The changing possibilities for the profession of youth ministry
“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” (1)
Could it be that the purveyors of youth ministry education are becoming more and more proficient at preparing youth ministers for a profession that may not exist in 20 or 30 years?
It is not beyond the realm of possibility that an increasing number of churches may find themselves unable to afford what has become a “normal” full-time youth pastor, leaving churches and youth pastors scrambling for alternative ways of providing Christian nurture for teenagers. To that end, we offer a modest proposal for those responsible for training the next generation of youth workers: Taking a page from pastors in the two-thirds of the world who are educated not simply in traditional, theological disciplines but in sustainable farming as well, those being trained for the profession of youth ministry can be trained in at least one income-producing discipline as well. What would happen if we invited the youth pastor of the future to “love two things,” both ministry and another vocation? In addition, a broad introduction to entrepreneurship could be a required part of the preparation for ministry as well.
We might question whether such an arrangement might dilute the impact of a youth ministry professional. But it is just as likely that a “part-time” youth pastor might more easily be freed from the illusion that his or her primary vocation is to take responsibility for building personal, nurturing relationships with every youth in his or her ministry.
Having bi-vocational youth ministers could produce the following results:
The youth pastor of the future will need to be nimble and fleet of foot, knowing that the requirements of his or her position are likely to morph significantly each year. As churches embrace the findings of the National Study of Youth and Religion, they may become more uncomfortable with the sharp age-segmentation of ministries from child to youth to young adult. In these churches, the traditional role of the youth pastor may be tweaked or phased out in preference to ministry entrepreneurs, able to respond creatively to the predictably unexpected changes within the church, within the surrounding culture, and within adolescents themselves.
Train and Educate:
(1) Hoffer, Eric, Reflections on the Human Condition (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 22.
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