Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The difference between part-time and full-time youth ministry

I have embarked on a challenge...maybe even a quest. Tim Schmoyer has a number of blog topics he hopes people will write...here

So I am going to write about all the ones I know something about so I can do my part to help others. I have been both a full time and a part-time, bivocational youth minister so maybe I can help with this question.

For me, there is very little difference between part-time and full-time youth ministry and I will tell you why...the goals and the expectations often end up being the same.

I always thought (before I became a full-time youth minister) what I would be able to do if I was in full time youth ministry work...all the things I could, retreats I could go to, time I could spend planning...however, it seemed none of that happened like I thought it would. Very few of those involved in full time youth ministry get to devote their full time to youth ministry. In fact, youth ministry is one of those positions that gets tacked on to a lot. Youth and Education, Youth and Music, Youth and Children, Associate Pastor for Youth...all with other responsibilities besides youth. I will also say that expectations of a youth worker changes when you are paid to work in it full time and I suppose rightfully so. I transitioned in one church from part-time to full-time but I really did not change anything I was already doing...I was devoting just as much time to it as I could but the expectations all of a sudden changed...watch out! Full time youth ministry did afford me the opportunity to visit the schools and spend quality time with my youth which I liked.

So full time ministry afforded me a little more time to build the relationships that are so necessary to do youth ministry...a definite plus.

I will also say this...full time youth ministry puts a lot of strain on you and your family. This is your primary source of income usually for the whole family. One big mistake or error in judgment and you are so unemployed and where does that leave your family? It is difficult to minister as God has called you to do with that thought hanging over your head. One stint I had as a full time youth minister came to an abrupt end because of the Senior pastor and I not seeing eye to eye on youth ministry.(see my last two posts) This left me and my family in a very bad position. I felt for the kids, what God was doing there, and the fact I would no longer be a part of it. However, in a practical sense, I was in a difficult spot. God provided but it had a real cost to it.

When I was involved in part-time youth ministry, the kids needed me just as much, they wanted to do the things other churches did, I tried to reach out as much as others did but I always ran up against a couple of big differences I do see in part-time youth ministry and full time. Time and money.

In part time work, you also have lots of other responsibilities eating at your time. I was part-time youth guy while I was in seminary but I also worked 2 other jobs and went to school. Now to the church's credit, they never placed unreal expectations on my time but I drove 50 miles just to get there.

Most churches that employ part-time youth ministers are taking all the money they have for youth ministry and paying you with it. I have been in churches that had money to do stuff and churches that did not and I will be honest and say it was easier to do ministry in churches that had money to support it. When you are in part time ministry, it seems its you against the world. You really have to develop a good source of volunteers. If you are bivocational, it does not hurt to have a good paying job that is light on the hours (hope you find that) As I said, with part-time or full-time youth ministry, I believe people's expectations are the same...they are paying someone to do youth ministry...payola changes everyone's perception of what you should be doing.

Some of my best experiences are when I am just Joe Volunteer working with the youth. No real job description, no expectations, after all, I am just a volunteer. It really helps prioritize some things. I also don't have the "someones paying me" thing hanging over my head. I feel like I got a lot more satisfaction out of being a part-time volunteer than anything else I have ever done.

Let me summarize some of these things:

1. Full-time and part-time youth ministry often leave people with the same expectations of you.
2. Full-time may afford you with what appears to be more time but it does not often pan out like that.
3. Full-time ministry puts a greater strain on the family unit (in other words, if God has not called you to do it...don't)
4. Full-time youth ministry is often judged (fairly or unfairly) by numbers and activities you do.
5. Full-time youth ministers need to be acquainted with the passage in Luke 12:48. You will hear that quoted your way often I am sure.
6. Part-time youth ministry may indeed leave you with less resources (money, time) to work with but you must find a way to keep those limitations from impacting your ministry (especially making excuses for not having time, money...) See John chapter 6.
7. Part-time ministry usually means you are full-time somewhere else...do not lose sight of your priorities in the midst of all that you do...keep God's perspective.
8. Part-time ministry is never, ever part-time. You are on call 24/7. Part-time refers to how you are compensated not your ministry.
9. Part-time ministry is just as personally rewarding as full-time ministry and to me, just as important and ever more needed in today's economy. Don't think of yourself as a second class minister regardless of your title or pay scale...some of the best ministers I know never held an "official" position.
10. To that end, take the opportunity to volunteer sometime. You may find that ultimately freeing (particularly if you have another job paying the bills)

Who would think I went to seminary and all that to end up as a volunteer minister?

Crazy huh?

I am sure there are more differences. You tell me your experience.

God bless you today,



  1. I know this was written a while ago, but thanks for your perspective Larry. I've been bi-vocational my whole ministry life and always hoped for the "greener" pastures in full-time ministry. I'm just grateful to serve students in whatever capacity that I can right now.

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  3. Hey, I just found this! Great post. I'm part-time right now and in my senior year of college...I'm dying! I can't pay my bills with what they pay me, yet I'm too busy to get ANOTHER job. Last semester I had another job and my grades and ministry suffered. Also, the youth want to do everything that the bigger churches do, but I don't have the time with another job! It's crazy stressful. I'm considering asking for a raise, but I'm unsure and apprehensive. Thoughts?