With this in mind, I decided it was time for someone to consider youth pastors who work at small churches or are serving in a bi-vocational or volunteer role. The context you work in is unique, and you face challenges full-time youth pastors will never face. So I thought I would use this post to share with you my story. Currently, I’ve been serving as a full-time student minister for 3 years, but before that, I spent 2 1/2 years serving as a bi-vocational minister. The church I served at only averaged 100 people, and more than half the congregation was over 65 years old. My youth group only had 7 students, on a good day. And, as you can imagine, it was your typical, traditional, small Baptist church with all the committees and “we’ve always done it this way” attitude.
Serving at my little church wasn’t easy. It was my first youth ministry job, so I was full of excitement and possibilities. However, my excitement ended quickly when I realized what I actually got myself into. The church wasn’t growing, nor did it want to grow, and my thoughts on ministry varied greatly from the pastor. In other words, we did not get along. My last year was spent having my pastor nit-pick everything I did. My youth committee chair tried to start her own youth ministry, and it all hit the wall when she told me to “shove it” during a meeting because she didn’t think money that was raised for camp should be used for students who weren’t members of our church. This truly was the dreaded first church that would cause anyone to walk away from ministry.
As I reflect on my first ministry experience, I know there were things I could have done better, but even then, I know the outcome would of been the same. The one thing I wish I had more than anything during that time, was someone who could mentor me and a group of youth pastors I could network with. Since I didn’t have either I felt alone, abandoned, and I was spiritually drained by the time I left the church. Now, things are different. I’ve grown tremendously since then, and I’m serving at a church that I love more than anything. On top of that, my pastor is amazing and he’ll be the standard I will measure all other pastors I will serve under one day.
I write all of this to say: if you work in a small church, or serve in a bi-vocational or volunteer role, you are my hero. I know how you feel and what you’re going through, because I’ve been there before. I understand working at a small church can be soul-draining, but at the same time, you have the ability to minister to students in ways guys working in larger churches could never do. Your church context allows you to disciple students in a personal way and, because of it, you are a hero to the students and parents you serve. You are the unsung heroes of student ministry and I thank you for your continual service to teenagers. My next seven post will focus on you specifically, so here’s a sneak peak at future posts in the series “Part-Time Youth Pastor, Full-Time Hero:”
“The Benefits of Working At A Small Church.”
“The Dirty Truth No One Will Tell You.”
“How To Stay Spiritually Healthy When There’s No Food To Be Found”
“How You Advance The Kingdom, When Your Youth Group Only Has 5 Students.”
“The Small Group You Never Knew You Had.”
“How You Know Its Time To Leave.”
Finally, if you are a full-time youth pastor, you have a responsibility to do everything you can to help out those who are serving in bi-vocational or volunteer positions. You have resources and connections they need so they will be better equipped to serve the students God has given to them. This week, think about what resources you can offer to help out those who work in a small church. Find out who works as a part-time or volunteer youth pastor in your area and take them out to eat, just to encourage them. I’m sure they can use it. And if you work at a small church as a bi-vocational or volunteer youth pastor, please leave a comment on how we can better serve you and encourage you in your ministry.
Latest posts by Josh Fuentes (see all)
- 6 Ways to Have a Great Vacation – May 9, 2013
- Summertime Blues – May 2, 2013
- Part-Time Youth Pastor, Full-Time Hero: How To Stay Spiritually Healthy When There’s No Food Around – April 4, 2013