How To Welcome a New Youth Pastor (OYPO – Vol. 38)

One Youth Pastor’s Opinion (OYPO)

How To Welcome a New Youth Pastor

The new year is a time to reminisce about the past year.

But a new staff member brings a time to reminisce about the past era. 

Last night, we had our teen class in the newly renovated staff house. I talked to the teens about Joshua’s transition in, and his transition out. In both cases, God was with him, and the message was the same: love and serve God. Follow God’s Word. 

That’s been the message of our youth ministry, too. Coming in and going out, our message has been to love God, love others, and do right. 

We still have several months with the teens, but I want Bro. Christian and Mrs. Sarah to be able to hit the ground running with teens who want to do what’s right. I scratched out several prompts to prepare the teens for the new era, and give a few lessons I’ve learned from my past teens.

I couldn’t make up my mind… this note was originally for the teens, but has morphed into some good advice for parents to look over their shoulder on. If you were a fly on the wall for our class last night, you would have heard a few pieces of advice like this:

  • Love everything. No matter what’s happening, love it. Even if you hate it… love it instead. 
  • Encourage. Always have an upbeat attitude.
  • Pray. Be a person of prayer, not only in general, but for your youth pastor in particular. 
    Come to activities. It’s a bummer to set up an activity that no one comes to. Even worse are the whispers: “Are you going to the youth activity? Well, who’s coming? I’m not going if you’re not…” Worst. 
  • Go to camp. Almost no other trip is better for teens than a week of preaching. Or, if it’s winter camp… two days of preaching. It’s so good and good for you. 
    Choose your attitude. Sometimes the group attitude stinks. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s reserved (no one wants to laugh). Sometimes it’s stuck up. Sometimes it’s silly. Choose YOUR attitude regardless of the group attitude, and watch how it can help others. 
  • Enjoy. This goes hand-in-hand with choosing your attitude. Choose to enjoy whatever is happening—preaching, the youth activity, a project, a music practice. Enjoy it.
  • Interact. When someone new shows up, there are only so many “what do you like to do” questions that you can ask before you run out. Figure out ways to interact with Bro. Christian and Mrs. Sarah. 
  • Ask. Ask questions of them, not only to get to know them but also to ask their advice or ask for help or ask for their thoughts on _____. Ask questions to connect. 
  • Don’t compare. Bro. Christian is not the same as Pastor or Bro. Ryan. Don’t compare Mrs. Jamie to Mrs. Sarah, or the old way to the new way. Rather than, “This isn’t how we used to do it,” say, “I LOVE this!” And mean it. Choose to love it and it’s not a lie. 
  • If God is in it, I already like it. This came from my good friend Pastor AJ Harold, who stole it from someone else. If it’s something lame, but God is in it… I already like it. It’s the best thing ever. 
  • Serve. If anything makes a youth pastor proud, it’s seeing teens serve. Last night after the lesson on serving and giving, almost everybody took their chair back, but Gabriella was the only one who came back and asked, “Is there anything I can do?” Yep—she ended up mopping all the floors. Today, Immanuel cleared the entire parking lot of leaves. Servants are the best. 
  • Give. All Christians—adults and teens—should be givers, and nothing proves a person’s love quite like giving does. If a teen can learn to be a giver when what they’re giving is $1 per week, they will have no problem when God brings them to give $500 per week. 
  • Have him help you reach out. I’m not entirely sure what this means, but a youth pastor wants to help his teens reach their friends. Help him figure out how. 
  • Get help. If there is ANYTHING you are struggling with, get help. If it’s weekly help or daily help or monthly help or anytime help… the Saldanas are here to help. So connect with them by asking for it. 
  • Take pictures. Include the Saldanas in pictures. Send them pictures, post pictures, and say nice things with those pictures. Printed, posted, or otherwise displayed—make the pictures say great things about the youth leaders.
  • Change, grow. The most gratifying thing for a youth leader is to say one thing from the pulpit and see it happen in teens’ lives. If the sermon is on giving up bad music, but you show up to class with earbuds and won’t share one with the youth pastor, that’s not only just bad, but discouraging to him. If the sermon is on giving, give. If it’s on soul-winning, reach out to your friends. If it’s on worship, sing louder in church. Change. Grow! 
  • Text him and her. Seriously… any random thing you can send is a welcome message from a teenager. You are NOT interrupting him. You are NOT just being stupid. It’s so great to get texts from teens—and they don’t all have to be spiritual. Believe me, I have some weird pictures on my phone, sent to me from teens. 
  • Play. Whatever you can do together, find a way to do it. Particularly now as the Saldanas have no kids, take the time to play together. Their schedule is wide open to spend time with you, so find ways to connect. 
  • Pray. Did I say this one already? Well, don’t you forget it. Pray daily for the ones who will be the most direct spiritual leader in your life. 
  • Think it’s cool. Whatever it is, whoever it’s with—it’s already cool. 
  • Promote. Don’t just personally enjoy whatever happens, but promote it vocally to others also. Speak up with a, “No, you should come.” Or “This is going to be awesome!”
  • Be a go-to person. There are those who can be counted on… and those who can’t. Be the first type. 
  • Faithful. I’ve heard it preached that your youth pastor should NEVER have to text you to see if you’re coming to church or the activity. I didn’t say it, but I like it.
  • Spend time, expect it to take time. Spend time together with the Saldanas, but don’t expect too much too soon. Things take time, and change happens fairly slowly. The teen years fly by, 
  • Improvements. Now is time to dream. If there’s something you’ve always wanted in the youth ministry, now is the time to see if it can happen. If you get the chance to be candid with Bro. Christian, ask if your idea would fit into what he’d like to do with the future. I’m sure he can make it happen, and I want it to be the case. 
  • Nothing is set. If there are changes, that’s to be expected. For example, we’re called the Teens Of Faith right now, but might change. I don’t know, but if God is in it, I already like it. 
  • Love it. I think I said that one already, huh? 
  • Say yes!And not just “sure,” but “OH YEAH!” Be a volunteer for anything. 
  • Be a God-follower and a man-encourager. Serve God. Love others. 

I asked, “If you were Bro. Christian and YOU are preparing to take over a new youth group, what would you do tomorrow? Who would you hang out with? What would you read? Where would you go? How much time would you spend on things?” If we can empathize enough with others to put ourselves in their shoes, it changes how we interact with them. It sparks dreams. It breathes in hope. 

Love is not always emotional, but it is always active. If you choose to show love, do it through some tangible ways like the things listed above. 

When my wife and I first got into youth ministry, a few of the teens moved on, but the majority of them bought in and ran with us. The Bakers were a huge help to that, but we saw teens coming out every week to go soul winning, we saw big changes at camp (and after camp), and we had teens who were not afraid of laughing and having fun. 

Each new season brings a new wave of emotions to the group, but overall, I’ve absolutely loved being a youth pastor. I want the next guy to love it even more. Help him along the way.