when you compare you lose
Many volunteer youth workers are left with this question when their youth pastor has been fired or has resigned unexpectedly. This time of transition can be sad, confusing, and frustrating. It’s often a time for grieving. And though every church going through transition needs to discern the issues leading up to the exodus, it’s not a time for panic. In fact, now is the time to reflect and contemplate. A time to re-evaluate and…breathe.
First, smart churches are honest and transparent churches. Mistakes have probably been made, and now would be a good time to debrief and consider what led up to the youth pastor’s exit. Have an open and honest conversation between the entire youth ministry leadership team, the clergy, and other church leadership. It’s important to admit when things could’ve been handled differently, rather than simply blaming the departed.
Simultaneously, do NOT try to cover things up with the students. Youth want to understand why their beloved youth pastor has gone away. And it’s wrong to push it under the rug; don’t insult youth’s intelligence because you don’t necessarily understand either. Be honest with them, but most importantly, be there for them. Show them true leadership by keeping your cool.
Do NOT try to do everything the youth pastor did, especially if he or she was full-time. With the rest of the leadership team, determine what areas of the program can afford to be put on hold. Assign duties as wide as possible to lighten the load on any one person. If a large trip, such as a missions trip, is coming up, considering asking a current volunteer to plan and lead it. Depending on the amount of work that needs to be put into it, consider offering the volunteer a stipend for the work done.
Do NOT start the search process immediately. Consider the vacated youth pastor’s job description. Is it realistic? What strengths are required to do the job? What weaknesses are often associated with individuals that possess the qualities you seek in a qualified candidate? Be practical and consider ways that the current volunteer leadership is willing to support a new youth pastor.
Get educated. Read. I recommend reading Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries before searching for a new guy or gal. Make it required reading for the entire leadership team, as well as for the elder board or hiring committee. This resource will arm you with practical step-by-step advice on what is needed for a successful youth ministry.
Finally, don’t forget about the youth during this period in time. Relationships are what matter most, so don’t be absent and burn out because too many “things” need to be done. Keep it simple. Keep it real. Keep it going…