Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 256: Don't Buy a House Youth (Staff) Pastor

Today on my online group I posted the comment “Average stay of a youth pastor at a church....18 months. Note to youth pastors...DON'T BUY A HOME! Even with your best intentions to stay until you are do not control your fate at a church. Sad but true” Let me explain myself as this has stirred up some interesting conversation. I will do this in four points.
1. I just recently spoke to a student at a well-known Christian university that after four years you can become a pastor (of all types…worship, youth, children, lead, etc.). He told me that it is around $20,000 per year to attend this place. Now I will not second guess the teaching but let’s process this for a moment. So a four year degree to become the butt of all financially poor paying jobs will cost you roughly $80,000.00? Now ministry can be a lot like the business world when looking for a position…it’s not what you know it’s who you know. If you don’t know someone or perhaps or did exceedingly well, you will probably end up with a less than flattering paid first position. My first position paid ZILCH. It eventually went full time but with a debt like that, I would have been strapped for many years. To buy a house and be in your first pastorate as a staff pastor and not be the senior pastor is a grave error. I am not sure what a staff pastor is expecting to get paid in their first position but if someone has told you it will be great and you can wipe your debt out quickly…wrong answer but thanks for playing. I personally think the wiser choice is correspondence courses.
2. In many cases from small local churches to a conversation I had with Ted Haggard while out to dinner…the church board and senior pastor don’t always view the rest of the staff as “church family.” I found this out to be true. My experience as a youth pastor was that you could certainly do your “ministry” but you were not allowed to attend any board meetings. The one I did get to attend was for them to lay into me like I was their own kid. Sure you will be invited to things and participate in many fun activities but you will never be in the “inner circle” of friends/church family. If you have found this to be false in your situation than count your blessings. You are a rare case. It is my goal as a senior pastor to include my staff in on everything leaving it in their hands if they want to be a part of it or not. We truly are family. If you are not in this inner circle, you are replaceable under the title of “God is leading us in a different direction” unless you really do stink at what you do and are not teachable or a team player. A pastor/board can make even the ugliest firings look like it was God’s will for the church instead of coming right out and saying, “we let the person go.” Churches take note….if you fire someone than do yourself and your church a favor. Don’t tell them “so and so resigned” just come right out and say “they were let go.”
3. Law #1 in “The 48 Laws of Power” is to “Never Outshine Your Master”. I hear of this many times where a staff pastor is so loved by those in the church that the senior pastor or board does not like it. Let's call it ministry jealousy. A worship leader may have a stellar ministry and the music might be great. This is a spotlight ministry and so it will draw attention to a person and it may not all go to the pastor…THAT IS OKAY. Apparently though some senior pastors are very uncomfortable with this. My youth group in Milwaukee grew to 85 and the college group to 20…I was brought into a board meeting because they felt like I was starting my own church. DONE…both ministries deflated to nothing because they had to be run under their terms. It was a classic pastor move so that he would not be upstaged. I should have taken this as a sign to talk to the powers that be and then at that point start a new church in Milwaukee. If you violate the #1 law of power you will have wished you never bought a home because you will be without a job. Just a few weeks before that fateful board meeting my wife and I put a bid in on a house…praise the Lord it did not go through.
4. You won’t be a youth pastor forever. Unless you are the rare breed like, Jeanne Mayo who is a 55+ year old female youth pastor who runs a LARGE youth group. Eventually youth pastors move onto different ministries usually resulting in becoming a senior pastor. Why go through the headache of owning a home if you plan on moving and climbing. Save yourself the headache of owning a home until you settle in as a senior pastor.
My humble thoughts.


  1. Jeannie Mayo was the first woman I ever heard preach. I so admire her for doing what she excels at doing, and doing it into middle age and hopefully beyond.

    Good post, Bob.

    The church I MAY end up at has a youth pastor. He has been there for some time. I don't know him. But if we end up at the same church together I will do the best I can to make him an integral part, not an add on, of what happens.

    I never did understand why youth pastors are not included in board meetings.

  2. This brings back sad memories for me. My husband and I were pushed away from 2 ministries for that 'ministry jealousy' reason. Oh they won't admit it, but most others knew it was true and even shared that with us. It was so hurtful. We never tried to 'upstage' anyone, we simply loved and served as God guided us.