Are you employing a part-time minister for youth or children? You might want to think again.
I’d been on edge all day, waiting, so it was exciting when the call finally came. The church had voted to call me as their Youth Minister. It was my first church position, 2 days per week. I was newly married with no kids at that time and such was my excitement to lead a youth ministry; I would have taken the position for free. A part-time ministry role can be beneficial to both the part time minister and the church but there are several dangers to avoid.
Employing out of weakness instead of strength
My first church made a smart employment decision because their youth ministry already had strength; it was well attended, had a mix of kids from church and wider community and had a strong number of volunteers. I was employed to build on the strength that already existed in the ministry. Not all churches do this. It’s not unusual to find a church with a struggling youth or children’s ministry and the church decides to employ their way out of trouble.
I was once invited to work as a Youth Pastor in a church that had no youth group and no leaders wanting to be involved. The church was asking me to single-handedly create a youth group, find young people, recruit leaders, lead young people to Jesus and bring them along on Sunday morning all for 2 days a week.
This church was searching for superman! When a church has money in the bank but poor ministry on the ground there’s a temptation to reach for the chequebook and hire a part-time superhero. In this way some churches outsource their responsibility to the next generation by employing a part-time minister to worry about it.
No silver bullet
It takes more than a staff worker to run a strong ministry. Even the most talented and enthusiastic minister is going to struggle if the church collectively hasn’t embraced ministry to the next generation. If the church can’t find volunteers to serve in the children’s ministry, why would the newly appointed children’s worker find it any easier?
When the desperation of a church meets the raw enthusiasm of a young minister; it can so easily lead to pain on all sides. Instead of employing their way out of trouble; churches could call their congregations to prayer; invite their congregation to share their ideas for ministry to the next generation and discuss all age ministry approaches that include children and youth among the adults. Employing a part-time minister is not a silver bullet that will solve all ministry problems.
Financially unsustainable ministry positions
If a church can afford to employ a minister for 3 days a week for only 12 months, what will they do for the next 12 months? Some churches make heroic assumptions that employing a youth minister automatically leads to exponential growth in the youth ministry which leads to a colossal increase in church giving.
The reality is that employing a minister doesn’t guarantee ministry growth and even when it does it may take significant time for ministry growth to translate into increased church revenue. Churches create stress for themselves and for their staff by employing ministers to positions which are financially unsustainable.
Instead of employing a minister, why not put that money into training volunteer leaders, into camps and mission trips for young people and into good resources for youth and children’s ministry?
I worked as a part time church minister for 7 years and found it an incredibly challenging balancing act. During those 7 years I worked two jobs, completed a Bible college degree and was raising a young family.
The truth is, it’s hard to do all those things well; often the quality of my studies suffered, often the needs of my family were neglected. Some people at church were sensitive to the pressures I was under; others were not.
Ministry for a season
If you have a part-time minister; pray for them, support them, encourage them and recognise that one day you may need to release them. Not everyone will be able to sustain a part-time ministry position or juggle two jobs long term. If the members of a church need to work full time to support their families; the same will be true for the part-time minster.
It’s no crime to work a part-time ministry role for a season before seeking permanent work elsewhere. Ministers shouldn’t be expected to serve an unlimited tenure on limited pay.
A part-time minister may prove to be a valuable addition to your church. Avoid the traps and don’t expect to hire a superhero.
Travis Barnes lives in central Victoria with his wife and two daughters. He is an associate minister with the Churches of Christ denomination.
You can find more of Travis’ articles at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/travis-barnes.html