Guest Post: If You Want to Be a Youth Pastor, Why Bother with Seminary?

Slide1Youth ministry is a vital part of the body of Christ. It’s not something that should be taken lightly, and those whom God has entrusted with this task are both privileged and held to a high standard of obedience. Youth ministry should be more than “fun and games” and God calls His people (including students) to a much higher standard than that. When it comes to being a youth pastor some may say, ““Don’t all you have to do is be good with kids, and keep them busy?” but there’s honestly so much more to it than that. God wants “faithful men” (2 Tim. 2:2) who will serve His church by reaching the lost and equipping those who believe. In order to do this, a youth pastor must be prepared himself. I would argue that someone entering into/already in vocational youth ministry should highly consider training at the seminary level, and pursue it if possible. There’s so much more to youth ministry than we realize, and training as a leader in God’s church is something that must be taken seriously. Here’s a few reasons to consider seminary if you are in (or will one day be in) youth ministry:

So you can accurately teach students the bible. A youth pastor’s job isn’t simply to create energy-filled, adrenaline-laced events or play crazy, fun, and sometimes straight up gross icebreaker games. A youth pastor’s primary responsibility is to teach students the Bible. This takes a lot of time and energy to be done right, but it’s what God expects of those who are leading His church, and youth ministry is no exception. Acts 6:4 speaks of the apostles delegating other responsibilities to deacons so they could devote themselves to prayer to the ministry of the word. In order to know how to study God’s Word, one must know how to do it effectively. A seminary degree can be one of the tools that God uses to equip someone in youth ministry to do this. Never think that students aren’t intellectual enough for you to go deep with them in the Scriptures. Students go to school and they learn physics, calculus, and trigonometry, they can learn the Bible! One who goes to seminary and then goes into youth ministry has by no means wasted his degree and it should never be seen as something that can’t be applied; actually he’s been given valuable tools for youth ministry that many have not gotten the chance to receive. A youth pastor should take his responsibility of teaching the Bible seriously, and seminary will aid that ambition. The primary responsibility of a youth pastor is to study the Bible in order to accurately teach the Bible to students.

So you can effectively serve as a leader in the local church. We live in a society where education is highly esteemed. More and more organizations are requiring a college education or further schooling for their applicants. The church is no exception to this trend, and there are many churches in America that will not consider anyone applying who’s not received a seminary degree. The educational emphasis churches are placing on their candidates appears to be a growing trend, and shows that they are placing a high emphasis on the training of God’s servants. I’m not saying that this is how all churches should be, or that you won’t be an equipped pastor without a seminary degree, I’m just pointing out the reality that today’s churches place a huge emphasis on education. I personally believe this is a good thing, and that as a youth pastor, one should desire to be well equipped effectively serve in the local church.

So you can be ready for ministry after youth ministry. I love youth ministry! I sensed God calling me to this vocation my freshman year of high school. I told God I would do this, and He’s been so gracious in giving me several youth ministry opportunities so far in my life. I’m now 22, and am about to begin seminary this January. I’d love to do full-time, pastoral youth ministry until I’m 80 years old, but I know that’s probably not going to happen. There usually comes a point in a youth pastor’s career (usually around the time he turns 40) that he transitions out of youth ministry and into another ministry role. When that day arrives for me, I want to be ready for what God has for me. I want to do youth ministry as long as God allows me to, but I know there will be a day where it will be time for a new ministry phase in life. Having said that, it’s important to think long-term with your ministry career. Most likely, you won’t be a youth pastor forever, and what will God have for after that? Don’t just prepare to be a youth pastor, but prepare to be a pastor who ministers the gospel. Think not only of your role now (or the near future) as a youth pastor, but also your role as someone who will be preaching the gospel for the rest of your life! You will be doing that to students, but you will also have other opportunities speaking to other age groups, and you will most likely have a different title other than “youth pastor” on your desk one day. Seek to be well trained in the gospel for the duration of your ministry, and be ready for ministry after youth ministry.

