Gerrard Fess writes: In the course of my tenure in youth ministry, several churches have asked for my advice in hiring a new youth pastor. This is a great opportunity. By following some of these simple guidelines it is my aim that both the church and the new staff member can develop a great fit that will last for years to come.
Top 10 Things To Know when Hiring a Youth Pastor
1. Expectations. What do you expect of him or her? Do we have a firm job description? Do we have a written contract? What’s our purpose in hiring this staff member? Is it for shepherding your students, developing programs, or student evangelism? Be as specific in that role as possible. The more you have this in writing the better as the more defined you have this the easier it will be to know when you’ve found who you are looking for. Have a good profile of the person in mind before you begin interviewing. Do we have the budget to support someone full time at a fair living wage? If you don’t, it might be good to start with an intern.[Discuss this in the forums]
2. Theology. You want someone who knows the Word, and meets the qualifications of a pastor and is on the same page and vision as the church. While it may sound simplistic remember that this person will be instructing your students on your theology so make sure that you line up.
3. Interview process. Here’s how the process commonly goes. Advertise the position online and at schools your church recognizes as solid training grounds, look for good youth workers that are already in existing ministries. Next, communicate with all individuals sending resumes. Give them a timeline for your process. Be careful not to set up a beauty pageant, interview a single candidate at a time. Acknowledge receipt of every resume – if you know this person isn’t going further in the process – tell them thanks but release them from the process professionally and quickly. Ask all candidates for references. With every response, and decision – always follow-up with a letter or e-mail. Do unto others, as you have them do unto you. There have been several churches I’ve applied to never to hear from them again…this sends a powerful message about that church. Since the church world is fairly small, act professionally to everyone.
4. Questions. Be willing to ask hard questions. Have a good committee do the research. Know your philosophy of youth ministry, as well as others. Be honest about your church’s past. What is your church culture? Ask and being willing to answer questions. Tele-conferences work well. Use a personal touches, take notes on the candidates family and use their spouses/childrens names regularly. Questionnaires might be good, but sometimes you read too much in between the lines or not enough. Some of the best questions asked to me: What are you reading? What do you watch on TV? What websites do you visit? Know that most interviews ask the same questions, so be willing to go the extra distance of asking clarifying questions to communicate your understanding of their answer.
5. Marketability – Check out these sites: youthspecialties.com , churchstaffing.com, your denominations website, some seminaries and Bible colleges, to determine if you your expectations are equal to others in the marketplace. Network with other ministers to know who is good and what you might be looking for.
6. Demographics – Have a history of your area, church, average age of the church, style of leadership, what the pay package would include: Health, retirement, book allowance, food, education etc. The more info and prepared you are for a youth minister for the long term – the better your church will look to a highly qualified candidate. A good profile and portfolio goes a long way. Having this on CD isn’t a bad idea either. Include websites: List of schools, hospitals, about the area etc. The current church I’m at did this and it communicated how much they valued me in coming to their church
7. References – Don’t just look at the applicants’ references, but also give them referrals. References for all the staff. The Senior Minister needs to give his references as well as the church give names of other churches in the area to see what others say about your church. (Some churches might be scared of this – but it one of the best perspectives out there as well …what does the community say about the church I am applying to?)
8. Search Committee Make-up: Make sure you have your students perspective, volunteer adult leaders, church leadership and some parents on the committee. Doing this gives a variety of opinions and aspects of interacting and seeing what type of youth minister your church wants.
9. Resourcefulness: How much are we willing to invest in this person? The hiring and transition process can be less painful if you take the time to ask yourself tough questions. Do we have the funds for this position, how are raises given, do we have a budget so this person can do their job? Do we offer a book allowance, teaching, training etc, what benefits? Do we fly the person in? His whole family? Where will they stay? Can we provide moving costs?
10. Prayer. (This should be Number 1) Seek God’s Will. Look at hiring a staff member like a marriage – you want the staff member to work well with the other staff and volunteers and be in it for the long term. Taking extended times to pray isn’t easy but worth the efforts. God’s blessings and prayers are with you.
Some additional resources to consult:
How to Choose a Youth Pastor by Paul Borthwick
Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry – Doug Fields
Youth Ministry Management Tools – Olson, Elliot and Work.
Group Magazine Nov./Dec 2005 – 2005 Youth Ministry Salary Survey edition.
Compensation Handbook for Church Staff – James F. Cobble & Richard R. Hammar
The Big Book of Job Descriptions – Gospel Light
Things They Didn’t Teach at Bible College but you really need to know about Youth Ministry – Todd Clark
Youth Ministry Handbook – Edward A. Trimmer.
Gerrard Fess is a Lead Minister at the Church of Christ at Hagerstown in Hagerstown, Maryland. You may reach him at facebook.com/gerrard.fess or twitter: fess2us
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