General Ministry
Josh Griffin

I was talking to a very frustrated youth worker yesterday and he was lamenting over his so far fruitless job search. Here’s a clip of what he was saying:

I need some encouragement and advice. I have applied to many places, but no matter where I send a resume the response is almost always the same, or very similar. I don’t have enough “experience.” The problem is all I can get are internships and it seems no one values that as authentic experience. I just haven’t had someone be willing to take a chance on me, and I’m at a point in life where I either need to give up on being a youth pastor, or someone has to take the risk. I just am having trouble knowing what to do, or how to take it all in.

This is a tough situation to find yourself in – you need experience, but need someone to give you a job so you can get experience! Feels like the ultimate circular reasoning with a great youth worker caught in the middle. As I was processing this cycle this week, I wanted to unpack a few of the things that might be happening in this situation. Here’s a few ideas:

The church genuinely needs someone with more experience
There’s a chance that the church just got burned by an inexperienced rookie. Maybe they have had a string of short-timers who came in with lots of great ideas and little stamina for the long haul. They want someone they can trust, and you don’t appear to be it. Maybe this isn’t a risk-taking church and genuinely wants someone who is proven previously and chances are will deliver again here.

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You failed to sell what experience you do have
In some cases it isn’t your actual experience, but how you pitched your experiences to them. It is possible you actually have the experience in the areas they are looking for but it wasn’t represented well on your resume or in the interview. Reflect on what they might have seen or not seen and how you can better align your resume’s details to what a church is looking for.

They sensed you weren’t a learner
This one is a tough pill to swallow and almost never will they say this to your face – but maybe they caught something you said that told them you weren’t someone who was willing to adapt, learn and grow with their leadership. You wouldn’t have gotten the interview if they weren’t somewhat interested, but something didn’t click after that. Argh.

It is an excuse for something else
Maybe you simply weren’t a fit. Maybe the “not enough experience” line was actually an excuse. Maybe they didn’t think you would gel with their players, or you weren’t what they were expecting from paper to in person.

Here’s the key: whatever the reason, this isn’t the church for you! It is OK to learn what you can from the situation and simply move on. It can be frustrating to be caught in this vicious circle, but God is guiding your next steps and has the perfect place for you, just keep being faithful as He opens and closes doors.

What other options are there in this situation? Would love to know your thoughts in the comments!


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  • Grant says:

    Having just spent the last 8 months in a search process for a student pastor, we ran into your first three reasons time and time again.

    I would add one more possibility. Have you stayed at one place long enough (3+ years) to at least have a grasp of long term, realational ministry?

    We saw many candidates that moved from place to place, staying only long enough to enjoy a honeymoon period. Never long enough to be challenged or changed.

    Great insight on this one.

  • Bekah says:

    This kind of fits into the first one, but I have seen a lot of people desire to be in a mid-large church setting. Typically those church sizes need someone who has some experience because they are dealing with multiple staff, larger numbers of volunteers/students, larger budgets, etc. It may be necessary to start somewhere smaller. It may not be what someone wants, but taking on a smaller church and gaining experience and showing that you can handle that, will lead to more opportunities.

  • Joey Richard says:

    Thanks for posting this! I am graduating from college in May and am currently looking for my fist job in youth ministry. I have heard the experience line from many churches I’ve applied to so far. It can definitely be discouraging to get emails back from churches saying they are looking for someone with more experience but in the end it’s just an opportunity to learn about the search process and continue moving forward.

  • Kraig Bishop says:

    I spent two years fresh out of college in a church that was looking for just that, someone fresh out of college. When it become clear that it was time to move on, even so soon, I assumed that wasn’t enough experience to have potential employers see it as “experience.” The truth is, experience is only a piece of what search committees and churches are looking for, and if you’re the right person for the job, it probably won’t be a dealbreaker for them. God guided me to the right place for me and he’ll do the same for everyone else.

  • Andy says:

    I feel this youth workers pain! Up until March I had been searching for a position for roughly a year and a half. God taught me so much during that time.
    Do you really feel like God wants you in ministry? I knew that He did for me; even though I had my doubts at times after those countless rejections of “we are looking for someone with a bit more experience.” Those times would be the hardest, but then God would remind of those times many times of affirmation towards ministry. It was almost like God saying to me, “keep on going, I have something for you!” So getting back to if you feel like God wants you in ministry, keep on going! Or as Churchhill said “Never never never give up!” Take this time as a blessing from God, I know this sounds crazy; but He will use it to help you through those hard times of ministry, to affirm that this is EXACTLY where you are supposed to be. Keep on going!
    You may feel like you are at the end of your rope, and it seems crazy to keep looking, but that is what faith is all about.

  • Luke says:

    Amen! My wife and I were living in our car for months as I searched for a job in youth ministry. After 40+ interviews around the country, it felt like it was never going to happen. I scored a job at a church plant looking for the first youth pastor and willing to take a chance on a recent grad. I’ve been at that church for 7 years now and the ministry is going amazing! It’s worth the wait.

    We just started a program with people like this in mind. We are calling it an internship, but it is a 15 month program aimed at recent youth ministry grads who can’t get their foot int he door. The idea is they leave the program with great experience, a great recommendation, and a greater understanding of what it takes to do vocational ministry. Check out the details here: http://luketrouten.com/2013/04/16/were-hiring-a-youth-ministry-intern/

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