Book Summary: The Youth Ministry Survival Guide

Image result for The Youth Ministry Survival Guide lenThe Youth Ministry Survival Guide (Len Kageler, 2008)

  1. Youth Ministry: Worth the effort
  • The average length of stay in my 2006 survey of 373 fired or burned-out youth pastors was 4.8 years, not 18 months.
  • Advantages of staying long term
    • Increased credibility
    • The Joy of Watching Young People Grow Up
    • Control Over Schedule
    • Youth Ministry Keeps Us Young
    • Stay and It May Begin to Pay
    • The Joy of Being Good at Something
    • The Joy of Watching Problem People Graduate Out of Our Lives
    • Things Get Easier and Take Less Time
  • Men and women who stay in church-based youth ministry soon realize we are in a partnership with parents in passing on the faith to young people.
  • Youth ministry helps the church keep emerging. 
  • Youth group participation affects what kids believe, and that this makes a positive difference in how they behave.
  1. Early Hazards

  • Morale Curve
    • Phase 1: The Honeymoon. We land in a new ministry position with much enthusiasm and optimism. 
    • Phase 2: Reality Sets In
    • Phase 3: Adjustment Attempts
    • Phase 4: Stay and Grow, or Exit. This decision point comes about nine to twelve months into a new job
  • Idealism problems:
    • How Christian People Should Act 
    • What Youth Ministry Should Be Like
    • Our Own Authority
    • The Youths themselves
  • Stay fit and healthy for youth ministry
  1. Caution: Conflict and Compromise


  • Senior pastor
    • Differing Philosophies of Ministry
    • Pastoral insecurity
    • Scapegoat
    • New pastor = new staff
  • Church Leadership
  • Parents
    • Rules, Standards, and Control
    • Teaching and Advice (think thru your counsel to kids)
  • Kids
    • Not Being Like Your Predecessor (comparison, work with younger ones)
    • Changing Cherished Programs
    • Rules and regulations (20% are stongwilled, esp. 2nd born kids)
    • Surprise! If We Don’t Like Them, They Won’t Like Us.


  • Sexual morality is an important issue. E.g. Worker and youths
  1. Recipes for Burnout
  • Pastor hard to get along with
  • Feeling isolated or lonely
  • Spiritual dryness, unfed soul
  • Strained family relationships
  • Criticism
  1. Personality Plus (Yours)! 

My favorite way of explaining personality differences is by using the labels Lions, Otters,

Golden Retrievers, and Ants.

  • Lions are leaders and can be aggressive. They like to make decisions and make things

happen. They are wired to be confident about themselves and their decisions. They don’t require much information to make a decision and don’t need much feedback as to how they are doing a particular task. Put them in charge of events and talk in front.

  • Otters are the life of the party—fun-loving people-persons who love to make wide social

contacts. They are spontaneous, dynamic, and feel energized when entering a room full of strangers. Let them create positive atmosphere.

  • Golden Retrievers are deeply relational and sensitive. They love to get inside the head and heart of another person. They love to care and be cared for. They love to listen to the deep needs of others. Let them talk and befriend kids.
  • Ants tend to be organized and analytical. They make decisions comfortably only when they have all the facts in front of them. They are hard workers who take pride in doing things the right way. Let them work in background, meet youths one to one.
  • God uses all types in youth work. They are not wrong, just different.
  • Know who you are and use your gifts.
  • Network with others to use their gifting and personality
  1. Youth ministry, being married and having a life
  • The single life: Loneliness and isolation
    • Have a small group/accountability group
    • Go for conventions and conferences to meet youth pastors
    • Communicating and negotiating with your churches on scheduling
    • Admit life’s learning curve
    • Have boundaries. Balance work and rest.
  • The married life
    • Use square system (Mon – Sat, 3 time block x 6 = 18 blocks) 6 squares for off time and put it in family calendar also. Might need to have multiple meetings in one day.
    • Leave work stuff mentally also to tune in to your family
  1. Working positively with your pastor and other church leaders
  • Understand that what is most important to us may not be most important to them
  • Understand personality differences and appreciate their strengths
  • Integrity
    • We Understand We’re Not Number One
      • Tony Campolo has observed three ways that youth pastors may try to do an end run around their pastors: 1) by displaying their more up-to-date education; 2) by casting the senior pastors as “keeper of the status quo,” and 3) by using youth ministry to climb the denominational big-shot ladder
    • Avoiding Communication Quicksand
      • If someone complains to us about the pastor or the church board, we must let that person know up front that it is not acceptable to complain to others without first talking directly to the senior pastor or members of the board. 
    • Say Only Good in Public
  1. Working positively with parents and kids


  • Understand their fears and worries, life cycles, 2-career family.
  • Christian parents want 5 things: 1. To understand themselves and their kids. 2. To have a close family. 3. To see their kids behave morally. 4. To have a sense of shared faith with their kids. 5. To have access to outside help. 
  • Share parent’s concern for safety, be punctual, be on their side
  • Build bridges: Act like an adult, send out newsletters, hold parents seminars, parent support/prayer group, parent meetings


