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  • Hannah Williamson

Youth Ministry - bi-vocational, part-time or full time? What works for you and what to expect?


In my travels across the UK and in working with various different churches, I have found that there are interesting differences around how leadership teams are taking on Youth Pastors and what their expectations are. Some bi-vocational leaders are doing incredible things working with young people in their ‘spare time’ but little value is placed on their development. On the other hand, I have seen some churches take on full time Youth Pastors who do not know how to fill their time. There are extremes in pay - some with very low salaries for the work they are doing and some on much higher salaries for what they are achieving (or not!). There are also differences in ‘titles.’ Some are called ‘Youth Workers’ but are most certainly pastoring multiple young people, yet some are called ‘Youth Pastors’ but are really fulfilling a Youth Worker role with little discipleship taking place. Below takes time to look at the differences between bi-vocational, part-time or full-time Youth Pastors, looking at some of the pros and cons of each of them while writing what I think you can expect from each role. In the following words, I will always refer to the worker as a ‘Youth Pastor.’ (In my mind, someone working in a church setting with young people has a responsibility to pastor them. In any secular setting this is different, but in a church, I would hope we expect our young people to be pastored, discipled and reached with the gospel.)



Meet Lewis. I have been working with Lewis for about 6 months. Lewis lives, works and serves his local church in Spalding. He is married to Charlotte and they have a 1 year old baby. Lewis took on running the youth ministry just over a year ago. He is bi-vocational and his full time job is working with young carers. Of all the youth groups I have worked with, this has been one of the most encouraging. Lewis took on the youth group during the pandemic, but has continued to build on it’s strong foundation, building a team, running a high quality Friday night programme, running a discipleship course for teenagers on a Sunday and developing a group of young leaders. Living in Spalding, the pace of life is a little slower to what I am used to in London and so I think this has an influence, allowing him a little more time to give to the youth ministry. He is also in a job which requires him to be organised which I think then transfers into his work for the church. Serving/working bi-vocationally works for him and for the church currently. They have invested into coaching for Lewis and also training for the team. Below are what I would see as some of the pros and cons of having a Youth Pastor bi-vocationally….


Pros:

In a smaller church setting, this is an affordable option (although I would strongly encourage the church to ensure they find ways of blessing and pouring into the leader for all they are doing - e.g. pay for them to go to conferences to develop them or getting external support, give an end of year gift expressing thanks and pay reasonable expenses.)
If you have someone who can lead youth and run the youth ministry, you have probably found someone with a high capacity who knows how to manage their time well and develop leaders - it’s the only way they would be able to build anything of significance. You need the right person to do this role who is committed and sees it as a calling rather than just a volunteering opportunity.

Cons:

You can do little beyond a Friday programme (or equivalent day!) and leading a team, so do not expect any form of schools work or potentially other outreach opportunities to take place.
The Youth Pastor could become easily overwhelmed with the amount expected of them - be careful about adding on a ton of additional meetings they have to be at! A significant amount of time is already taken leading the youth group.

What to reasonably expect from someone who is bi-vocational:

  • Leading a small team of youth workers. (larger if trained and supported to do this!)

  • Running a high quality Friday programme utilising a strong team to support this.

  • Either developing a small group of young leaders or discipling a small group of young people (I would veer towards the young leaders as this will further greater impact and support to the youth ministry in the long run).




Meet Alex! I have been working with Alex for over a year now. He works and serves at The Bridge Church in Woodford and is paid 2 days a week to run the youth ministry (Thursdays and Fridays). With the other days, he works for Europcar at Stansted airport. Alex does a small amount of schools work going in to run a lunchtime club with other churches in the local area each week, runs an after school project weekly, runs a Friday programme and oversees bi-weekly teaching for young people on a Sunday. Here are some of the pros and cons…


Pros:

Affordability - for a small to medium sized church this may work well. What is also a consideration is whether the person you take on does this role part time and another role in church part time, which creates a level of flexibility but means you have the person there full time so they can get the benefit of being with the team and developmental opportunities. It makes things less complicated with doing multiple jobs.
Paid time during the day allows you to do some level of schools work which is a key way of connecting with non-christian young people or running some kind of outreach project like an after school club which can feed into your Friday programme.


Cons:

The lines can become blurred between work and volunteering and the expectations from the church leadership. Unless the Youth Pastor is extremely good at managing their time and putting in boundaries it can be difficult for them to keep their work days to their work days. They would need help, encouragement and support to do this. There would also need to be understanding from full time staff, that the part time staff member cannot give as much as they are, otherwise this could be unneeded pressure on them.
This may not be an affordable option for a younger leader. To be doing another job part time, the Youth Pastor would need to be getting a good salary to support them. Generally someone at the start of their career may be on a lower salary and so this may not be feasible. Another thing to consider is the salary of the Youth Pastor. I have found these to be so varied. If you are paying very low for the two days a week, this may make it difficult for the leader. (this doesn’t discount faith of course, but we must ensure we honour too!)

