Youth Ministry Job Search: Part 1
by Mike Kupferer
Almost two years into my second youth ministry position, I found myself without a job. For the third time since college I was looking for a congregation where I could minister to youth. Like anyone looking for a new job, I had hope this search would not last long. But that was nine months ago and I’m still in the process of finding a new full-time ministry.
I’m not alone. I’ve had many friends in ministry join me in this search during these nine months, not to mention the ones I know who have been waiting even longer. I don’t have any research to prove it, but I don’t think there’s a week that goes by without a youth minister leaving a church. Reasons for leaving are as diverse as the number of congregations, but regardless of what the reason is, I know there are many youth workers who are struggling during this search process.
I know it isn’t an easy process to search for a new youth ministry job (and it might not be a short one for some youth workers). The days turn to weeks, which turn to months. Each day that goes by can bring with it a sense of loss or despair, but it doesn’t have to be that way. To help you through your search process, here are some lessons/tips I’ve learned during mine.
#1. Keep an organized list of your contact with churches.
You’ll most likely talk with multiple churches at one time. Unless you have a photographic memory, you’ll begin to get the churches mixed up and forget details about each one. In my search, I have a list of each church I’ve been in contact with and the details about each connection. I write down the name of the church, the contact person, and contact information. I also add other details, such as location, where I found the opening, age group desired, and size of congregation. Then I write down when I sent my resume and any follow-up, including emails, interviews, and phone calls. I hand write my list, but some people will find it easier to use a program such as Excel.
Having this list available has allowed me to easily see which churches I haven’t heard from in a few weeks, which churches I might need to contact, and what information has been sent to each church. I refer to this list at least once a week. The longer your search lasts, the more valuable this list will become.
#2. Determine your ministry limits and geographical boundaries.
This needs to be something you determine after you know you’re leaving your current ministry and before you start contacting churches. You need to determine how far away from your family you want to be. Are there certain states you’d like to move to or definitely want to avoid? If you want to be within six hours driving distance of your family, you need to know that before you start sending resumes to churches 10 hours away. You also need to determine if you want to stay within a certain denomination or denominations. The last limit you need to know before sending resumes is what ages you want to work with. If you don’t want to work with anyone under 6th grade, you don’t want to apply to a congregation that’s looking for someone to minister to anyone under 12th grade. If you love working with all ages, and being in a smaller congregation, don’t apply to a congregation looking for just a high school minister.
#3. Talk with friends.
You’ll want to talk with your friends for two reasons. First, they might know of some job openings or can keep an ear out for some. Hearing about a job opening through a friend allows you to already know something about the congregation. The second reason to talk to your friends is to get a new point of view on your situation. Sometimes, it takes talking with someone outside the situation to help bring clarity to what’s really happening. Don’t expect your friends to give you all of the answers-that job belongs to God (see tip #6).
#4. Look online for job openings.
There are three main destinations for youth ministers looking for a new ministry: youth ministry sites, college job boards, and denominational Web sites. There are youth ministry organizations who have job boards for churches to post an opening and for youth ministers to post a resume. Three examples are Youth Specialties (http://www.youthspecialties.com/jobbank), YMPro (http://youthministrypro.com), and Group (http://forums.group.com/Forum93-1.aspx). You’ll also want to check out the Web sites for Christian colleges and universities you admire. The third online spot to find job openings is on denominational Web sites. Most denominations will have a page listing the available youth ministry positions within that denomination.
#5. Use your waiting time wisely.
Whether you wait for one week or one year, you need to use that time wisely. Don’t waste your opportunities for ministry. This was a major lesson I learned as one month turned into three months of waiting. There was a reason God hadn’t moved me to another ministry yet: There was still ministry left for me to do where I was. God had a plan for me and my family. I had to quit spending my time waiting and start using my time in a more focused way. Using my time wisely means being involved with the youth ministry at the church we are attending, writing, reading more, and spending more time with my family.
As you wait for your next ministry, remember that God has a plan for you even during this downtime. Stay connected with students and families. Volunteer within the youth ministry of your local congregation. Take time to listen to God lead you. God wants to use you and he’ll keep you where you are until it’s time for you to move on.
As you talk with churches, you need to be praying for God’s wisdom for both parties. Pray for clarity when you’re making decisions. Pray for God to grant you favor with the leaders of the ministry you need to be involved with. Pray for the strength to say no when you need to. Pray for the patience to wait for a good ministry fit.
These six tips will help you get started on your job search. In the next article, I’ll share eight more tips that will help you when you’re further along in your search.