General Ministry
Josh Griffin

For a long time in our shared calling we’ve made a big deal about being a “youth ministry lifer” – someone who does youth ministry until they’re super old. There certainly was good reason for that when the average stay of a youth worker in a church was less than a year and people recklessly used the position as a stepping stone to become a real pastor.

But here’s what I started thinking this morning: we need more youth workers in other parts of the church, too. We need more youth workers to become senior pastors. We need more leaders of businesses, organizations and non-profits to think like and care like youth workers. Why do we guilt people into staying when God is calling them on? Maybe it is a good thing that many don’t stay in youth ministry their whole life – I just want them to still think, serve and love like a youth pastor when they move on.

I’m not planning on going anywhere – so you’re hearing this from the heart of a youth ministry lifer: if you’re dropping out of youth ministry, always be a youth pastor, even if you’re title changes a little bit.


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  • Joel Greenwood says:

    Josh, this came at a perfect time! I always thought I would be a “lifer” in youth ministry and I absolutely love Youth Ministry. Just last July my Senior Pastor came up to me and asked if i was interested in taking over the Lead Pastor Role of our church. I have been here for 8 years and love my youth ministry position at the church. I have told numerous people over the years I am a “lifer”! Over the last 8 years, because I always filled the pulpit when the senior pastor was gone, many in the church have come to me wondering if I was being pruned to take over. I always said emphatically, “NO!” for numerous reasons, but one being I was a “lifer”. Well, this time in July I didn’t feel God was letting me say “NO” to Him. I said I would think and pray about it. After many months of prayer (I didn’t lay on anything though), talking to those I trust and conversations with my wife we agreed to take this on. I immediately felt guilty like I was letting someone down or everyone down! I was always going to be a “lifer” and now I was going back on my word in some way. I have been here for 8 years and love the teens here. It is going to be a 2-Year Transition between the Senior Pastor and myself. I appreciate this post as it takes away some of my guilt as well as confirming what I believe. I will always be a Youth Pastor at heart and that will never change. I also feel I can maybe even impact teenagers more from this role than my previous one of being a Youth Pastor. I want to impact the families so that the youth can grow in a healthy home. Thanks again.

  • Paul says:

    I could not agree more. Youth Pastors have the kind of attitude that is needed in all areas of the church and life. Kindness, empathy, creativity, and Get’r done is needed at all levels of the church and business.

  • David Martin says:


    You have NO IDEA how timely this is! I totally feel what Joel explained and shared.

    -Lifer regardless of title. 🙂

  • Kyle Corbin says:

    I believe that being a lifer is excellent, but I also believe in the fact that youth pastors are needed elsewhere. The thing about the transition is that they don’t have to finish being involved with the youth. Like Joel’s situation, once he is the Lead pastor he can still give some time to the ministry and he can encourage his “replacement”

  • Cliff says:

    Great point Josh! Although I have been in full-time youth ministry for over 8 years now, I know that there is a very real possibility that The Lord may move me on to something else one day. For years we youth pastors have been made to feel guilty about even entertaining the thought of moving on to a different ministry position. We’re made to feel like we’re abandoning a generation or something. I actually heard a well known national youth leader refer to youth pastors who move on to a Senior Pastor role as suffering a “demotion”. Yes youth ministry is exciting and yes it is a high calling, I too am a youth ministry lifer but we shouldn’t elevate youth work above every other work in the church. That’s just not biblical. Great post Josh!

  • Mark says:

    The main issue is, of course, where does God want us? Much as I love youth ministry – been doing it since the early 1980s – I know that there will come a time when I transition out and take on another role or retired. I will say that, unless transistions are carefully done, there IS a letdown to certain people – especially those in the upper grade levels. No one should feel guilty on moving on, if the move is a God-led one…but we DO need to take into consideration more than just our careers. Obviously, there has to be a balance. I thank God that things have been changing through the years. When I first started in youth ministry, the average staying time of a youth pastor was pathetic. I don’t know the average now, but it’s surely more than in the ’80s. Generations WERE discouraged as their mentors “moved on.” Damage WAS done. It’s still possible today…(back to the “make sure it’s a God-led move” comment). I agree that wherever a person ends up, keeping the “youth pastor mentality” is a good thing…but I’m not willing to abandon the thought that lifers (or at least long-timers) are crucial for the health of youth and youth groups…

  • […] Griffin at More Than Dodgeball wrote a post last week asking the question “Who Cares if You Are a ‘Youth Ministry Lifer’ or Not?” He raises some great thoughts for youth ministers to ponder (we do ponder, you know) […]

  • […] josh griffin blogged about this recently. it was such a great post, i put the entire thing below. enjoy! […]

  • […] very excited about the move and i truly feel God’s call in that direction, although i hope i’ll always be a youth pastor at heart. i hope to never stop being a champion for students and hold to the belief that they are not the […]

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