How to Hire a Former Youth Pastor

There is some inherent risk when hiring a former Youth Pastor (or Student Ministry Pastor) for a non Youth Pastor job. Success with students doesn’t guarantee success with adults. Understanding how to minister to a middle school girl doesn’t simply translate to working with a board of elders or developing relationships with city leaders. So should you hire a former Youth Pastor for a non-student ministry job?

The reality is that many of the senior church leaders I meet spent time in youth ministry leadership at one point. One could almost assume that if you want to be in senior leadership some day, the only way to get there is to start in Student Ministry. Don’t believe me? Look at a sampling of job postings for Youth Pastors and see how many are trying to weed out the people just looking for a “stepping stone”.

The unfortunate reality is that in many churches the only real leadership "incubator” we allow is the Student Ministry department. It seems like a safe place for an "up and coming" leader to cut their teeth without putting the rest of the church at risk.

The reality is that whether or not an applicant has experience as a Youth Pastor isn’t really the issue. The fact that “Youth Pastor” appears on their resume doesn’t really help you access their ability to be successful on your team, at your church, or in your community.  

What we look for in any applicant is their ability to succeed in the position we are hiring for. That means our effort is focused on assessing three key indicators.

1. Skills

What skills does the applicant possess? These could include:

  • planning services and/or events
  • communicating scripture in a personal and engaging manner
  • building and maintaining relationships
  • sensitivity to the feelings and felt needs of others
  • recruiting and mobilizing volunteers

2. Values

What does the applicant value? And do their values match up with those of the church?

For example, let's assume your church values simplicity. It would be important to have an applicant describe a process they were responsible for implementing (event registration, service planning, etc.).  How many steps were involved? And then ask them if there was any improvement they would make if they were able to rebuild that process from the bottom up. Their answer will begin to help you better understand what they value as an individual.

3. Performance

Anyone can have ideas. Most can even describe how their boss did things wrong and how they would have done it differently. Those opinions are a dime a dozen. What you are looking for is the ability to follow through on those ideas and deliver results. Understand their ministry context and ask questions about growth, turnover and development.

  • Did their ministry grow in the last 5 years?
  • How would they rate the volunteer turnover rate?
  • What specific steps did they take to develop new leaders?

So, to answer the question “Should you hire a former Youth Pastor for a non-student ministry job?” Sure, hire away. Ignore the job title and look at the value to individual brings to the table. Then see if that value (their strengths, skills, experience, values and performance) are what your church needs right now to keep things moving forward.

For the Hiring Team:

I’m making a big assumption here that you’ve already done the work to identify the skills, value and performance you are looking for. If you haven’t done that yet, take time to review the role and figure out what you’re looking for.

  • What skills are important in this specific position? Make a list.
  • What are your church’s stated values? How would you expect those values to be implemented in this position?
  • What are the performance indicators you will be looking for in the coming months and years? (It’s only fair to be clear about this with any hire)

For the Former Youth Pastor:

Assuming you’re making the jump out of ministry to students, it is imperative that you highlight how you’ve developed as a leader during your years in youth ministry. Highlight the skills, your values and your performance in a way that allows the hiring team to imagine you in the position they are hiring and not in the student ministry you worked in.

Consider writing a skills based resume as opposed to traditional reverse-chronological resume format. See the following for more examples and explanation: