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Is an M.Div needed for Youth Ministry?

In these past few months, I have had many conversations regarding Korean church youth ministry. Through these discussions, I realized that there were some things to reconsider in terms of the hiring process of youth pastors. Do youth pastors really need a Master’s of Divinity?

In my culture, having a life-long calling as a youth pastor is very unusual. It is more common for a pastor with an M. Div. to strive to become an adult ministry pastor, and not “settle” for youth. Usually youth ministry is seen as more of a stepping stone to reach this call or do ministry while pursuing their studies. I also think they don’t settle due to the lack of recognition of a youth pastor. While I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with this scenario, I do see that there is a definite shortage of youth pastors due to the qualification of needing an M.Div. Setting up such a high standard on paper sometime might miss the opportunity of high quality youth pastors that are just satisfied with their undergrad ministry degree.

There needs to be a paradigm shift and a remedy to this situation. It is evident that it is becoming more difficult to find someone with an M.Div that also has a call for youth ministry. Korean churches are losing out on young, talented gifted individuals that have a heart to serve the youth students, simply because they do not possess an M.Div. credential.

I think it is time for some churches to stretch the boundaries of accepting candidates with a degree in Christian Education, youth ministry, or a masters in biblical or theological studies. To think even further, it would be awesome to even consider hiring candidates that have an undergrad degree at a Christian College or University. Due to my cultural context, I do understand the title given as “Pastor” can be uncomfortable to someone that has not completed an M. Div., so a possible solution is to give them the title of “Youth Director” instead. Simple, right?

Don’t get me wrong, having an M. Div. could only help and better our youth students, but let’s not count out those brave individuals that have a true passion and desire to serve in youth ministry!

– Estevao / @estevaoyu

17 thoughts on “Is an M.Div needed for Youth Ministry?

  1. Avatar

    I think sometimes we place more requirements on people than God does. The more we make credentials the most important things we lose sight of Godliness and Calling… Like I heard at a conference I went to recently, when we place credentials as the most important determining factor, we end up choosing Davids brothers over David. It was David who was called and who God raised up to lead.

  2. Avatar

    I think sometimes we place more requirements on people than God does. The more we make credentials the most important things we lose sight of Godliness and Calling… Like I heard at a conference I went to recently, when we place credentials as the most important determining factor, we end up choosing Davids brothers over David. It was David who was called and who God raised up to lead.

  3. Avatar
    Stephen Yates

    I’ve often felt exactly the opposite – that more and more youth pastors should pursue M.Divs, or the equivalent ordination status in their denomination. Here’s why: I think, based on both my own experiences and the whisperings of the ‘death of youth ministry as we know it’ rumblings over the years, that the position of youth minister is changing in many churches. Due to a number of reasons, such as financial viability (can most churches now pay a competitive salary that allows a youth pastor to support a family without having to make ‘the jump’ to another type of ministry),’intern fatigue’ (the detriment to youth of a revolving door of 2-year youth ministers), and the rise in inter-generational models of ministry, many churches are opting for hybrid youth positions. For instance, I am a pastor in my denomination of Youth & Families. While I directly run a youth program myself, I also provide oversight over nursery, children, and college ministries at my church. I preach 5-10 times a year, and sometimes teach adult Sunday School. I make decisions for the church on par with the rest of the church leadership. This has HUGE implications for my students: I am able to develop transitional patterns between children, youth, and college ministries; I am able to organically develop intergenerational relationships; I am seen as a respected leader in the church without having to fight ‘junior-partner’ status and ministry silo-ing; I am able to advocate holistically for a better climate for all young people within my church and denomination; and I have different community clout (IE in schools, community organizations) because of my credentials. Now this cost me 4 years of my 20s and a pile of student loans. But I think it is a more long-term solution for many who are passionate about serving young people, as I am not worried about aging within my ministry, or about the financial pressures should our ministry shrink.

