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Why Anglican youth ministry is unsustainable

Photo by Flickr user Gabrie Coletti, used under a CC by 2.0 license.

Photo by Flickr user Gabrie Coletti, used under a CC by 2.0 license.

A few weeks ago, someone passed me a job description for a new part-time youth ministry position, and asked me to pass it around. I took one look at it and summarily refused.

At the top of the job description, the parish listed their proposed wage. Do you know how much they wanted to pay? A dollar above minimum wage.

Maybe you think that’s generous. Or maybe, like me, you find yourself seething. It would be one thing if the position was for a child minder, or someone to watch after the children. Even still, I could easily be convinced that such a way was too low.

But the job in question required training. It required skills. It required leadership and facilitation experience. It required that the successful candidate act as a team leader, manage relationships with young people, with parents and the clergy team. And it required that they do so at an abysmal rate of pay.

And this, dear friends, is why youth ministry is unsustainable in our church.

We can take the responsibility to disciple young people ourselves. We might conclude that the responsible thing to do is to hire someone to lead the charge. But if we do that, we need to be similarly responsible to the parish, our young people and to the person we hire.

In response to this job description, a colleague of mine shared:

I would call it short-sighted. If churches want talent, energy and charisma to attract youth, then they will need to compete in *that* employment market, not the broader “anyone who can spell youth ministry” market. At $XX/hour, you often get what you pay for. The really good youth workers will pick where they want to work… 

Another followed up, saying:

…or they will take their gifts and talents to the secular world who will be much more likely to compensate youth workers at a sustainable rate (along with giving them a reasonable and realistic job description and position expectations)

We all say that we want youth ministry to be sustainable. Whatever our reasons, we want this to succeed. I simply don’t know why parishes continue to shoot themselves in the youth ministry foot with hiring practices that are blatantly disrespectful, unrealistic, and unjust.

If you’re looking for further resources to prepare your parish to hire a youth minister in a way that respectful, realistic, and just, consider reading this article:

9 Signs You’re Not Ready to Hire a Youth Minister

If you want to go deeper, be sure to dig deeper with the Youth Ministry Foundations module on Trailblazing: Theological Formation for Youth Ministry.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie

About Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Andrew is an Anglican lay leader who loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being church in the 21st Century. He serves as an assistant to the rector for Evangelism and Christian Formation at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver and is a founding member of the emerging St. Brigids community (www.stbrigid.ca).
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