There are all sorts of bad reasons churches let youth workers go – but there are some legitimately good ones as well. Here’s a few things that I think over time will cause youth workers to be shown the door, and some cautions before pulling the trigger on one of them if you’re the boss:

Incompetence - sometimes, it just doesn’t work out – the person you thought had the skills to do this job simply doesn’t. They were a great interview and not so great in the real world. Somewhere in the process the ball was dropped, and it is your fault. Be slow with this one, perhaps the learning curve is just steep, or it is The Dip before things get awesome. And please be a teaching/training church! If someone doesn’t have the skills, help them develop them on the job! Send them to a conference, a training event or build out their library. Even if things eventually don’t work out, you’ve made them MUCH more equipped for God’s work in the future.

“Fit” – this one is tough, because it can quickly become a catch all for whatever whim someone has that day. But there is something to be said for a genuine “fit” argument. I’d encourage you to investigate if you are a fit before you ever sign on. Maybe there’s something you need to change as the supervisor, or a particular reason/pattern why people are not fitting into your staff culture. You need to infinitely know your culture before you bring them on. I believe that having to let someone go because of fit is the church’s fault, despite it being incredibly hard/almost impossible to truly know a candidate after just 1-2 meetings or calls.

Character Issue – if the youth pastor has a character issue that cannot be addressed effectively and appropriately while they remain in a position of leadership, they need to be removed and take that season to concentrate on their personal life. Youth workers are not without sin, so please don’t be hunting for them to make a mistake so you can kick them in the butt on the way out. In fact, a great church would be prepared for their pastors to be imperfect, instead of being surprised or shocked by it. Be prepared to coach/counsel spiritual health in the youth worker on your staff.

Insubordination – the youth pastor is not the leader of the church. He/she is under the authority, vision and leadership of their supervisor/senior pastor. They must be willing to follow and lead from the position God has entrusted to them. When that doesn’t happen – there’s bound to be conflict and rarely does the person in 2nd place win. As an employer, make sure you’re not wrongfully identifying passion or naivety as insubordination. Please be genuinely open to new ideas and ways of doing things. But if there’s no resolution, they might have to be let go.

Divisive – I think this one is a lot like insubordination, but instead of directly to a boss/supervisor, it is within the staff or church body. There is nothing worse than a divisive person, unless it is a divisive pastor on the team. Again, be slow to jump to conclusions, quick to correct and coach before doing something drastic.

Here’s the crazy thing – I think that I could have been fired (or still could be, hey) for almost any of these today!

I still don’t always “fit”, I still sin and make mistakes, I sometimes err toward being divisive and do my own thing instead of listening to my manager’s direction. If you’re genuinely going to let a youth worker in your church go … please pray intensely about it. Make sure you’ve done everything you can to coach them toward health. Take a long look at yourself, your church and the host of outside factors that have led you to this moment of decision. Try to be impartial, maybe even consider a 3rd party or mediator.

And above all, if it has to happen … be graceful. God isn’t quite finished with them just yet.

Are there other good reasons to let a youth worker go? Or maybe give another caution in the comments, too!


Yesterday, Josh talked about The 3 Best Gifts a Senior Pastor Can Give Their Youth Pastor. But what about youth pastors? What are the 3 best gifts we could give back? For me, it would NOT be an iPad since my pastor probably would not know what to use it for …

After reading the post from yesterday, I realized that the 3 best gifts I could give my pastor were similar to what Josh blogged about. It’s also important to understand that when we choose to give these gifts, we ultimately benefit:

Just as I desire to be given ownership to lead the student ministry effectively, it’s important to realize that I have been called by God to lead students, not the whole church. The gift of trust can be given when I learn to effectively “lead up” and support the vision and direction of my senior pastor. It’s more likely that I will be given greater ownership and trust when I lead with trust.

Loyalty equals longevity for both of us. Just as I need faithful support to hang in for the long haul, I can’t forget that my pastor needs support as well. When he knows I’ve got his back, he’s more likely to have mine. My loyal support of my pastor can lead to greater longevity for both of us. After all, to a good degree, he is my meal ticket.

Want a good budget? Be a good steward… I have found that a good budget comes with trust that ministry dollars are being used effectively and diligently. With this comes a good communication for needs that exist as well as continuous vision casting for the student ministry.

Over the long haul I have found that when I give these gifts, I often receive so much more back, which ultimately is a win for my ministry and for my family. Even if we are in situations where the gifts are not reciprocated, it’s imperative that we choose to be gift givers…

What’s another great gift you could give your Senior Pastor?

