by Samantha T.
I will never forget the day my first youth pastor announced he was leaving. There were tears, prayer circles, worries, fears, and heartbreak throughout the church. I already made up my mind that whoever replaced him with would never be as cool. When the new guy arrived, I had already decided he was the biggest dork ever, and I didn’t want a relationship with him. Now I laugh at that thought because twelve years later, as I flip through my wedding album, that dork of a youth minister is pictured standing before my husband and I carrying out the ceremony. That dorky guy who took my old youth pastor’s spot soon became my hero, my mentor, my friend, and the reason why I am a youth pastor today.
I wish all transitions worked out that well. During my first two years as a youth pastor, I was completely blessed by having a very intentional pastor to guide and mentor me. She gave me advice but rarely came down with a “must-do list.” She was not just my mentor and boss, but she was my pastor. Her love for my family went above and beyond pastoral duties. She was a true minister of God’s love reflecting Christ in her thoughtfulness. Once again, after building a close relationship with a pastor, she was assigned to a different church. This time, I tried to be more mature by not making negative presumptions about the replacement pastor. Perhaps the new pastor would be an even bigger blessing in my life and for this church. I knew I needed to give him a chance, especially after how much God taught me from my previous youth pastor transition.
The first time I met the new pastor, I greeted him with an open mind. I tried to trust that God had a plan. And then he walked into the youth room completely wide-eyed with fear. I tried to be polite making every effort to make him feel comfortable. He obviously was completely out of his comfort zone at our church and especially in the youth area. I was looking forward to building a relationship with him, but that never came as natural as it did with the last pastor. As a matter of fact, just talking to him would prove to be a challenge for the next few years. Within just five minutes of meeting him, I decided the Bishop’s goal in selecting a new pastor for this church was to find someone with the polar opposite personality of our previous pastor.
The next few years in my youth ministry career were the biggest challenge yet. I have never really connected with my new pastor on a personal or professional level. Every relationship takes the effort of both sides and I can honestly say that I have failed majorly in helping establish a better relationship with my new pastor. If I could go back, I would tell myself not to have any expectations. I would encourage myself to focus on ministering to the pastor and not expect to be ministered to by the pastor. Perhaps this would have saved years of frustration, or maybe this wouldn’t have changed anything. However, since I can’t go back, I hope to make good on my shortcomings by encouraging others experiencing a pastoral transition.
Here are a few suggestions for a smooth transition:
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.