Lance Parrish
After concluding a (successful!) five-month search for a new children’s minister, I found myself reflecting upon the process and experience. During the search, our team reached out to several authorities within the Church of Christ brotherhood to seek advice, drum up potential candidate names, and get a finger on the pulse of what is happening in the world of children’s ministry. In doing so, I learned an unsettling truth: there is a severe shortage of available ministers for the number of churches looking to hire. As it turns out, this is true for all areas of ministry, but especially of children’s ministry and youth ministry.
As a 16-year veteran of youth ministry, one difference that I have observed between a search team seeking a children’s minister and search team seeking a youth minister is that children’s minister search teams typically have no problem looking within their local congregations for potential candidates; in fact, it’s almost assumed that they will! This makes sense, considering the advantages of hiring from within when you’re hiring someone to work with children. However, I’ve noticed that the opposite seems to be true for youth minister search teams. They almost never think to look from within their own congregation to see if God may be calling someone to ministry to teenagers.
The landscape of youth ministry is rapidly changing. Gone are the days of youth ministry being something to “keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.” Youth culture is changing at a
frenetic pace, and students and families are busier than they’ve ever been. Thus, youth ministry is constantly changing its strategy and execution to try and meet the needs of students and
families in this fast-paced, digital age.
Churches that see their teenagers as souls that need shepherding and discipling are churches who are more likely to see their teenagers remain faithful into adulthood. Churches whose solution to teenagers is to hire a young youth minister to keep them occupied so that the “real” work of discipleship can be done with the adults of the church will be more likely to see those students flounder in their faith as they launch into adulthood.
With the change in strategy and execution of youth ministry, churches should change their strategy and execution for hiring. Instead of hiring someone who must earn relational credit with
students, parents, and leadership, hire someone everyone already knows and trusts. Instead of finding a candidate who will “build the right programs,” look for someone from within who can
champion discipleship of young people to the other generations of your church. Instead of finding that energetic and dynamic young adult who can stay up all night for lock-ins or go on 6
trips in 8 weeks during the summer, find someone within your church who will exemplify a life that is faithful to Christ, and have the leadership commission them to model that faithfulness for
My advice to a church that is struggling to find a candidate for their youth minister position: consider looking within your congregation. God may very well be calling your next youth minister
to rise up from within. That person is already committed to your church and its mission, so they’re probably not going anywhere. They likely already have the credibility and trust of most
people within your organization and its leadership, so the potential for a long, fruitful relationship is very high. Equip them with resources, volunteers, and a budget that allows them to attend
youth ministry conferences and webinars to gain the skills to lead a ministry.
Above all, find the person who models a faithful life to Christ. Put them in front of your students and say (ala Paul in 1 Cor. 11:1), “Watch this person, and do what they do.” That person just may be sitting in your pew this Sunday morning.
By Lance Parrish
Hillcrest Church of Christ, Abilene, TX