Friendship-men-confessDear Senior Pastor,

Yours is a tough job. The responsibility buck stops with you, and I get that totally.

The list you’re about to read is said with love and familiarity with both “pairs of shoes,” and it’s nothing new, really. I’m just slipping it across your virtual desk as a reminder.

1. Give loving feedback early on. Don’t wait until staff review time or a board meeting six months later to let your youth worker know you weren’t happy with something. How can they improve if the expectations are unknown? Make sure there aren’t any unspoken/invisible rules.

2. Make sure your youth pastor has a thorough job description from the get-go. I’m still surprised how many youth workers, whether paid or volunteer, are working without a job description. Isn’t that a little like giving them a foreign car but not the manual? Some stuff comes easy, but a guide is necessary when it's time to fix things that don’t come instinctively.

3. You weren’t always so organized, either. Along the way in your early years, I bet a church secretary or the CE person took you under his/her wing and set you straight about deadlines. Don’t get frustrated; just teach your expectation, and create a framework that helps the youth worker succeed. Systems and processes are important in successful youth ministries. Read Mark DeVries’ Sustainable Youth Ministry—solid stuff!

4. Don’t wait until after the big summer event/trip to tell your youth pastor they’re moving on. Maybe this is just my personal pet peeve, but I’ve known more churches who waited until a few days after the summer mission trip to let the youth pastor go when the truth turns out the church had been unhappy with them for a long time. Truthfully? It feels like the youth pastor was a little used so they would go on the trip and the board members didn’t have to. Not cool.

5. Wait three days after a retreat and seven days after a trip with any complaints. Just today I saw a post from a youth worker on a mission trip who was asking for prayer because the church board wanted a meeting the day after he gets back “with problems.” Remember your last mission trip and how long it took you to recover? Your youth pastor needs some time to rest plus a few days to “bask in the afterglow” of the amazing things God did while they were on the trip.

6. Catch them doing good work. For every one complaint or problem you have to bring up, catch your youth worker doing 10 things right. Share it with them—and everyone else, while you’re at it.

What would you add?

Stephanie Caro is the lead consultant for Ministry Architects, an organization that partners with churches to customize plans for building sustainable ministries and specializing in youth, children and small churches.

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