What to reasonably expect from someone who is part-time:

  • Leading a small team of youth workers. (larger if trained and supported to do this!)

  • Running a high quality Friday programme utilising a strong team to support this.

  • Either developing a small group of young leaders or discipling a small group of young people (I would veer towards the young leaders as this will further greater impact and support to the youth ministry in the long run).

  • Running an outreach project or doing a few hours of schools work.


I had the privilege of being full time from the get go when I was 21 and took over our youth ministry. Although over time, my role changed and I probably gave part time to youth ministry and part time to other areas of church, for at least 7-10 years, most if not all of my focus was given to youth ministry. I was in Dagenham which is part of greater London. I say this, because I do believe location has an impact. Being in London, the pace is much faster than other areas of the country and so for someone to really make an impact it would be a struggle to do this bi-vocationally. Most people have very ‘full on’ jobs. I will forever be grateful that I was able to work full time. Here are some pros and cons…


Pros:

Time - you definitely have the benefit of time to give your all to the role with space to be able to develop the youth ministry and especially give time to things like schools work or other outreach projects. Hundreds came through our youth ministry and church as a result of our schools work. I can tell the stories of lives changed because of this so I will always be an advocate!
You have more space and time to develop them and for them to be integrated well into your staff team as they would be at everything you are doing for the team. For example, if you were going to a conference they could go with you and get the full benefit of development. You would also have the opportunity for them to be involved in other areas of church life which may help you as a church!

Cons:

Cost - you may not be able to afford this as a church and I do believe it’s good to set a reasonable pay for what you are expecting them to do. There may be other roles in church that equally need filling like a children’s pastor for example and so part time may be easier.
The Youth Pastor may get a little too comfortable in the role especially if they start young and so wouldn’t have the benefit of learning in another work setting. I do believe you can get round some of this if you ensure that their role involves partnerships in other environments e.g. schools or with the local council. It is something to just be aware of!

What to reasonably expect from someone who is full-time:

  • Leading a large team of youth workers.

  • Running a high quality Friday programme with a strong team.

  • Developing young leaders

  • Running multiple outreach projects or working in multiple schools.

  • Training and developing interns to serve within the youth ministry.

  • Running summer camps, weekends away etc.

  • Involvement in other areas of church life.

  • Young people either involved on a Sunday or a Sunday programme for young people.

 

This only gives a small glimpse into the work of Youth Pastors in these different roles and I am conscious that every environment is different but I hope it gives some understanding of expectation to help you as a church, Pastor or leadership team. I have given some thought below to how to move from one stage to the other. Things that may help if you want to begin exploring…..

Consider creating an internship programme giving someone fresh out of school or university an opportunity to start a youth work from scratch - ensure you have the right person & a good structure in place to accommodate this! Alternatively plug into an internship programme that could offer the support you may not have the resource to give, e.g. Pais - https://paismovement.com or YFC - https://yfc.co.uk/homegrown/
If you have someone who could lead the youth ministry but has no or little experience consider paying for some coaching and/or training to develop the person, helping them to start something - this is something I offer or I can point you in the direction of the right people - https://www.we-echo.co.uk/consultancy

Consider part funding/part payment from church - this may help you financially. Just be aware there are certain stipulations surrounding certain funding so time may need to be planned out accordingly.
Take the time to work with the potential staff member to make it work - talk through expectations, time commitments and how working/volunteering will work from the get go. These conversations can be tricky if not worked out early on.
Consider more experienced people - not necessarily in youth work but people who know how to manage their time well and work multiple jobs. This may be more affordable for them too if they have another job which pays well to support what you may be able to offer them (that’s not an excuse to pay badly, however!)

Consider a wider role if this is a stretch financially. For example you could take on a younger youth pastor to do both the youth pastoring and media? Or admin? Ensure you play to their strengths but you could be creative with the role. Because they would be full time with your church it would allow flexibility for them to do things like schools work around the other role.
Consider paying through a variety of different forms - could part of their role be funded through funding? For example a days worth of funding could allow them to open an after school project which gets them reaching community young people or you could apply for funding for them to deliver a mentoring scheme into a local school. I would ensure the role is not all paid through funding as this can restrict what you do but it may help to part pay for the role.
Ensure you have a high priority in developing the Youth Pastor you take on so that you can maximise the role and get the most out of the person. The more they learn to lead well, the more of an asset they will be to your and your church and the money spent out to take them on will be worth it!

I believe it’s vital for every church to take seriously the importance of

youth ministry, not just because it’s something I did and am passionate

about but because without young people coming through, there is little

hope for the future of the church. Having a thriving youth ministry could

transform your church and set it up for the future. I am aware than not

every church can take on a full time youth pastor and may not even be

able to find one, however I would encourage you to do all you can to

prioritise time spent thinking through how you can develop this area of

church life. This is something I am passionate about so do get in contact if

there is anything I can do to help you as a church think this through!



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