I am Youth Worker. I am the 99.
I am underpaid and overworked — working a full time job to pay the bills and doing my best to honor God and my students with the spare time that I have to put together the service each week for youth group.
I stayed up late last night talking to a student who’s relationship break-up resulted in their crisis and many tears. I’m up early this morning on my way to work.
I want to be involved in the youth ministry network in town but it’s just not feasible. I need the encouragement, resources, networking, and tools that they offer, but I can’t make it with my work schedule.
I often times compare what I have to the youth worker down the street with interns, a monthly budget, and a youth building and recreation center. It’s not like I’m trying to compete (How could I?), but I sometimes finding myself wishing I had more of what you do.
I’m just as passionate and work just as hard as the full time, paid guy, but I do it after my day job — not as my day job. As a result, I’m burnt out, tired, and sometime — no, many times — feel like giving in.
I apologize for the sensationalist tone and for comparing the average youth worker to the Occupy protest’s 99%. But I’m hoping to catch someone’s attention. As a district guy in our denomination, I’ve come across stories of so many youth workers that have so little to work with. 99% might be too high of a percentage to compare it to youth workers that are not at full time capacity, but in reality, it’s probably not that far off.
I was having a conversation with a youth pastor yesterday that was telling me about their first visit to a local gathering of youth workers. I asked her if it was encouraging and her response was, “Yes, it was helpful hearing about all the different resources and ideas from other youth workers, but I also came away a little bit discouraged at how little I have to work with compared to some of the others. They were sharing ideas that were really cool, but just weren’t feasible without interns and a big budget. It made me feel somewhat insignificant.”
When you stop and consider how many youth workers are part-time or volunteer, it really is the wide majority of us. Many churches want to hire on a full time youth pastor and give them a budget to work with but just don’t have the financial resources to do so. Which leaves a lot of us youth workers feeling a bit stretched thin.
So here’s the thing: if you are the “one percent” — meaning, you are a full time youth worker and you have the luxury of having a ministry budget and other things that the majority of your peers maybe don’t — consider taking care of some of our own.