Last week at the Hemorrhaging Faith seminar, presented by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, we were reminded that the youth pastors in local churches sometimes are at the bottom of the totem pole or church hierarchy, but in fact are most critical to the future survival of the church. Even the churches that are the best at retention of their young adults — losing only a third of them — will be, in two generations, one-sixth of their present size if the trend does not reverse itself.
Then on the weekend, I dropped in for just a few minutes at the Today’s Teens conference in Oakville (outside Toronto, Canada) where I picked up a brochure containing a document representing a pledge of support from local Canadian churches to their youth ministry worker(s). It’s based on a similar program in the UK for which you can download the .pdf booklet here.
The Canadian organization that drafted this is headed by Marv Penner. Marv was a fireman who went on to serve the youth at Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto and later went on to write youth ministry curriculum for Zondervan, and get a graduate degree in counseling. He was one of the featured speakers at the conference.
I tried to locate some of the Canadian document online to link to and include here, but I will simply have to summarize it:
- churches pledge to give youth workers prayer and spiritual support
- churches pledge to give youth workers space for retreat and reflection
- churches pledge to give youth workers ongoing training and development
- churches pledge to give youth workers at least one full day of rest per week
- churches agree to share responsibility towards youth
- churches pledge to strive to be an excellent employer
- churches pledge to celebrate and appreciate what the youth worker is doing
…A few weeks ago I was helping someone who was experiencing problems with their telephone service and the call got transferred briefly to a department called “Win Back.” I thought it interesting that this rather monopolistic telecom had a department devoted entirely to customer retention. Middle aged and older adults are not leaving church at the rate that young adults are. The youth pastor of your church is, in fact, the “Win Back” department; the person in charge of church member/adherent retention.
Staff turnover in youth ministry is abysmal, yet each staff transition represents an ideal exit time for young people which they frequently seize. So in a way, this is also all about youth worker retention. Keep the youth pastor happy and engaged, and he/she will stay. When the youth worker stays, the local church has consistency in that ministry department. Where there is consistency, kids, teens and young adults don’t drop out.