  4. Avatar
    Stephen Yates

    I’ve often felt exactly the opposite – that more and more youth pastors should pursue M.Divs, or the equivalent ordination status in their denomination. Here’s why: I think, based on both my own experiences and the whisperings of the ‘death of youth ministry as we know it’ rumblings over the years, that the position of youth minister is changing in many churches. Due to a number of reasons, such as financial viability (can most churches now pay a competitive salary that allows a youth pastor to support a family without having to make ‘the jump’ to another type of ministry),’intern fatigue’ (the detriment to youth of a revolving door of 2-year youth ministers), and the rise in inter-generational models of ministry, many churches are opting for hybrid youth positions. For instance, I am a pastor in my denomination of Youth & Families. While I directly run a youth program myself, I also provide oversight over nursery, children, and college ministries at my church. I preach 5-10 times a year, and sometimes teach adult Sunday School. I make decisions for the church on par with the rest of the church leadership. This has HUGE implications for my students: I am able to develop transitional patterns between children, youth, and college ministries; I am able to organically develop intergenerational relationships; I am seen as a respected leader in the church without having to fight ‘junior-partner’ status and ministry silo-ing; I am able to advocate holistically for a better climate for all young people within my church and denomination; and I have different community clout (IE in schools, community organizations) because of my credentials. Now this cost me 4 years of my 20s and a pile of student loans. But I think it is a more long-term solution for many who are passionate about serving young people, as I am not worried about aging within my ministry, or about the financial pressures should our ministry shrink.

  5. Avatar

    Steve,

    I think one of the big problems that pastors are having is the financial implications of all of the school work & loans. Many churches can’t afford to pay educated (Mdiv) leaders for their youth pastor positions and reserve that type of pay for their lead pastors. I know several youth pastors in the area that are being far under their educational or experiential value. Personally, I was grateful to receive a scholarship and attend Ashland Theological Seminary for an Mdiv degree. It allowed me to learn under great professors & leaders, as well as learn more Biblical content, counseling content, and grow as a Christian leader.

    Is it all necessary? No. Does it help? Yes. I think it helps keep youth pastors in it for the long haul or gives them options when they need to move on in ministry. Theological training is always a good thing!

  6. Avatar

    Steve,

    I think one of the big problems that pastors are having is the financial implications of all of the school work & loans. Many churches can’t afford to pay educated (Mdiv) leaders for their youth pastor positions and reserve that type of pay for their lead pastors. I know several youth pastors in the area that are being far under their educational or experiential value. Personally, I was grateful to receive a scholarship and attend Ashland Theological Seminary for an Mdiv degree. It allowed me to learn under great professors & leaders, as well as learn more Biblical content, counseling content, and grow as a Christian leader.

    Is it all necessary? No. Does it help? Yes. I think it helps keep youth pastors in it for the long haul or gives them options when they need to move on in ministry. Theological training is always a good thing!

  7. Avatar

    Many godly pastors do not have M.Div degrees.

    This is not a biblical requirement. What’s most crucial is having internal ‘calls’ to ministry being confirmed externally. Too many pastors believe they’re called when they’re really not.

  8. Avatar

    Many godly pastors do not have M.Div degrees.

    This is not a biblical requirement. What’s most crucial is having internal ‘calls’ to ministry being confirmed externally. Too many pastors believe they’re called when they’re really not.

  9. Avatar

    You know, I, myself, am negotiating with God about whether or not I should be pursuing seminary. I am an ordained SBC pastor at a small rural church and the problem I have with seminary, just like I have it with many other forms of higher education, is that it doesn’t NECESSARILY train you for what you will encounter as a pastor. Could it help to have a broader understanding of proper exegesis of texts and give you and opportunity to confer with other individuals who are pursuing the call God placed on their lives? Absolutely, but so could putting yourself at the feet of a biblical scholar in your area who is willing to play Paul to your Timothy.

    I’ve been a pastor for a little over a year and I’m certain that no amount of seminary can replace the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. I’ve had to lead and counsel drug users, teens dealing with abuse and self-harm, a divided and bitter church, as well as perform a funeral for a 28 y.o. who had just turned his life around from a destructive path in the past 8 months. There are no text books or seminars or classes to teach you how to do those things. When it comes down to it, studying scripture and relying on God to supply your need is what matters.

