Sometimes I get the occasional comment that goes something like this: “So when are you going to get a church of your own?” What they are really saying is ‘when are you going to grow up and be a Lead Pastor, Sr. Minister, or other more responsible position within the church?’ I generally just laugh off these comments while secretly thinking to myself “when are you gonna pull your head out of your rear end and realize I already hold a responsible position?!?!?!” Over my 14 years in this thing called youth ministry, I have been asked this question more than I care to count. I’ve noticed something, however, that gives me some encouragement…the more time I spend at a given location, the less I receive these comments. This has to do with two main factors that I hope will encourage you…

1. Relationships! with parents and especially grandparents and the older generation in the church are a HUGE factor to your success and credibility in youth ministry. Remember, they have been around the block a time or two…raised their children (or are right in the middle of it) and learned from years of making mistakes. The more time you spend developing solid relationships with them, the more they will respect your judgement and leadership.

2. Risk Management! This is a term not used much in the church world but in the Insurance industry it’s huge! People want to know their kids will be safe. As ministers of teens, it can be tempting to let them act out of their desire for Adventure and Excitement *a Jedi craves not these things* in the immortal words of our pointy-eared friend. The part of a teenager’s brain that controls the realization of actions vs. long term consequences has not fully developed. As youth ministers, we must have the wisdom to harness that desire and steer it in productive directions that will glorify God instead of making a parent mad because Jimmy decided it would be a good idea to peel out of a parking lot into oncoming traffic because he wanted to get a head start on the scavenger hunt. (yes it happened) When we can be responsible, parents notice!

As they notice your ability to develop relationships with people other than teens, and as the “adult” side of you makes responsible decisions with the well-being of their kids, your stability in ministry will improve and you won’t have to field the question of “So, what’s next for you?” so often.

Lyle Parker is the Youth/Worship Tech Minister in Fayetteville Christian Church.

I was asked recently why/how I got into youth ministry. I told him clearly it was for the money!

After we had a good hearty laugh (sigh), I described how my great youth ministry experience as a student and in particular thinking my youth pastor was super cool got me thinking about getting into the ministry for myself. Besides giving him the Sunday school answer of “because God told me to” these were definitely catalysts the Lord used to make his calling me into ministry much more clear as I graduated high school.

This answer, however, spurred another question. He said, “You seem like a guy who students would think is cool, but you’re also a young guy. Will your coolness expire as you get older?”

I told him confidently that love, care, presence, and availability for students and a passion for God will always make me cool. It’s not about my clothes (lame), my knowledge of Justin Bieber or Kate Upton trivia (lacking), or my taste in movies and TV (vastly superior). It’s about pursuing God and being willing to engage students so they can do the same. I told him there were tons of youth pastors in their 40’s and 50’s and even more volunteers that age and older. It was a great opportunity to share the awesomeness of youth workers, especially the veterans!

I only hope I can be an effective youth worker 20 years from now and not take the sucker bait to accept the demotion to adult ministry… Well, unless God tells me to.

Matt Johnston is the High School Pastor at Journey of Faith in Manhattan Beach, CA. If you’re into it, you can check him out on twitter here and he blogs occasionally here. Also, be praying for him as he’s a Dodgers fan and baseball season is about to start. It will be a rough 6 months.