Phil Bell is the Pastor of High School and College Ministries at Community Bible Church. He Twitters and Tumblrs.

I was asked by a friend recently what three gifts any youth pastor would want from their senior pastor. First of all, I thought, “Huh, I just had Christmas and a birthday and I didn’t get ANYTHING from Pastor Rick.” Then I remembered I didn’t get him anything either, or have any idea when his birthday even was in the first place. Yikes.

After that little rabbit trail, I thought about how good of a question it was, and that I should blog about my responses and ask you to weigh in as well. If my senior pastor could give me 3 things (and it wasn’t something like an iPad, because I’d gladly take that, too) I would want these:

More than anything else, I want to be given the leadership of the ministry. I want to be trusted with the vision and decisions of the ministry. I want a senior pastor who believes in me and trusts me to follow God’s Spirit and his/her leadership in accomplishing that vision.

Loyalty equals longevity. If you want me to stay in the trenches for the long run, stick with me. I’ll probably need your defense (hey, I’m a youth worker) and covet your partnership and friendship in the heat of the spiritual battle. A quick way to run a youth pastor out of town is to be disloyal.

I hesitate to put this one out there on the list – but it is a HUGE gift to be well-taken care of as a pastor/family and a HUGE gift to have money for scholarships and programming. I put it last for a reason, but also included it for a reason, too. Take care of your people and they will take care of your people.

My hope is that you as a youth worker read this, nod your head and add another “gift” in the comments. That way, when your senior pastor Googles their way to this post, they’ll have lots of ideas and put one or two of them into practice.

What is another amazing gift a senior pastor can give their youth worker?


One of the best things about the bosses I’ve had in 15 years of youth ministry is that they don’t look over my shoulder. They’re careful to weigh in on the important stuff, cast vision, defend and jump in only when necessary. That’s the best! I function best when I’m believed in and given tons of freedom to dream and deliver. Get too much in my way and I won’t feel believed in, trusted or even like I’m really leading at all.

The problem with empowerment and freedom is that it is often accompanied by loneliness. When someone says “you’ve got permission”, “your call” or “run with it” and then walks away, I’m initially super thankful – the last thing I want is a senior pastor or a supervisor that is too hands on. But the freedom you first enjoy can turn ugly when I start to feel alone. I get lost in my head and start to feel under-appreciated and undervalued. Sometimes it goes the other way and I wrongly feel arrogant or prideful. Either way, I’m not in a good place.

An adjustment I want to make to help correct this is to keep my leaders in the loop and know that they continue to trust me with leadership, but at the same time fight for non task-specific relational time with them. I’m going to be more proactive with asking for coffee and connecting in and out of the church office. I’m not going to let myself fall into the sad trap of feeling alone, siloed or isolated.

What’s interesting is that as I realize I feel this way about my bosses, I want to be sure I’m the kind of leader that lives this out toward those under my responsibility as a boss myself. I want to be a leader that is generous with responsibility and continually giving significant leadership away, but at the same time making sure I cheer on my team, share life, hang out, fight for time and coach/train when we fall short. I want to make sure I’m modeling what it means to give leadership away and being a good leader to my team at the same time. It would crush me for them to think they are trusted with responsibilities and not trusted with my time.

“Fire and forget” leadership is cheap and can be used to disguise just dumping responsibilities instead of developing genuine leadership in someone else. Good leadership gives away tasks and responsibilities and grants freedom, but great leadership gives tasks and responsibilities away then journeys with that person to make them an indispensable part of the team.


UPDATE: Click here for the episode. For some reason the show played automatically every time you visited this page.

Episode 150: The Ultimate Administrator
Our 150th show, and the last of 2010. Doug, Matt, Katie, and Josh are all back this week. We find out that admin stuff has Matt in a funk, but he pulls out of it to help answer your questions about: letting teachers decide what to teach, labor force mentality in churches, background checks, Doug is the ultimate administrator, materials to help students grow spiritually, keeping students engaged in youth group, salaries, and dealing with problems with your senior pastor.


Job Position: Youth Ministry Cheerleader

Job Description: Encourage, build-up, affirm, applaud, bouy, comfort, strengthen, console, revitalize, energize, refresh, inspire and praise youth workers in your church.

Job Requirements: A heart and passion to encourage those who are working with the youth of the church. Spiritual gift of encouragement helpful but not required.

