Youth ministers are typically young, newly married, and new parents.
I often see young wives dragging their youth minister husbands into my office for marriage counseling. Their complaints range from “You care more about the church than you do me” to “We never have any time alone… there’s always teens over at our house”. Some of this is directly related to unrealistic expectations placed on the youth minister by the church or the senior pastor. Much of it is expectations the youth minister places on himself.
I know of one church where the pastor expected all staff to be in the church office from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. That was fine for most of the staff members, but not for the youth minister. The youth minister had something going nearly every night of the week. That meant he was routinely “on the job” 18 hours a day, six days per week. No wonder his wife felt like a single mother.
Another client was the only staff member of a small church. He was the pastor and the youth minister. If you’re not getting home until ten in the evening, I asked, why not go in a little later the next morning. His people work 8 to 5 and then volunteer in the evenings, he answered, so he could do no less. His wife was quick to point out the typical church member was doing that once or twice a week, not every night. The pressure to put in the hours at the office came from within his own head, not from anyone else.
I’m all in favor of ministers having a good work ethic. I’ve known a few – a very few – who seemed to believe the object of ministry was to put in as little effort as possible. Most ministers – at least the ones who end up in my office – go to the other extreme, appearing to take their families for granted with no sense of protecting their time at home.
Paul told Timothy that elders in the church must care for their own families: If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? We as older, more experienced leaders in the church must take an active role in mentoring young ministers. No one is magically imbued with the knowledge of how to be a good husband on his wedding night. The knowledge of how to be a good father doesn’t just come to us at the birth of our first child. And we all know that a seminary diploma (assuming young pastors/youth ministers have completed their education) doesn’t really teach us all we need to know about ministering to others.
If we don’t teach these guys, then they will learn the same way we did: through trial and error. Being a mentor – seeking out a mentor if you are a young minister – is a much, much better way than throwing someone in the deep end and watching to see if they swim or sink.
It’s tough learning to be a minister, a husband, a parent – learning to be an adult – all at the same time.
But, it can be done.
(You can read Stress in the Ministry: part 1, here.)