I just started my 15th year of student ministry. For the last 13, I have been ministering to kids who had parents older than I was. I’m just now starting to minister to students whose parents are the same age as I am. My own daughter has been in the youth group for two years.

I started really young at 22. And in the last 15 years, there are definitely some things I would have done differently if given the chance!

Here are three things I would tell myself as a newer youth worker.

1. Seek out a spiritual mentor.

I went from a Bible college where I got a degree in youth ministry, straight into seminary. I had read a lot of books and was around a lot of smart people. And because of that, I thought that I had my spiritual walk taken care of.

I wish I had sought out an older mentor in the early stage of my ministry. I might’ve been reading a lot of books, but I would have greatly benefited from having someone who had lived a lot of life and faithfully followed Jesus during it.

I have two or three people now who are further down the road than I am and are speaking into my life. I am a better person and pastor because of it. If I had started this process sooner, I know I would’ve greatly benefited.

Try to find someone older than you to be a mentor. And not just 10 years older. Maybe 20 or 30 years older. Someone who is a few life stages ahead of you and can speak to the issues you’re dealing with. Don’t try to make it forever or even a weekly thing. Ask if they’d be willing to meet once a month for three months and then see where it goes from there!

2. Don’t do ministry alone.

The first place I served as a student pastor was in a small church in a small county in Tennessee. In the entire county, there was only one other full-time Youth Pastor. We got along well, but they moved away after too short a time.

It was tough to meet with other youth pastors in the area. Many of them were either bi-vocational or volunteers and were super busy. I was the one with all the time to try to meet people. And I used that as an excuse. I wish I would have found another pastor in the area to meet with regularly and talk church and life with.

Even if it means you must put some miles on your car, don’t do ministry alone! Find other pastors who get it. Talk to other people from other churches to understand the quirks and oddities of pastoring.

The people in your church are fantastic. Definitely have a team of volunteers and leaders who can serve alongside you.

But also seek out other pastors in your area, even if they are in roles different than yours. Encourage one another. Lift one another up. Do some events together! Whatever it takes, don’t do ministry alone.

3. You’re replaceable at church

You hate to think that it’s true, but after I spent six years at my church in Tennessee, my replacement was ready to go the next week. Granted, he was an intern who had served with me for the last three years, but still.

If you suddenly cannot do the job, your church will find someone to do it. It might be weird for a season. It might even be sad for some. But you can be replaced at church.

There are some places where you can’t be replaced. Within your family, it’s a whole lot harder to hire a replacement.

Your church is going to ask a lot of you. It’s going to say that you’re doing higher work for a greater purpose. Don’t lose sight of the fact that being present with your spouse or your kids is also admirable. Say no to things if you have to.

In fact, say no to things because you have to.

Your church can find another Youth Pastor.

Your family can’t find another you.


Those are just three. To be completely honest, there are a TON more I can think of. What’s something you would tell your younger self just starting out in ministry? Have you learned some hard lessons along the way? I’d love to hear about them in the commons!

I still have a lot to learn in this next season. I will never learn it all! Grateful to be on the journey with you.


Hey! Need some encouragement as you’re starting out in your first few years of ministry? Check out the DYM First Few Years Conference below OR grab some of these LIFE saving resources to help you along your youth ministry journey!