I guarantee you that any youth pastor who’s been doing this thing for more than a single year has been asked this question…
“What do you…like…do?”
It’ll usually be asked rather innocently out of sheer lack of knowledge of what else a youth pastor could possibly do once that half hour of sermon preparation time is done with. (I’m joking here, by the way.) Other times it can come from a student, parent, or even leader in the church who is convinced that their youth pastor is a glorified, paid, Call of Duty expert, at best.
However, there’s so much more to youth ministry than meets the eye. And what I present to you here below is probably just scratching the surface of it. But I wanted to take an opportunity to answer this important question of what a youth pastor actually does.
You see, in any given week a youth pastor doing their job will really be doing a plethora of different jobs. Here are some of the most common in no specific order:
Grief counselor: Without warning tragedy can hit and a youth pastor’s phone is one of the first to get hit up.
Guidance counselor: Whether it’s making it through middle school, high school, or planning for what’s after graduation, it’s not the school counselors alone that carry this job!
Janitor: You didn’t think that lock-in or weekly youth service cleaned up after itself, did you??
Head of advertising: In order to get the word out about the youth ministry and all its events someone has to let the world know…and to make sure it actually looks appealing!
Social media director: It’s definitely connected with the job above, but here we’re talking about building online community that keeps teens connected through the week.
Small group leader: Chances are high that a youth pastor is also the leader of a small group and carrying the responsibilities of leading and loving those 5-12 students well.
Financial manager: Offerings, fundraising funds, retreat deposits, camp money, student scholarships and the list of times where a youth pastor is supposed to manage money with absolute integrity and perfection goes on.
Fundraising coordinator: In order to have finances to manage, many youth pastors are responsible for coming up with creative ways of raising money to fund their youth ministry. This, in and of itself, could be a full-time job at times!
Worship leader: Now, I realize many youth pastors don’t lead the songs in their worship services (and yet there are many who do!), but they’re still responsible for organizing and creatively structuring that worship service. Good youth pastors don’t let that happen by accident.
Professional speaker: This one gets taken for granted quite often! But imagine the time and effort it takes to communicate weekly (most likely) to the same people with different content and make sure that you’re creative and compelling enough that they actually want to keep coming back.
Guest services manager: When it comes to greeting new people, involving them in the group as a whole, and following up with them in the days after they first visit, you can expect that the youth pastor finds this as one of his/her greatest responsibilities.
Stage designer: Whether it’s for a creative series or a special night or event, the youth pastor is often found with a hammer in one hand and a busted thumb in the other hand creating a visual “spider web” that immediately catches students’ attention.
Office worker: There is a LOT of paperwork at times in youth ministry as well as a lot of emails to respond to. It’s pretty rare for a youth pastor to have someone they can pass all that tedious work off to.
Public pollster: Youth pastors regularly find themselves asking students what topics they want to hear about or consulting them on what’s going well in their youth ministry and what they need to improve. And then there’s the wild expectation people have that they’ll then do something with that information.
Group analyst: As a spiritual leader, a youth pastor is prayerfully watching their youth ministry to spot the trends – both good and bad – that will help them to know what they need to do, stop doing, or do differently based on where things are at right…now!
Relationship counselor: So it’s not marriage counseling (which is much more likely to be paid work) but sometimes we’re dealing with a lot more people who are sleeping together than they are! I’m mostly joking!!! But seriously, romantic relationships can consume teens lives and it is often up to the youth pastor to counsel wisely on how to handle them well.
Operations manager: For all the different leaders to work together on all the different parts of all the different youth events, you need someone who can organize all the moving parts to get them to move towards the goal.
Leadership consultant: Youth leaders are the youth pastor’s secret weapon. However, they still need guidance, encouragement, and training on how to lead at times from their head leader.
Mail clerk: You know all those youth newsletters or postcards for the upcoming event that were sent out? You can bet money that some movie or TV show was being watched as the youth pastor mindlessly spent hours putting labels and postage onto each of them.
Event planner: Great youth ministries often have some pretty great events that they pull off. All the calls and connections it takes to arrange for every little detail come from time a youth pastor spends planning and organizing.
Head hunter: Youth pastors are almost always looking for new, passionate and gifted leaders to join their team of youth workers.
Market analyst: It may sound a bit unspiritual to call youth pastors that, but we’re constantly looking to understand students who aren’t a part of our youth ministry but that we’d like to be in our youth ministry so we can figure out how to change that.
Biblical scholar: Teens have a plethora of tough theological questions that they’re wanting solid answers to, and the problem is that this is a job that’s required almost always without any warning or a study guide.
Family counselor: A good youth pastor isn’t working to replace family when they can work with family. However, this too takes time!
Disc Jockey: Ever good youth ministry needs good music, and whether it’s their iPod or someone else’s a youth pastor is still responsible for making sure the music has catchy quality as well as appropriate content.
Call center agent: “Thanks so much for coming to our small groups this week. We really look forward to seeing you again!” It’s better than being a telemarketer, but not always easier!
Therapist: It takes serious skill and time to help teens sort through the craziness of all their emotions and the situations life has thrown at them. And usually there’s no comfy couch, just an awkward fast food booth.
Safety manager: This could range from making sure no one gets hurt doing the sumo wrestling to ensuring that background checks and other precautions are taken to ensure that only safe youth workers are allowed to lead.
Community Service Director: Most good youth ministries are out there making a difference in their community, but this takes some real coordinating and organizing to team up with already in-place community service organizations.
Electronic System Technician: This can be as simple as setting up a new printer and as complicated as setting up a new soundboard and sound system in the youth room or helping to run wiring for a new projector system.
Chauffeur: As exhausted as the youth pastor may be at the end of an event, chances are someone’s kids need a ride home.
And the list could go on and on and on… Really.
I’ve made this list not to brag over or even complain about what I do as a youth pastor, but rather so that other youth pastors know that someone out there appreciates all those jobs you do. You’re not alone. Thank you for doing the unseen, for loving the unloved, and for caring for the next generation in one of their most vulnerable and impressionable times of life!