What would happen if this job description appeared in your church bulletin one week or in your local newspaper? What if such a position existed? What if there was someone whose only job was to affirm and build up youth workers?

Youth ministry is exhilarating, fun and unbelievable. It’s easy to get discouraged though since growth is often slower than you would like and you’re often in a role of planting or watering seeds without always getting to see them bear fruit. I know that for me, it’s often easy to lose sight of the forest while I’m focusing on the tree (planning a night, getting permission slips, cleaning up the broken lamp) that’s right in front of me.

I find myself wondering what would happen to my energy, passion and excitement if I had someone who was consistently reminding me what the forest looked like. This person would have no responsibilities to challenge, push, stretch, correct or mold. There are enough people that do that, are great at it and their presence is very much needed. I’m talking about someone who only encourages. How much different would your leadership team look like if there was someone who did nothing but affirm them? How much more effective would your ministry be if that person focused on energizing the leaders? Imagine the trickle down effect on your students if there was someone whose only job was to refresh leaders!

I recognize that encouraging leaders on my team starts with me and I like to think that I’ve gotten better at it over the years. Our team has put a special emphasis on spiritual gifts this year and using the gifts God has given you to serve. Encouragement is honestly one of the those gifts that I wish I had but struggle with sometimes. I’m a checklist driven, task master most of the time. I’m stunned by the possibilities of what my ministry would look like if I had someone who was skilled at encouragement and was passionate about using that gift with my leader team.

Anyone interested?

Buz is a special education teacher who passionately loves his ladies (wife and 2 daughters). They live in Spokane, Washington and you can check out his blog right here. His guest post was exactly what I’ve been feeling all week. Thanks, Buz!

Phil (on our HSM team) is the captain of event planning. He posted the 5 Keys to Event Planning on his blog yesterday and thought you might benefit from the link. Here’s a couple of them, head there for the complete thought:

1. Know the purpose of the event
Why are you doing what you are doing? You need to figure this out early on. It may be an event that you’ve come up with yourself or one that you’re planning for another team member. If it’s the latter, ask! If it’s the former, check that there is a point and it isn’t simply something that you will find fun (though hopefully that will play at least a part). Write a mission statement, one sentence that sums up the event that can come back to to help you stay on track.
Even for a simple parent reception ask yourself what the intended outcome is…do you hope to meet parents yourself, present something to them, help them connect to each other, honor them as ministry partners or just take a moment to pray.
Never put an event on the calendar simply because it was there last year.

2. Know WHO the event is for
Parents, Students, Staff, Volunteers, Newcomers, well connected students, Christians, the whole youth group…
This is vital. If you plan a camp and invite non-Christians then your teaching must reflect that. If you want to run a discipleship retreat, figure out how to attract the specific demographic you’re after and tailor the retreat for them.

3. Work out a budget
Do this early on. Don’t fall into the mindset of “money doesn’t govern my ministry” because in many situations (like on the paper report you present to your senior pastor) it does!
Start with the big costs like Venue, Transportation and catering and then add in the next level of costs like a guest speaker etc.
Remember to ask questions when booking all of these, never assume anything – your budget will hate you for it. Check what you should tip a bus driver (I always ask to have the tip included in the contract), factor in room tax, check to see what A/V equipment is available and whether there is an extra charge. Don’t feel like you’re asking too many questions, remember, you are the client!


Matt and Doug always deliver god youth ministry content – their Youth Ministry Daily (free) email is loaded with great insight and challenges. This week they’ve been tackling church politics, and it is not to be missed. Couple things: 1) read this sample of their stuff (full article here) and 2) go subscribe – it’ll take 3 simple clicks and worth it.

Politics can be redefined as “one’s ability to gain support.” When you redefine politics in a positive light, it can become something that builds up the body rather than breaking it apart. The Church is a body, and each part needs one another. Work to gain the support of other people in your church for the ministry where God has called you.

Let people know what’s going on in your ministry. Communicate vision, events, and milestones worthy of notice and celebration. You don’t need to hire a public relations firm and blitzkrieg your church with all that’s happening within your youth ministry. But, you can work to keep your ministry in the minds (and hearts) of your church without overwhelming them. You can’t gain the support from people if they’re in the dark about the happenings of your ministry.

A wise leader knows how to pick his/her battles. If you’re always fighting, your ability to gather support will diminish. You can’t win every battle. If you think you can, you act like a bull in a china shop, instead of a human in a china shop (where there’s a lot less breakage).