5 Critical Keys to Losing Your Youth Ministry Job Forever

We spend an awful amount of time focusing on how to avoid conflict and job-related stress and in doing so we’re ignoring a percentage of our audience that clearly wants to get fired. If you’re floundering around getting close to termination but not quite pulling it off, this one is for you. Don’t be too hard on yourself; not everyone can be an expert. And be patient; some of these take time.

1. Sabotage your relationship with your pastor.

Even with a good personality conflict or difference of opinion on how to do ministry your senior pastor (or other immediate supervisor) can accidentally become your greatest ally if you fail to shut down channels of positive communication. Go underground. Pastors are busy people too; you’ll quickly discover how easy they are to dodge. Don’t include her in your parental information loop. Only mention building & vehicle use to him when a space or van is double-booked, then do so defensively. Only answer interoffice emails eventually, preferably after doing so could have been considered “timely.” Oh, and don’t ever be in the office.

2. Ignore parents.

You are the youth worker, not the parent worker. Size up any potential communicative conversation with these two important questions: 1) Is this person in high school? and 2) Is this person in middle school? If the answer to both is “No,” your work here is done. Move on to something that better fits your job description. You’ve spent enough time already telling the kids about the details of that upcoming trip; no need to repeat yourself. Often parents will feel that they have something to offer in terms of ideas for programs or topics for small groups. Ignore these; parents often mistakenly have a way of thinking that their raised-a-child perspective somehow gives them insight into your met-a-child-in-the-6th-grade expertise. It’s not their fault; apron-strings, etc. If a line gets drawn in the sand, remind them whose job it is to make these decisions.

3. Safeguard your decision-making process.

Beating a dead horse here, but this is your ministry. Your decisions will be best made alone and communicated only when you have made up your mind. Bringing others in on decision-making, particularly if you’re still early in the decision-making process can make it difficult to keep your ideas separate from the others’. Before you know it, their ideas will seem like yours and yours will seem like theirs… better to nip that in the bud. Oh–sometimes if you’re going to axe a beloved annual event, it may be helpful to find one other person that wants it to go away too. Ask them about it, then forever refer to them in the plural: “I’ve been hearing from a few people that it was time to move on” or “A lot of people didn’t want to make valentines for the elderly anymore.”

4. Don’t clarify volunteer roles. In fact, ease up on delegating altogether.

You’ll probably do it better yourself anyway, at least until you’re fired. Don’t stop having adults in the room; you do still have that damnable Safe Sanctuaries policy (or other adult/youth ratio guidelines) to satisfy. But most “volunteers” that you’ve browbeaten into “helping” have just enough insecurity that, if you’re quick, you can overstep them in the job you’ve asked them to do and do it yourself. This gets even easier if you don’t tell them in advance what they’ll be doing (“Just show up and we’ll figure it out together” is usually pretty comforting) and delay, delay, delay getting program materials into their hands. Last-minute or no preparation time at all should be the extra bump into their insecurity that you’ll need to clam them up for good.

5. Ignore appropriate boundaries with youth.

If you skipped to the end looking for a one-shot approach to the exit, you’ve found it. The first four are slow-boil approaches to termination; this one, properly executed, is for the want-to-be-gone-this-week set. Boundaries in relationships with youth are for the weak. No general policy-maker has any idea what hour is too late for you to be up texting with one of your kids or the great work that goes on when you meet alone after the office has closed and they’ve finally gotten free from their after-school stuff. When else are you supposed to meet? There’s a window in the door, for crying out loud. These are the kind of people that don’t understand the real transformation that occurs in opposite-gender conversations in the parking lot on mission trips between 3-4am. Her parents don’t understand her, and you do. What could go wrong when a girl finds comfort in a mature male figure who will listen to her? Or a boy who is waking up to the idea that a female leader doesn’t draw away from him like some of the girls his own age? Nothing, that’s what. You know where your own boundaries are.

That’s probably a good start in the right direction. If you’re faithfully practicing these five things in 6 months and don’t at least feel like you might be close to getting fired, come back by and we’ll talk about how you might more creatively spend your budget money for your own benefit.




KEVIN ALTON :: the tall one @ the youthworker circuit
youthworker :: musician :: friend :: twitter: @elvisfreakshow
www.kevinalton.com :: www.youthworkercircuit.com


  1. Dude, I love the employment of your supernatural spiritual gift of sarcasmotos! It speaks volumes for sure. Over my 25+ years in student ministries, and getting canned once myself, I’ve seen so many young, gifted and anointed people say yes to youth ministry, but NO to wisdom & teachability. The older I get, the more I realize what I do NOT know about youth ministry. When I was young, and I’ve seen this repeatedly, I only knew what I knew and thought that was all there was to know = arrogance & pride.

    Rock on, brutha! And in the famous words of Les Christy, “Until you’ve been fired at least three times, you’re not really ready to do youth ministry.” Thanks for getting them ready.
    In His Grip,

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