The voices leading youth ministry have said for a long time that when it is time to go … leave well. To be honest, I think I’ve even said it in the past. I’m not sure it is possible. Let me explain.

There is no such thing as leaving well. I don’t think it is possible! But you can leave better. Leaving well implies that it is possible to finish perfectly and that every relationship will be amiable or better when you go. Not true … but here’s a few ways to leave without adding to the pain of transition:

Protect the pastor

Don’t cause division in the church – you will only hurt God’s body and leave students and volunteers hurt in the crossfire of departure. Know that God will use that church for His glory, even if you are no longer a part of the leadership. You can’t leave perfectly, but you can minimize damage by controlling your tongue (and ears for that matter).

Sever ties
People ask me all of the time if they should maintain relationships with students and leaders from the past. I say no. There might be a few lifelong friends you stay in contact with, but be careful that your friendship doesn’t deteriorate into dissing the church. It is best to help students transition to the new leader of the youth ministry, even if it hurts more to say goodbye and walk away.

Leave better
Take a long hard look at yourself. Don’t jump right into your next position. Take some time to get alone and debrief with your spouse or mentor and get alone with God. Leaving is tough on a church, I’d say it is also tough on you, too. Leaving better means choosing not to divide the church, to walk away … and to work on what God reveals to you in the process.

It is impossible to leave without hurting someone. Even if you leave in ideal conditions people will be hurt to lose you as part of the church. Leaving is messy. Leaving isn’t easy. You can’t leave well … but you can leave better.


With all the talk about the average stay of a youth worker and youth ministry turnover in general, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick poll and see how close your resume is to ready-to-send-out. Vote now!


[RSS readers: vote here]

A couple weeks back at our State of HSM annual meeting I shared a few things that I believe that make a good team great. Thought I would share them with you as well!

We all share a common, unifying vision in our high school ministry – seeing students on the outside of faith meet Him face to face (evangelism) and their lives be changed forever. And for those that have trusted Christ to be connected (fellowship), grow (discipleship), serve (ministry) and honor (worship) Christ deeper now and into adulthood. The clear vision helps bring a team of like-minded and passionate people together. If someone is out of line, the vision brings them back into the unity of the common vision.

This year our team is going to unify by learning together. We’re going to go to a conference together – the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this March – come hang with us! We’re going to go back to the basics and read Doug Fields’ 1st 2 Years in Youth Ministry together and have some discussions about our experiences and how we can grow together as youth workers. Youth pastors must keep learning and moving forward.

It is so important to laugh together. I want us to play together. Have inside jokes. To dig a deep well of relationship that bond us together and make us quick to forgive and trust when hit with the unexpected.

Dependent on God/Prayer
Your walk with Jesus is critically important. This season we’re all reading the New Testament together. We’re trying to make sure our walk with Jesus is more visible and something we talk about as easily as we would Sherlock Holmes or the new Coldplay album (both of which are excellent by the way). Your walk with Jesus is person, but it is also communal. As a team we need to strive to e


I got the call last week that I was invited to be a sessional instructor at a local Bible College teaching Youth Ministry Philosophy in the fall. I am really excited to be returning to teach, not only to share my heart for ministry, but the chance to meet young leaders just exploring the possibility of going into vocational or volunteer youth ministry. Its so exciting to spend time with young passionate leaders ready to change the world for Christ. In many conversations I have with young leaders there is a few things that I encourage and warn them about and here are a three of them.

Find a balance early: I have seen it before, the new young youth pastor comes into town, single and ready to impact students lives, spending 40 hours a week making a great youth ministry, planning, dreaming and studying. But when the workday is over, heading off to watch a students basketball game, then a badminton tournament, teaching a bible study. Soon that 40 hour week has become 80. The challenge is that students can begin to expect that and when the single youth pastor meets a significant other and eventually transitions into marriage, it can be really hard to dial back the time expectations that students have gotten used to. Find a work life balance early, learn to go offline and be available, but not too available.

The Honeymoon period is real: If you are new in a Church, there is a certain amount of time (sometimes as much as a year) where you can do no wrong (within reason!), and if there is something you need, its time to ask for it. If the 30lb laptop that used to belong to the Senior Pastor isn’t going to work ask early for something that will suit your needs and vision. Your ideas are fresh, people want to help you get settled and build momentum, so ask for it early, as they are more likely to approve legitimate needs. Don’t be shy, but don’t be greedy.

The person before was better: (read further!) Not everyone experiences a healthy ministry hand off and you might be picking up a neglected or abandoned ministry. If so it is inevitable that no matter how poor the situation you are inheriting, that there is likely something that the person you are replacing did better than you. They may have neglected the leaders, hardly taught the Bible, slapped together events, but if the former leader was great at giving high fives, you will hear about it. Students can be guilty of romanticizing the past and their teenage honesty will have them reminding you often of the glory days from before you arrived that were not as glorious as they might think. You are you, God has equipped you to lead and placed you there, and students may have very vocal and unfair expectations of you, but try your best to not let it get to you. If you are lucky enough to inherit a ministry where the leader left really well after a great tenure, the shoes you are stepping into might be huge, just stay the course, be gracious in receiving criticism and focus on what God wants to do in the ministry.

There is something really exciting about meeting and working with young leaders, and helping them navigate through some of the pitfalls is even more rewarding when you watch them come through it and thrive.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself, too!

Hey everyone from CMTA 2011! Thanks for making our youth ministry workshops fun this weekend – I enjoyed meeting many of you and here are the links from the 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers trainings I promised you this weekend: