///3 Things We Wish We Knew When We Started in Youth Ministry

3 Things We Wish We Knew When We Started in Youth Ministry

(Josh) I just crossed 20 years in youth ministry … so I suppose there’s now some grace for me to reminisce about way back when I started in youth ministry? I spent some time reflecting with a friend the other day about those early years in youth ministry, and he asked me what I would tell myself if I could go back in time and help a brother out.

Aside from not taking the bait of me going back and talking to myself – talk about creating some continuity problems and a rip in the time-space continuum … sheesh … I thought it would be fun to journal what I wish I knew. Justin did the same below. Here are 3 things I wish I knew when I started out:

Josh’s 3:

Youth ministry is a marathon not a sprint

Youthful over eagerness can be strength at times, but often it is viewed as a negative. Passion is a powerful force, but passionate burnout is real and many well-meaning people have sprinted their way right out of ministry. I know now what I didn’t know then – youth ministry is about being faithful for a lifetime, not being fruitful for the short-term. It is all about the lifelong journey.

A healthy youth ministry takes time

Turning a youth ministry around isn’t going to happen overnight. Building a youth ministry from scratch isn’t going to be done in a year. And just when you think you’ve got some things cooking, you’ll realize that something is horrifically broken.

Collaboration is the key to most everything

Want to be a better sermon writer? Collaborate with people in every stage of the process. Want to do great youth ministry events? Don’t feel the pressure to pull things off if it isn’t your gifting, surround yourself with great people who can help you win. Build a team. Love them. Love God. Love students.


Justin’s 3:

Hope over hype.

Any one can be hype. I think most young people think it’s the hype that students come for. They might at first but then they see through it. It’s tiring trying to be hyped all of the time. I was “that guy”. There is nothing wrong with it but don’t let it be what you think is the only thing getting kids to come. Hype goes away but hope is what lasts. Don’t compare to “that church”, but build something for your context that will offer the hope that only Jesus can bring to your students. Once they know Jesus and His hope, they stick.

Bath it in prayer.

I’m still a young dude. I’m ambitious and want things to get done in a big way. But I find myself thinking that my own thinking  and planning could sustain this whole thing. I don’t want to sound too over spiritual, but hey, I’m a pastor so I won’t apologize, but it’s ridiculous to dream about what could be doing in your ministry if you don’t pray to God about even if He wants you to go there. Why would we want to go where God is not? So being in prayer in the beginning stages of planning is KEY!

Get ready for the discouragement.

Like Josh said, it’s a marathon. You what is the worst thing about a marathon? It takes forever. You know how long they run? Geez! We are in an instant culture. We want to see results now. Very few things in ministry are instant so get ready to get discouraged. Downer I know. But in the beginning of ministry you tend to get discouraged more often because you are trained to get instant results. Ministry just doesn’t work that way. Thankfully we are reminded that God works in His timing and not ours and our job is to be faithful with the ministry he gave us.



By |2017-01-02T08:55:27+00:00January 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

About the Author:

Justin Knowles has been a pastor for the last 10 years and is the Student Ministries Pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He hosts Youth Ministry Hacks Podcast, loves to write about his ministry journey and teach at all sorts of camps or retreats. He and his wife Kristin have a son named Graham and a cat named CATalie Portman. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @justinknowles3


  1. Josh Hawks January 4, 2017 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    This Blog was very encouraging for me, thanks so much for sharing! I am a Family Life Pastor of a church of about 100 (300 if you ask the senior pastor) which means that I am everything Youth Ministry/Children’s Ministry and have been for about 10 months now. This is my first ministry position and boy has it had some ups and downs. I have been discouraged in more ways than I can even understand at times and have even been to the point of thinking “maybe ministry isn’t my thing”. But I have an awesome wife who helps me along encouraging me every step of the way….and I stumbled across this awesome website where I could see and hear some goofy youth pastors talk about their own experiences and answer some questions from other struggling Youth Pastors. I just want to say thanks for being encouraging. May God keep and bless all who are involved with DYM!

    • Justin Knowles January 5, 2017 at 7:37 am - Reply

      Hey Josh!
      That is so great that you found DYM (I’m assuming our Facebook Community page) and found encouragement through it. That is what we are all about! We love it! Also glad this post was encouraging to you. Discouragement comes in so many ways and can be a drag, but we know what we are called to do and if we know it comes, well there are ways to prep for it! Keep doing what you are doing!

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