Almost every week, I get an email from a teen or young adult asking what they should do if they want to pursue youth ministry as a career. First, I have to say how exciting it is to see God lifting up a new generation of young ministers to His Church. You stand as a testament to quality youth ministry happening at your parish. Second, I encourage you to continue to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as the Lord leads you into the plan He has for your life (Jeremiah 29:11). Third, I asked some of our Life Teen Area Contacts what they would recommend for someone who thinks they might be called to youth ministry. Let me share some of their suggestions:
Pray, pray, pray. (Duh, right?)
Whenever someone is considering a vocation or career their prayer needs to include a few distinct parts. You need to work on your personal relationship with Christ. You also need to pray in discernment about where God is calling you. Include other people in this discernment – ask them to pray for you as well. Maybe most importantly, you need to take some time to stop and listen to what God is saying – and not just for what you want to hear.
Get – and stay – involved in opportunities to serve within your parish’s youth ministry program.
If the parish has an internship available, apply. If there is a peer ministry program, join. If your parish has an Edge program, ask about serving as an Edge Core member. If the parish doesnt have any specific leadership opportunities, sit down with the youth minister and offer specific ways you may be able to use your gifts to serve the community. This is less about being in front and more about learning servant leadership.
Talk with some youth ministers – preferably more than one.
Ask them why they became a youth minister. How and when did they know it was what they wanted to do? What are their greatest joys; their greatest struggles?
Check out college programs and majors that could lead into the field of youth ministry.
Keep in mind this does not necessarily mean you have to get a degree in youth ministry. Also consider teacher-prep programs (getting a degree in Secondary Education can be very helpful in the field of youth ministry), and even look at Religious Studies, Theology, and/or Communications programs.
Continue to pray and discern.
As a part of the process, consider what else you might be called to. Don’t make youth ministry your only option. Spend some time honestly assessing why you want to be a youth minister.
Seek out ministry opportunities outside of the parish.
If you are in college, there are several opportunities to work in youth ministry for a summer or a year. Pray about being on Summer Staff for Life Teen camps, offering a year of service as a Life Teen or NET missionary, or another local ministry experience.
Keep your expectations realistic.
Being involved in youth ministry as a high school student is a lot different than being the Youth Minister at a parish, even if youre currently a peer minister. There are aspects of the ministry that are not fun or glamorous; be sure that the call to youth ministry is truly from God and not simply because helping out at Life Teen feels good.
Pray. And. Discern.
Even if you discern that youth ministry is where you’re called and you become a youth minister, you must keep discerning. God’s call can change, and we have to be able to know when it’s time to move on.
I pray that you find these suggestions helpful. I pray that God continues to reveal His plan for your life. I pray that you have the courage to respond to His call. More than anything else, I pray that you know the joy of being His beloved son or daughter. This life is less about what you do, and more about whose you are. Know that the whole Life Teen family and I are praying for you daily.
May you be consumed by His grace!