Again, Chris Folmsbee joins us to discuss the significance of too many youth ministers leaving youth ministry. We need your responses to this today …
By Chris: I don’t think I am an alarmist. The word ‘departing’ in the title of
this post may appear that I am but to me, the word ‘vanishing’ was too
excessive. Another word that came to mind was ‘deserting’ and that
just didn’t seem fair.
At any rate, today I got news via a friend’s email that a mutual friend
of ours was departing youth ministry to plant a church in NYC.
Normally I wouldn’t think twice about the news as change in our lives
is inevitable and youth ministers are departing their roles as
spiritual guides to emerging adults everyday. However, this bit of
news came in a long line of reports and personal conversations with
youth workers who are leaving their vocation.
I’m curious… does anyone else see a greater number of youth ministers
than what feels ordinary leaving their role in exchange for something
other that youth work?
To me, it sure feels like there are more youth ministers leaving than what is usual. Perhaps this phenomenon is only occurring in the view through my little window of youth ministry.
NOTE: I realize that there has always been a fair amount of transition among youth workers. However, most of that transition has been from one church or ministry to another not a transition away from youth work altogether.
I have some thoughts as to why we might be seeing more youth ministers leaving their roles of serving youth and their families. I’m hoping you can help me fill out this list. Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Theology- it appears to me that today’s youth minister has a very different theological framework for approaching ministry than their supervising ministers and church boards. This results in youth ministers looking to other ministry opportunities and other environments in which to express their divergent theological convictions.
2. Methodology – I have found that in the conversations I am having with departing youth workers one of the main issues contributing to the exit strategies has to do with churches operating with an attractional model of ministry when many youth ministers are resonating more with a missional model. After a while it just becomes like two ships passing in the night and this leads to transition.
3. Leadership – I have also found that many youth workers feel as though they are ready for greater leadership challenges and influence and their supervising ministers are either not in agreement or completely unwilling to step aside to give the youth worker a greater amount of influence. I’m not saying the youth workers are ready for more or not, but one thing that is sure is that youth workers think they deserve more and unquestionably want more.
4. Expectations – There are a growing number of expectations being placed on the youth worker by others (church leadership, parents, students, peers, etc.) and this causes a working environment that is inescapably overwhelming. I’m not quite sure exactly what is causing the growing expectations but I have a hunch it has to do with the absolute disorientation most people feel as it relates to the most effective ways to make disciples of today’s youth.
5. Calling – Sometimes God calls people to new vocations. I get that. I believe a fair number of the departing youth workers I have talked with are really being led to do something else.
6. Schedule – Youth workers work their butt off and often without a healthy balance. Some youth workers are just tired and the grass on the other side looks a whole lot more green, and often it can be.
Are you sensing a growing number of youth workers departing for things other than youth? What are your thoughts on why that might be the case? Do you have any solutions to offer us?