How to Become a Youth Pastor (You’ll Need Your Bible and a Dodgeball!)
If you’re trying to figure out how to become a youth pastor, the first thing you’ll want to do is to secure two items: a Bible and a dodgeball.
Ok, it’s a little more complicated than that. And yet, these two items represent the greatest needs of teenagers. The Bible, clearly, is the Word of God and represents the spiritual needs that all mankind shares. Less obvious might be the dodgeball. While it may appear to be nothing but an adrenaline-filled opportunity for teens to throw balls at one another, it is much more than that. For the sake of this article, the dodgeball represents the relational needs of teenagers.
Together the Bible and the dodgeball define the building blocks to answer the question: “What is youth ministry?” So if youth ministry is about developing youth spiritually and relationally, what are the qualifications for a role in youth ministry? Let’s break this down into some practical steps. Here are three points to consider if you’re wondering how to become a youth pastor.
Make sure you are called.
As with the pursuit of any ministry vocation, step one of how to become a youth pastor is to be sure you are called by God into this important work and role. The hardships of ministry have been well documented. You will deal with complaints, bitterness, anger, and strife. Oh, and did we mention complaints? This is just from the people in the church!
Pastors will also deal with the questions of an onlooking world, asking questions of eternal value, questions of identity and value. This reality is compounded in youth ministry as teens begin to discover a faith they can call their own.
Let’s not forget James’ warning that those “who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1). Far from a reason to run the other way, it is a reminder of the high responsibility and greater accountability placed on those who respond to the call of youth ministry.
The tasks are never-ending, and if you cannot remember why you first accepted a youth pastor role, burnout will come quickly. You will want to make sure you have your Bible and a dodgeball. The Bible will be a continual reminder of where your hope rests and from Whom you received your calling. The dodgeball, and the fun memories it brings, will help you recall your love for interacting with teenagers.
Make sure you are educated.
Oh, ok, you were expecting the sales pitch, right? After all, this is a college and seminary blog. But you were probably assuming it would come at the end when you could more easily ignore it. It’s ok, you can be honest with us.
We’ll be honest as well. We do offer a Youth Ministry degree, but it’s not because we had an excess of Bibles and dodgeballs to hand out. It’s because youth ministry is real ministry. One question that lifelong youth pastors often get asked is when they will become a real pastors as if ministering to teenagers is somehow relegated to junior varsity status. Rest assured, the ministry is not ranked by age!
Teens, many of whom are in the public school system, are on the front lines of the cultural wars, so ensuring they are ready to give an answer for the hope that they have is critical. (1 Peter 3:15) This means youth pastors must be equipped to teach the gospel clearly. Arming yourself with a seminary education is the start of a lifelong process of knowing how to study, interpret, and teach the Word of God.
Don’t forget the dodgeball in this equation of how to become a youth pastor. You will want to stay on top of current trends for teens and figure out how to best engage them on those topics. The youth ministry program at Grace College includes courses on contemporary issues and strategies for running a youth ministry with excellence.
Make sure you are informed.
Just because a church hires you doesn’t mean your job is done. In fact, the hardest part may still be to come, as you need to connect with teens, their parents, and other youth ministry leaders. Having a youth pastor degree is important, but until you establish trust with the people you’re working with, you only have a title.
Here again, we remind you to take up the Bible and a dodgeball. Spending time in God’s Word, so you are informed to share God’s heart with teenagers is your ultimate task. A close second is continually equipping the parents and reminding them of their primary responsibility to disciple their children. Like any pastor, you are a vessel through which the Good News should flow for the encouragement and equipping of families.
How does dodgeball help you to stay informed in youth ministry? Hopefully, by now you realize that dodgeball is just a metaphor for growing relationships with teens and their families. We don’t actually recommend an overdose of dodgeball in your youth ministry. We do recommend investing large amounts of time in learning about your students, their concerns, their struggles, and their perspectives. Doing so will allow you to speak directly to their felt needs.
The German theologian, Karl Barth, once encouraged pastors to “Keep the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” His point was for Christian leaders to be aware of current events and to be able to interpret them through the lens of scripture. If youth pastors carry around a newspaper, they will get funny looks from teenagers as they might wonder who decided to print their social media feed. If Barth were around today, he might encourage a Bible in one hand and an iPhone in the other.
There are some universal truths when dealing with people and learning how to lead them effectively. But keep in mind that each teenager is unique. Their circumstances and their experiences are unique, and therefore your group’s needs will be unique from every other youth ministry. Building relationships with each individual and continually pointing them to the grace of God is a lifelong pursuit worthy of your time and energy, your calling, and your education.
If you’re still wondering how to become a youth pastor, it doesn’t happen on the day you convince a church that you’re the right hire. It happens when you reach the heart of teenagers and their families, equipped with a Bible and a dodgeball.
Would you like to learn more about how to become a youth pastor through our Youth Ministry program? Like all of our ministry degrees, you can add a seminary degree to your arsenal through our accelerated program. After all, saving time and money is something you’ll be doing a lot of in youth ministry.