5 Questions for Youth Pastors

A buddy of mine posted a link to this article (which makes some interesting points.)

The questions he poses are:

  1. Why am I doing this? (about the ministry itself)
  2. Why am I doing this? (about the specific event)
  3. Can I do this without Jesus? (the description of this question is bizarre) 
  4. Who is my provider? (this is about not seeing the church as your employer…I get it but if the church is your employer then you still have to navigate that relationship like Paul talks about in Colossians 3:22-4:1)
  5. Who is my first love? 


I want to propose my own five questions:

  1. Have I kept up with my Greek?
    Your job is not just to vaguely make disciples of Jesus or to love people. Every Christian is called to love people. Your job, ostensibly, is to be the steward of the Gospel and the Scriptures which contain it. Paul talks about this in Ephesians 4:12-24, anybody given to the church as a pastor is to help people come to knowledge of the Son of God. Knowledge of Jesus comes from Scripture, especially the New Testament. (The same could be said of your Hebrew, but the early church often used the LXX).
  2. Do my students know what Jesus says to do? 
    Seriously, have you taught them how to learn about Jesus from the gospels? Jesus says that an invincible life can be forged from obedience to his teachings (see all four gospels on this point). 
  3. Have I spoken to the parents in my church about Ephesians 6:4?
    ἐκτρέφετε αὐτὰ ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ κυρίου. (Eph 6:4) Or “[Fathers], noursish them in the training and the instruction of the Lord.” Parents are responsible for traditioning the gospel to their children in ways that a youth pastor can only facilitate.
  4. Do I encourage my students to be excellent students and to pursue useful careers?
    A big complaint among youth ministers is the business of their students. Frankly, youth ministers should encourage their students to be disciples in all of their endeavors rather than inventing more and more ways to take their time. There is also the phenomena of youth ministers taking students who happen to love the Lord genuinely and immediately trying to encourage them into Bible college despite where the student’s actual talents are. Remember Ephesians again “Ὁ κλέπτων μηκέτι κλεπτέτω· μᾶλλον δὲ κοπιάτω, ἐργαζόμενος τὸ ἀγαθὸν ταῖς χερσίν, ἵνα ἔχῃ μεταδιδόναι τῷ χρείαν ἔχοντι. (Eph 4:28)” or rather “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather get a job, working hard with his hands, so that he might give to those in need.” Part of converting to Christ means learning skills to give material possessions to the needy. In my youth ministry experience as a kid and in almost every youth ministry book I’ve read the goal is to take people who are interested in the Lord and try to get them to be volunteers, future youth ministers, etc. The better goal is for them to use their competence in the direction God has called them (usually determined by their skills not simply their love of the Lord). 
  5. Do I encourage my students to pray for the mission of the church in the world?
    The mission of the church in the world is the whole reason you’re a youth pastor. Somebody told you the gospel. Does your youth ministry reflect the whole purpose of the church (the glorification of God in the world by means of discipleship under Jesus Christ)? 

    Bonus Question: Am I so immersed in youth-group culture that I cannot have a conversation with an adult?
    This is a weird place to be. Don’t be that guy/gal who simply helps a bunch of young people be immature at restaurants into their twenties. 

4 thoughts on “5 Questions for Youth Pastors

  1. Are you implying with question number one that only people who read greek and hebrew are qualified to be leaders in the church? I am not sure that is the best way to determine a Christian leader . . . Ok, now that I think about it I am sure that it is not.

  2. Will,
    With question 1 I am indeed implying that somebody on the church payroll (at least in places where such education is available) should know those things at a serviceable level. Would you trust a doctor who didn’t know human anatomy or a chemist who was unfamiliar with the periodic table?

    It is not the best way to determine a Christian leader, but the vast majority of youth ministers I’ve known are up on movies, up on mega-church pastor sermons, and light on Scripture in what they do.

    Christians are required to be leaders without a full knowledge of the Scripture all the time, but if you’re capable of availing yourself of more of that knowledge, but squander it on over-eating, cool hair styles, and making sure the budget covers fun activities I wouldn’t want you as my youth pastor. (the “you” is rhetorical, I know you’re not like that)

    In your case, you have medical expertise and because you have real world job experience that qualifies you in many ways to be a leader in the church. But I bet you’d feel uncomfortable explaining a hard passage of Scripture definitely just like I’d be uncomfortable explaining treatment options for M.S.

  3. I appreciate your response, and after I reread it once I felt I had a better understanding of what you were communicating and the attitude behind it. I also recognize that you are talking to a specific group “youth leaders” and I agree that they need to be serious about what they are doing in regards to the responsibility they have been given. Yes it is great to have a safe, fun place for some youth who are maybe a bit on the “outside” of cool to come and be loved. But if it occurs in the absence of true Christian discipleship and instruction in the Bible and life, it won’t have any substance once they leave the safety of the youth group nest. I appreciate your parenthetical statement because I am in full agreement that Christian leaders should love the Bible as the revealed word of the God for whom their love and admiration is truly directed. So if it is available to them to learn the original languages, they should go for it. I wish I had time to learn them . . . So a bit on a different topic, I am bothered a bit by the idea that you have to know the original language of the Bible to be a Christian leader, even a paid one. I cannot completely sort out my thoughts on this, but I don’t believe that it compares directly very well with the hard sciences like chemistry of physics. Faith and christian leadership is so much more well rounded than the hard knowledges of science. So while it does include knowledge, there is also relationship, wisdom, art, emotion, and living. I guess it comes down to the idea that there are persons involved in faith and Christian leadership, and we know that scientists basically cannot deal with people :). So you did not mention the work of the Holy Spirit in your questions . . . the fruits of the Spirit as manifested in the leadership, etc. It might be the work of the Holy Spirit in a persons life that I think is the most important. I am still sorting these thoughts out, but you have my mind going. Maybe in the end I will come back to full agreement with your original five questions. Getting back to the issue of Greek . . . I am concerned about the elevation of the original languages to a qualification of leadership. This basically disempowers anyone who does not have this “secret” knowledge of what the text “actually” says from commenting on the Bible. (I know this is not what you said, but it is what it often feels like when this is discussed). I have been in so many Bible classes where one person in the class knows Greek and they will pull out some point from the original language – as if their translation is better than the scores of people who collaborated on whatever is printed in English in whatever translation we have in front of us (I will concede that not all translations have had so many translators) – and it basically silences the class. No one can comment because who are we mere English speakers to say otherwise. Why even print it in any language other than the original Greek or Latin or Aramaic or whatever. Only those who can read it in those languages actually know what it “actually” says anyways. While I usually appreciate their words of knowledge, and I like hearing nuances of the text, I often do not appreciate the certainty that comes with their declaration. Please note that all the above is typed with a spirit of discussion and discover, not angry argument (typed words often sound angry without the nuance of inflection. I am trusting you with the discussion). . . . I leave you with a final question. Where do you put the work of the Holy Spirit in Christian leadership? The work of the Spirit was left out of all ten of your questions above.

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