I had a chance to get away with some of our youth ministry leadership team recently to process some of the common pitfalls that youth pastors face as they navigate ministry. My mind has hovered around three particular ones that I’ve personally witnessed in my recent experience in youth ministry:
1. Overspending or misuse of church funds
2. Inappropriate relationships
3. Compromising staff/church policies
1. Let’s talk money. Want to avoid the common pitfall of mismanaging money? You need to know how to budget—for your church and yourself. Make sure you know your church’s culture for spending, get informed on spending expectations, what is or isn’t OK to purchase, and your church’s accounting policies and best practices.
What is the real story behind the budget line you were given at the annual meeting? Save your receipts. Turn in reports on time. Be generous with scholarships and stingy with things that directly benefit you. Make handling money a top priority, and honor the tithe money people sacrificed to give.
2. Let’s talk boundaries. I’ve seen several youth workers leave ministry recently because they didn’t stay faithful to their spouse or flirted with danger as an unmarried youth worker. Don’t fall into this common trap! Don’t become another of the alarming youth ministry statistics. Allowing the possibility in your mind is the first step in a downward spiral that ends with compromises, secrets, lies and eventually your job. Make sure you have someone who is allowed full access to your online world and has the freedom to call you out if and when they see warning signs you might be in danger.
3. Let’s talk staff covenants. Many churches have a signature-required lifestyle covenant you agree to when you come on staff or take on a volunteer leadership role. Your integrity is on the line when you break that agreement. If you agree to it—no matter how absurd the rule may be—stick to it! Signing a covenant like this, then publicly derailing it is a sign of immaturity and lacks integrity in your leadership.
Handle church financial stuff well. Keep clear boundaries with the opposite sex. Have integrity when it comes to the staff covenants you sign. What are other common youth ministry pitfalls, and how do you avoid them?
Josh Griffin has been in youth ministry for 16-plus years in one small church and one big church. He currently serves as the high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. His original blogs can be found at morethandodgeball.com.
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