Finishing Well: Wrapping Up Your Time In a Youth Ministry Position
By Christian Hesling, CYMT Alumni
Most all of us, at one time or another, will leave a church job. No matter the manner of our ending and no matter the feelings associated with the conclusion of our tenure, we ought to finish well in our position. Now, I would like to highlight that finishing well is a task that is less preoccupied with how we finish and is more preoccupied with how the next person starts (ironic, I know)! It’s all about setting up the ministry well for the difficult yet important task of leadership transition. In reality, finishing well is not for our own sake, nor is it merely for the sake of those who sign our checks; but rather, this is for the sake of our students who will remain in the ministry post-transition. Since our ministries are not (nor were they ever) ours, but rather God’s, it behooves us to finish our role well! With that, I want to (in non-exhaustive fashion) share some small ideas on how we can go about finishing in our roles with the enthusiasm and eagerness that we started with. I want to suggest some ideas on how we as youth ministers can finish well.
Champion Your Successor
One of the hardest parts about a departure is that the social landscape that has been well-established between the youth pastor and the ministry will change drastically. Some people respond to this change with animosity, some are discouraged, and some are fearful. In the wake of such a personal shift, we ought to appropriately champion our successors in our language, in our conversations, and in the
transition. With respect to the anticipated relational loss, we ought to speak well of the transition and of the individual who will follow in our steps. We ought to remind students that ministry is far bigger than the leader. To remind students that God remains sovereign, that God is still active, and that God is always doing good (despite how we might feel about the transition). To reduce the ethos of the ministry to the youth minister is to reduce youth ministry altogether. Rather, the ministry is God’s and God remains over the ministry. So, amidst the transition may we remind ourselves, our students, our parents, and our leaders of this bigger picture while we verbally, ideologically, and practically support the one who follows in our foot-steps.
In conjunction with that, I also remind our students and leaders that since the new youth minister is not me, they are wired and gifted in ways that I am not! Therefore, they will do things differently which is a good thing! Championing our successors includes championing how it is that God created them and how it is that they are different from us! This will not only prepare our students for a leader with different gifts, but it will also champion and value all that our new youth minister brings to the table.
Equip your Successor
If you’ve ever started in a ministry position before, you can probably recall being bombarded with a world of new processes, new faces, new names, new routines, new cultures, new responsibilities, new policies, new expectations, and perhaps new anxieties. This can be a wildly overwhelming experience for some and it can oftentimes detract from our ability to start well and to start strong! In our efforts to
finish well in our ministry settings, we should be preoccupied with helping our successor start well! With that, I contend that we should equip our successor with as much as possible so that they can start well.
The primary thing that I do to equip those following in my steps is I created a binder that contains anything and everything they might need to be familiar with as they start off in this new context. I then do my best to get the binder in their hands before they start in the ministry setting. Of course the binder will look different for any setting. The binder that I’ve compiled is composed of four sections that include the following.
- Section 1: Ministry & Program Overview. This section is intended to give my successor a macro and micro view of our ministry as it is. In it I share our mission statement and core values, a ministry job description, the contact information of everyone (staff, councils, volunteers, and parents), newsletter templates, program itinerary templates, and a pre-planned calendar for their first couple months in this new setting. Unless there is overlap between ministers or unless the minister was already a part of the church, they will have little idea of what the ministry setting looks like. Providing these details and resources can help them start to construct some idea of what takes place in this setting.
- Section 2: Forms. Because there are so many of them, I provide any and all forms that the youth minister may need. Included in this section are our church’s safe sanctuary policies and application, a drivers contract, our youth ministry’s health forms, incident reports, and our conduct covenant.
- Section 3: Budget and Finances. This third section (seldom a youth pastor’s favorite) provides a landscape view of the financial side of the youth ministry (so that maybe it can be the youth pastors favorite). Included is our current budget (actual and projected), our projected line items for revenue and expenses, a receipt submission example (since we have to submit those receipts), any forms associated with financial reimbursement or requests, and (everyone’s favorite) multiple copies of our tax-exemption form!
- Section 4: Miscellaneous. Youth ministry wouldn’t be youth ministry if there wasn’t a miscellaneous section for all the crazy things we find ourselves doing. This section covers anything and everything that wasn’t covered above. This includes things from how to set or disarm the church alarm, to making notes of what students have what sort of allergies in the youth ministry. I’ve also included a list of people who pre-committed to help the new youth minister move in. Lastly, and most importantly, I included a printed database of all of the students on our roll (including pictures, names, and contact information). This enables the incoming youth minister to study the names and faces of students prior to arriving which will help set the foundation for relationships to be established.
In addition to this binder, I put most of these documents on a USB so that the new youth pastor can access them in a different format. I also created a tentative program plan (with curriculum) for the next two months in the youth ministry. The youth pastor can decide to go along with it, to modify it, or to change it all together.