This year my friend Jonathan McKee has become a regular guest blogger on this site and I’m so grateful. I’m away on vacation this week and I asked him to do a 4-part series on what he looks for when hiring a youth pastor! It’s very solid! Jonathan is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.
In the last week alone I’ve had two churches ask me if I knew any good prospects for a youth pastor position. I’ve had another five ask me in the last month or two. Each of these conversations always led to the question: “Jonathan, what would you look for in a youth pastor?”
That’s a great question, and you’ll find a variety of scales and measures people use in their quest for someone to lead young people. Some are generic guidelines for ministry. For example, Bill Hybels “4 C’s” (Character, Competence, Chemistry, Culture) prove effective for many people, with an emphasis on ‘character,’ a quality that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
But I find that the search for a youth minister has several qualities unique to the position, something I might not search for in every ministry position. So my list, in total, is unique to a youth pastor.
Let me start with a “given.” This won’t even count as part of my seven; it’s the foundation, which the other seven rest.
GIVEN: The person demonstrates a strong walk with God through a growing personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Our website provides a free sample interview guide on our “Logistical Crud” page. In this guide, one of the first criteria we address is their walk with God. In your interview with a potential youth pastor, I suggest you ask:
1. Tell us about your relationship with Christ and how it’s grown recently?
2. What are some areas you need to work on in your relationship with Christ? What are you doing daily/weekly to work on these areas?
Again, if the person can’t answer these questions… the interview is over.
Once you determine this person has a genuine faith, I always look for 7 Essential Youth Pastor Qualities that are shaped by that faith:
Watch out for the youth pastor that always says, “I got this,” or “I got that covered.” That’s a red flag, a siren wailing that this person doesn’t want any help and thinks that he can do it by himself.
You want a youth pastor who is teachable. In my dad’s leadership workshops, he describes this as the delicate balance of self-confidence and humility (a tough balance). This person is a learner and isn’t intimidated by having to be teachable. The result is a youth pastor who is confident in their abilities, but completely aware where he got those abilities, giving God credit. My friend Mark Oestricher described this to me as “humility combined with conviction.”
This person will be a sponge, trying to learn from every situation. They want to be mentored and learn at every opportunity. They are self-assured, but welcome and truly consider suggestions.
The humble person also strives to understand his or her own strengths and weaknesses. As they grow, they’ll learn to focus on their gifts and allow others to step in where needed. Self-awareness goes hand in hand with humility. I’ve heard Doug Fields say, “You never lose with humility.” Yep, but pride kills.
Watch out for these red flags evident in the life of the “unteachable” youth pastor:
•Has trouble delegating and empowering. Wants to do everything himself.
•Is quick to dismiss certain methodologies that are contrary to what he has done.
•He won’t let a lot of others speak or be up front. Always in the center of any programs or videos.
•Doesn’t always recruit a lot of volunteers because he wants more control.
•When a supervisor asks him about certain methodologies, he’s quick to claim, “I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work.”
•Sometimes this person doesn’t use any resources from others, but insists on writing and creating their own. (Writing your own curriculum is not a bad thing. But some leaders are compulsive about this and don’t want to use anything else but their own. This person often wastes valuable time re-inventing the wheel.)
Jesus not only taught humility (Matt 23:12, Luke 1:52), he modeled it in his own leadership (John 13). A humble spirit overlaps almost every other category I’m looking for in a leader.
Six more to go! Read the other three posts:
DAY 2- Two More Qualities
DAY 3- The Next Two
DAY 4- The Final Two
Question: What about you?
What do you think we need to look for in a youth pastor?
If you’re a youth pastor, how do you balance conviction with humility?
When is it most difficult to be humble? Share your thoughts here.