As I mentioned earlier, youth ministry is a high calling, and should never be taken lightly. Seminary is not something you “have” to do, no one went to seminary in the Bible, but I would encourage you to highly consider it if you are in youth ministry. If you don’t think that it’s feasible, go to God about it, and ask Him what He would have you do. I personally didn’t think that it would be possible for me to attend seminary a year ago, but God worked it out for me to attend this spring. Take God’s work seriously, take the students lives in which you are ministering to seriously. Strive to do what’s best, even if it’s not what’s easiest or convenient. Love the gospel, and be passionate about training for something as big as the love of Jesus, and the fact that you get to share it!

This guest post was written by one of my best friends Mark Etheridge. Mark is currently living in Durham, NC working on a Master’s of Divinity Degree through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Published by

Austin McCann

Austin is the student ministries director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, OH. He has a BA from Piedmont International University in Christian Ministries with a student ministries focus. He also has Master of Arts in Religion with a Christian leadership focus from Liberty University School of Divinity. Austin enjoys reading, writing, playing basketball & golf, spending time with his wife, and sharing the Gospel with students and helping them live a Bible centered life.

13 thoughts on “Guest Post: If You Want to Be a Youth Pastor, Why Bother with Seminary?”

  1. I’ll never forget playing basketball at a local gym when I was about to transfer to Spring Arbor University to get a degree in youth ministry. As pick up games often can this one got a little contentious and a couple guys nearly came to blows. Fortunately I was able to restore the peace. An older guy came up to me afterwards impressed with the way I was able to maintain order and inquired about what I do. When I told him I was about to go to college to get a degree in ym he responded emphatically, “If God has anointed you to do it then why do you need to go to school to preach God’s word? Young brother, you got the Holy Spirit with you, so just go to your pastor and tell him God wants to use you.” I’m glad I didn’t listen to him.

    1. Too many times people believe that since you got God and His Spirit you can do anything. But God has called each of us to different things and different ministries. He uses places like college and seminary to grow us in our understanding of His Word. I have met many people like the guy you ran into.

      Austin

  2. Everyone is different on this, I suspect, but for me (at 32 years old), seminary (all 10 years of it) was about deeper knowledge of the Bible. It is rare to find a youth worker who researches their lesson in an exegetical commentary (full disclosure: neither do I), but if our teaching is grounded in the Word, then we should know more about it! And knowing the historical and theological context helps us understand more and therefore teach better.

    But there is a very important additional reason, in my opinion. You cannot do effective ministry to students without ministry to their parents (and almost all of them are older and wiser than we are)! I cannot teach them what I do not already know for myself.

    And one more reason for you to consider: I made many good relationships with fellow in-the-trenchers in seminary class. They are more than Facebook friends. They are my friends in real life (and my references on my resume). They continually inspire and challenge me in my ministry.

    1. Aaron,

      Thanks for sharing your additional thoughts! I agree with you that preparing messages by understanding the text, historical context, and theological concepts found in Scripture is the way to go. Not many student pastors take the time to dive this deep in their message prep. Also, ministering to parents is huge! In my opinion, that is one of the most important things a student pastor must do!

      Austin

  3. Mark, great post! I completed my bachelor’s, and did not take seminary right away, and I totally regret it now. I wish that I had of at least started with a class. I am now starting here shortly on my master’s.

    Thanks for sharing, and great insight for young youth ministry guys coming through Bible college.

    1. Josh,

      Great to hear your starting your Master’s soon! Where are you looking at doing it? I’d suggest Liberty if your going the online route. That is where I’m doing mine right now.

      Austin

  4. Austin, I am currently starting my seminary degree, and this has been a question in my own mind. I personally desire the education, but as I thought about it I also know that I made many mistakes early on in the occupation. Youth ministry, I believe, is beginning to be more of a respectable occupation/calling. And the more we do to show the adequate teaching of his word, the more we aide God in shaping the future faiths of Christ church. This is a BIG job, and we sometimes don’t realize that.
    Lastly, I just wrote on my blog “Should we be concerned about teaching over our students heads?” and I didn’t realize it till now, but perhaps why some aren’t “teaching up” is because they don’t know how to. Or better yet, don’t know what to teach. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts on this subject. I agree with you that youth ministry is a huge job and youth pastors need to be well-educated and well-trained, which is why seminary is important. “Teaching up” is so important. Sometimes I feel like were so worried about “teaching on students level” that we never challenge them to think and stretch their faith. Great thoughts!

      Austin

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