by Deech Kirk
Is a “professional youth minister” simply someone who gets paid to do youth ministry? Someone could pay you to treat an illness, but that would not make you a doctor, nor would winning a friendly bet on the golf course make you Tiger Woods. So how do you become a “pro” youth minister? Here are four requirements for becoming a professional youth minister:
The call to youth ministry is a distinctive call. Without a call upon your life, your time in professional youth ministry will be limited. Youth ministry is not a stepping-stone or practice ground, for “real” ministry. Youth ministry is hard and vitally important work. Thank God for those who have been doing it for 25+ years, but without a distinct call they would never have made it and neither will you.
One way youth ministry has claimed the title of professional vocation is by developing youth ministry majors and degrees. Since the 1990s, the educational and training opportunities for a youth director have grown exponentially. Today, CYMT has two sta members who have Ph.D.’s focused in Youth Ministry.
Professional youth ministers seek out knowledge through formal education and on their own so that they can best serve the young people in their ministry. From adolescent development and psychology to pastoral care to how to communicate the Gospel to teenagers, educating yourself enhances your ability to minister. Professional youth ministers take seriously their role in developing the spiritual lives of teenagers and in making disciples for Christ, but most of them have no theological training to help them do it. Youth ministers must develop deep theological and biblical knowledge – after all, you can only teach what you know yourself.
Experience is one of the professional standards used by churches. Churches want to know if you have done it so that they can trust that you can do it again. Experience outweighs education and training – just because you know about it doesn’t mean that you can do it. Professional youth ministers are not folks who are only great camp counselors. They are not folks who can only give a great talk or lead a good lesson. They may be able to do all those things, but a professional youth minister has learned how to manage the responsibilities of leading a ministry. They organize, communicate, vision, train, and equip.
Something true of all great professionals is that they have a great mentor. Someone who has taught them the ropes and continues to be there for them as they grow. Every professional youth minister is being mentored and is mentoring others along their journey.
Unfortunately, anyone with a willingness and a pulse can get a job doing youth ministry. But a professional youth minister is someone who is called, has learned (education), and has practiced (experience) youth ministry until their ability to mentor others in youth ministry is natural.
At the Center for Youth Ministry Training, those who have been called by God can receive a theological education, practical experience, youth ministry coaching, and the support you need to become a professional youth minister.