  • Understand the teenage mind: Brains of girls (12 yo) develop earlier than boys (15 yo). When they reach the cerebral upgrade then they can reason and have personal faith. Don’t worry if they don’t get it earlier on! 
  • Sexual integrity
    • Recognise that you are capable of sexual immorality also. 
    • Recognize what kinds of situations and circumstances leave you most vulnerable to inappropriate sexual interest. 
    • Set up, with other volunteers or staff people, solid rules to protect yourself e.g. no car rides alone with opposite sex, no front hugs only side
    • Have real accountability with someone to ask the hard questions
  1. Reaching the Lost without Frustrating the Found

Inside-Out model for church youth workers. The role of the youth worker in the Inside Out approach is to work with, nurture, and equip the churched kids to reach out themselves to their non-Christian friends.

Outside-In model for those focus on outreach and better suited for parachurches. The role of youth workers in the Outside In approach is to go directly to the nonchurched kids, seek to win them to Christ, and then invite them into the church youth group or some other venue for Christian growth. 

  • Find out which model you are more suited for. For parachurch, usually need to raise own support.
  • If your church has no kids, you can do the Outside-In model
  • People don’t like change when more unchurched kids start joining. There are several remedies to the aversion to growth we have been talking about. 
    • Remedy 1: Understand the Impact of Change. Show them why the current model isn’t working.
    • Remedy 2: Reaching the Reached before Reaching the Unreached. Establish a good foundation with the churched kids first before outreach.
    • Remedy 3: Create a Ministry That is Geared for Care. Key is through small groups so they can be known and receive care from the leaders. Let them show pastoral care, no need to always be the youth pastor.
    • Remedy 4: Teach and Train with a Vision for Outreach and Practical Outreach Opportunities. Have them make a list of friends that need Jesus. If some don’t ask them to pray for others and be welcoming to newcomers. At “In-house” outreach event, ask them to invite friends, have it fully student led at the front. Have kids share testimonies, get response from those interested.
  • Ask youths to attend denomination wide youth events. Many youth find their first experience of worship along with thousands of peers to be a life-transforming experience.
  • When we balance care for the youth inside our churches with efforts to reach those on the outside, we are far less likely to be fired or experience burnout in our ministries.
  1. Empowerment
  • Self-empowerment
    • Relaxing in God’s Power
    • The List/The Calendar. List of things to do and set priority
    • Controlling Paper. Keep old notes and stuff to reuse in future
    • Personal Preparation
    • Following Through and Keeping One’s Word
  • Student empowerment
    • Recruit student leaders. Get a poll (not a vote) of students who love God and students, then prayerfully decide new leaders
    • Orientation for new leaders
      • Affirm joy in them, ask them to share one good ministry memory 
      • Ask them to discuss the responsibilities to God, to leadership team, to youth group, to adult leaders. Ask them to agree to it.
      • Hand out statement of the youth ministry’s mission/vision/core values
      • Hand them a blank calendar for the next few months and start planning
      • Close in prayer with thanks
    • Student leadership meetings
      • Twice monthly, 90-120 mins
      • Go around the room and share either a personal “praise” or “prayer” item. Take time to pray for each other.
      • Evaluate: “Anyone want to reflect on anything that has happened in the ministry since we last met?”
      • Plan for the future. Best to have kids plan while adults program. Kids come up with the kinds of events we’ll do, but it is the adult staff that takes those plans and carries them out with the assistance of the youth. Ask “Does this event look good enough that you’ll eagerly invite a friend?”
      • Plan how members of the student leadership team will be involved in our weekly youth group meetings.
      • Have a ten-minute training module
      • Throw it open to anything people want to bring up.
      • Pray for the ministry
      • The larger and more important the event, the more important it is that it be student-led
    • Adult volunteer empowerment
      • Motivation. Have an orientation and meetings.
      • Monthly gathering
  1. A meal
  2. Prayer for one another. (As with the student leaders, personal requests only.) 
  3. Evaluation/reflection on the month that’s past since our last meeting. 
  4. Programming. We take the plan of the student leaders and designate which adults will be “in charge” of each event. (Keep personality types in mind. We talk through the schedule and any specifics that help make sure we have all the bases covered. 
  5. Training. We usually talk through a copied article on youth ministry or book chapter
  6. Talk about specific kids or specific situations. Any concerns? Anyone needing special care? 
  7. Prayer for the ministry. 
  • Visualising. Give your volunteers a job description what you want them to do.
  • Scheduling, communicating. 
    • Give them a “Who’s Doing What” flow sheet of weekly meeting or events 3 month’s advance
    • For each event: date, time, name of event, who has agreed to be “in charge.” 
    • For weekly youth group meetings: date, text/topic, worship leader, main teacher, main “upfront” person.
  1. The Renewed Youth Worker
  • If we want to take care of our bodies, we’ve got to learn to disconnect, to draw a boundary.
  • Develop a healthy vulnerability. Have wisdom on what and who to share with.
  • Never forget that the Kingdom of God will always go on
  • Don’t neglect your inner life with God


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