5 Qualities to Look for in Youth Pastors
You’re looking for the wrong qualities in your youth pastor.
I’ve been through the hiring and interview process a few times, have helped churches design job descriptions, and I’ve walked with other youth pastors as they’ve gone through the job hunt. Through all of this a few trends have emerged, but one stands out clearly - churches don’t have a grasp on the type of person their youth pastor needs to be. They get caught up looking for someone who checks off the boxes in the usually unrealistic job description and who seems to have that classic youth pastor look and feel (which is entirely subjective and typically based on the past experience - good or bad - of the people conducting the search). Because of this, churches often either hire the wrong person or miss out on great candidates that didn’t happen to meet their criteria.
So, let me submit 5 qualities to look for in your next youth pastor.
Horses over Cattle.
What does it take to get a horse to run? Not a whole lot. It’s in their nature. In fact, if you’re riding a horse you’ll hold on to reins to slow the horse down or change it’s direction. But, what does it take to get cattle to move? A prod - an electric stick that shocks the cow to get them to move. Sure, cows are easier to control; but you’re much better off hiring a horse that you have to rein in from time to time than a cow that you’re constantly prodding just to get them moving.
Character over Charisma
Charisma is, by definition, attractive. People are drawn to charismatic leaders. Churches will often look for a charismatic leaders that people will be drawn to. Charisma isn’t a bad thing to have in a youth pastor, but it shouldn’t be a priority. What you need in a youth pastor is someone who will draw students to Jesus, not to themselves. Hire character. Look for a person who is deeply respected by those that know them and that is deeply in love with Jesus. This person will lead students to Jesus. If they happen to have charisma too, bonus!
Potential over Pedigree
It seems every church is looking for someone with a master’s degree and 5-10 years experience - They want someone with a good pedigree, and for good reason; experience is extremely valuable. But, don’t limit your search based on how many years someone has been working. Look for potential. Look for someone who wants to prove they can do the job and is willing to work their butt off to do it. That person could be someone who has the education and the experience, but it could also be someone who’s still looking for their first shot.
Relational over Relevant
Relevance is likely the most overrated quality churches look for in youth pastors. The idea that typically lies behind it is a good one - hire someone who the teens can relate to. Yes, do that. But, that doesn’t mean a youth pastor needs to dress like, talk like, or act like a teenager. What a Youth Pastor needs to be is relational. Find someone who cares deeply about teens and legitimately enjoys spending time with them, and that person will become relevant to your teens because he cares about them.
Curator over Custodian
A custodian’s task is important, but limited. They are hired to care for a space, to keep it clean, tidy, and in good working order. However, a curator is a specialist in their area and are hired, typically by museums and art galleries, to design exhibitions. Curators determine what pieces are important and how they should be displayed. Many churches are looking to hire custodians for their youth ministry. They want someone to make sure the program runs well and to keep the kids out of trouble. Aim higher for your church, hire a curator. Hire someone who will specialize in youth ministry and youth culture. Then trust and empower them to create a program that meets the unique needs of your church and community.