Employing a Church Youth Worker or Minister

stress.jpg Ben Bell blogged the question, “Can Church Support it’s Youth workers?” which Miz has picked up on. You can read Ben’s thoughts here and the subsequent comments.
I’ve seen quite a few projects go pear shaped. I think “support and management” is one of the factors but here’s an attempt to produce a chronology before the youth worker starts of mistakes that I’ve seen that have led to or contributed to projects failing and/or youth workers leaving or being sacked:


As a caveat though I should add that “employment” is a relatively new avenue for most Churches and they’ve learnt some tough lessons. Further to this there is a massive support structure for clergy, appointments etc, rather less so for youth workers!
1. Lack of Vision:
Employing a youth worker because the church feels it ought to do something with young people, rather than developing a vision of what and why
2. Failure to envision the whole Church:
lots of different agendas for what the youth worker “ought to do” as well as factions that don’t want a youth worker
3. Hurried Logistics Phase:
Not enough planning in the areas of contract, management, budget, recruitment, costings, implications. Failing to agree what experience/qualifications, giftings are needed
4. Poor Advert:
Failure to consult DYO etc. Failure to recognise that there are lots of jobs and not enough good applicants. Advert full of phrases like “We want” & “you must be” type statements as well as being so specific that good applicants are ruled out. Advert is boring, lacks vision or is so wordy that it gets overlooked
5. Assumption that people will apply:
Not courting applicants, not using lots of avenues for advertising and encouraging people to phone for informal chats (even if people request application forms they may not apply)
6. Lack of Pre-interview leg work:
Not taking up/talking to referees. Not making sure that there is a youth worker on the interview panel. Interview Panel not planning.
7. Sloppy Interviews:
8. Not involving young people in the interview process:
I’ve known Churches employ youth workers who were great at interview but lacked a raport with young people! Young people’s impressions, opinions are vital
9. Failure to sell yourselves:
Churches are so busy finding the “right” person that they are surprised when the “right” person declines. The Church need to sell themselves (in an honest fashion) as to why the youth worker would enjoy working there.
10. Inability to answer basic questions:
The Church are flumoxed by questions about budget, accomodation, salary, line management (doesn’t inspire confidence)
11. Refusal to start again
Offering the job to someone even though they don’t come up to scratch because they were the “best” of the bunch. Letting requirements slip in order to at least have someone in the role.
12. Premature Start:
Leting a worker start before job description and line management is in place. The youth worker will set off on what they think is the obvious path which will often be at loggerheads with Church, unsaid, expectaions. The first management meeting happens only when there is a BIG crisis.
13. No probabtion period:
A probabtion period is great for employer and employee. Regular meetings, short term goals and seeking understanding by both “sides”. At the end of this period there should be a formal review and a chance to reflect on role, job description, priorities and training needs.
14. No Commitment to Professional Development:
Professional Development gives great opportunity for personal growth and chance to look afresh at things and bring new ideas. There is a HUGE danger with Parish based worker that a worker continually gets busier and busier without reflecting why and not gaining either refreshment and or space to reflect on priorities.
Feel free to add to the list. I might attempt an add-on tomorrow on “mangement and support” when in role.
I’m aware too that the above list is all about mistakes on the part of the employer, I may need to look at failures on the part of the youth worker too (probably have a high “ouch” factor for me as I’ll be drawing on my mistakes)

8 Replies to “Employing a Church Youth Worker or Minister”

  1. Having just been on the search for a new job, I’ve been suprised at the different ways churches handle this whole issue. One place just sent a job description, no information about the church or the vision. The interviews differed a lot in style too.
    I think your list would be really helpful for churches to read, if only they would!

  2. Thanks – good list – I might nick it if that’s OK!
    I’ve seen most of these! I would add to 1 & 2 – lack of basic understanding of youth ministry – especially the kind of stuff the training centres (esp CYM and Oasis) are training people for. Often there’s still this mismatch between youthwork and ministry, or the senior leaders ministry model and youth work ones.

  3. Management and support sounds crucial here. I wonder whether there is a way of putting together a list of models that work… almost laying out good work practice and guidelines. The trouble with everything seeming negative and reactionary is that people who should listen very often don’t.

  4. Hi Ian,
    thanks for picking up on this and taking it to the next level. I posted in frustration partly at the lack of support offered to me and the youthwork team here in islington. Someone pointed out to me yesterday that i am ‘burning out’ so i guess i am keener that most to find some answers. A few of us are meeting with Bob Mayo in a couple of weeks to try and find a model that will work for us. I will no doubt post some more thoughts soon.
    good shed by the way!

  5. Good to hear from you Ben although I’m very concerned at the lack of support you are getting. Please let me know how the chat with Bob Mayo goes. I think you’ve launched an important debate which will help future youth workers ….. just hope that some of this spills into and improves your situation.

  6. I quite agree with that list; an interesting point of note is that the ideas which you list are hardly new. Any Personnel / HR Manager could write such a list off the top and their head, and businesses spend thousands of pounds on recruitment consultants to advise them on exactly how and where to advertise, how and who to recruit and so on and so forth. Conversely, churches often leave their recruitment to a handful of well-meaning yet totally inexperienced church members.
    Church congregations are varied and diverse – someone in the church has almost certainly been involved in recruiting someone in their 9-to-5, so we should speak to them first. Even if they don’t want a direct involvement in the process, they could advise those who will be involved in the selection process. If the church aims to be “in the world” should it not take every opportunity to learn *from* the world?

  7. Interesting. I’m a youth worker in Darlington and find the contrast between employment of youthworkers in the church and outside so interesting. I’m the first youth worker at the church i’m based at and it seems the presumption is that i will establish and develop the work myself, but for those employed by charities or statutory agencies it seems very different. Although the employee does get some say the trustees play a much greater role… they write the job description. I think this should be the model of local churches; lowering the expectation on [miracle] youth workers and simultaneously reducing the unfair pressure.

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