    I think sometimes, we’re a little bit “Martha” when it comes to seminary. We feel this need to get out and do to prepare and get things just right before we can sit down and start doing what God wants us to do, when in reality, He just wants us to come sit at His feet and listen to Him.

    God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called (see: 12 apostles)

  10. Avatar

    You know, I, myself, am negotiating with God about whether or not I should be pursuing seminary. I am an ordained SBC pastor at a small rural church and the problem I have with seminary, just like I have it with many other forms of higher education, is that it doesn’t NECESSARILY train you for what you will encounter as a pastor. Could it help to have a broader understanding of proper exegesis of texts and give you and opportunity to confer with other individuals who are pursuing the call God placed on their lives? Absolutely, but so could putting yourself at the feet of a biblical scholar in your area who is willing to play Paul to your Timothy.

    I’ve been a pastor for a little over a year and I’m certain that no amount of seminary can replace the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. I’ve had to lead and counsel drug users, teens dealing with abuse and self-harm, a divided and bitter church, as well as perform a funeral for a 28 y.o. who had just turned his life around from a destructive path in the past 8 months. There are no text books or seminars or classes to teach you how to do those things. When it comes down to it, studying scripture and relying on God to supply your need is what matters.

    I think sometimes, we’re a little bit “Martha” when it comes to seminary. We feel this need to get out and do to prepare and get things just right before we can sit down and start doing what God wants us to do, when in reality, He just wants us to come sit at His feet and listen to Him.

    God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called (see: 12 apostles)

  11. Avatar
    Anthony Gatke

    So much emphasis has been placed on education an not Anointing it is the anointing that destroys the yoke! We must be careful to not refuse the cornerstone that God is trying to allow merely based on whether or not A person is educated or not! This is the reason why the ” enquote educated churches or Mega churches don’t fellow with the smaller less educated churches. Do we want Zgod or the idioms of men? I have been a youth Pastor for 20 years and my education has been that of Foster care abuse drug addiction and Incarceration yet the message is clear grace through faith and not of works lest any man should boast. This past Sundsy I went into the county Jail and preached to a group of needy inmates is this what collegiate education prepares you for? Maybe maybe not but the anointing will education is just the ability to pronunciate and do things in an excellent way but the anointing is designed to do things Gods way we need education for this world but we need the Holy Spirit for Gods economy

  12. Avatar

    I couldn’t agree more. Steve, you are the brightest in the business!

  13. Avatar

    I couldn’t agree more. Steve, you are the brightest in the business!

  14. Avatar

    It sounds like you never served in small k-church setting.

    • Avatar

      Thats just your assumption about a brother in ministry. Why not email him and have a conversation?

    • Avatar
      Stephen Yates

      Sorry it sounds that way. Most of the churches I have been a part of have been in the 100-300 range, which isn’t mega by ANY standards. While I totally acknowledge that a 75 person church cannot afford a full-time second staffer, that’s a problem across the board, not in youth ministry only. I guess I’m just saying folding the youth role into that second paid staffer role is a good thing.

  15. Avatar

    I had struggled with this it seems more churches want this commitment from their youth leaders. However I already have an undergrad degree in Youth Ministry and & Bible so, for me, I did not see the need to continue on and obtain a MDiv. I would love to serve in a vocational position as a youth pastor someday and I would really enjoy developing a program that served the entire family, giving way to a new Family Ministries beyond youth/student ministry. I am about to graduate with my Masters in Human Services specializing in Family Life Education. It has been an enlightening 2 years and I know it can benefit the church well beyond the walls of youth ministry. My only struggle is to come along side a church and help them see the benefit. It seems many of them are set in having a candidate that can mark off a list of requirements, one of which is the MDiv. it’s all ebb and flow and how we can come together and benefit one another. I’m all for pastors in the church having MDivs and beyond, although it is healthy for the body of the church to have the staff to have a diverse education. This could include not everyone having a MDiv or similar. If we are to truly reach people where they are now we need to reevaluate how we will get there.

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Is an M.Div needed for Youth Ministry?

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