Youth ministry is a fairly young profession. In my first year, an elderly lady approached me at church and said “my husband doesn’t think you deserve a salary, but I think you should get a little something.” She was basically saying that she couldn’t believe people get paid for leading the youth ministry. She’d probably flip her lid if I went back to tell her that youth ministry has exploded and is now heavily resourced. It is taught in colleges and you can receive a doctoral degree in youth ministry. There are youth ministry consultants, professional journals and you can even meet people in their 70′ s who have ministered to youth their entire working careers.
The Rub. The more youth ministry becomes a profession, the more it is treated like one.
There are an increasing number of people who are capable of serving in youth ministry but that doesn’t mean they are called. I refer to these people as mannies or nannies, because they do the job but at the end of the day the students are not family to them. I’m a strong proponent of youth workers being members (or whatever title you use at your own church) so that youth ministry never becomes just a job. My wife and I actually chose the church I currently serve because our first priority was to find a church home where we both could worship, serve and raise our children and the second decision was about whether or not I could be the youth director. I’ve done many things wrong over the years, but I believe this to be a right decision.
Why I don’t want to be a manny.
1. Mannies aren’t interested in the other ministries of the church. Meetings kill mannies.
2. A manny doesn’t think long-term and doesn’t care what happens after they leave.
3. A manny can think they are Tony Campolo by constantly dropping theological bombs without having to clean up the mess. P.S, I love Campolo but there is a reason why this modern prophet is a guest speaker and not a pastor of one church.
4. The demise of the manny is that they have no real reason to recruit, cast a vision or entrust ministry to others because they are generally one step away from the next gig.
5. Mannies can’t fool teenagers, they will eventually be busted.
I am hopeful that youth ministry is no longer the stepping stone to “real” pulpit ministry, but a needed calling paid or unpaid in all of our churches.
Maybe it is time for people like you and I to renew our vows from capability to calling.