When the Hearts of the Young Are Broken, Part 2

Last week’s Youth Ministry Tuesday post, When the Hearts of the Young Are Broken, generated some pretty quality discussion on youth ministry, transitions, and all of the messy feelings that go along with working with young people.

This week, I’d kind of like to pick up where that discussion left off.

I was having a conversation yesterday with a colleague of mine (and have been having several conversations on the topic recently) about the idea of “leaving well” from a ministry, and in the course of these discussion there seems to be a resounding theme of “No one ever prepared us as youth ministry leaders to be able to leave well!” Perhaps that is the real heart of the issue.

Take for example, the Simply Youth Ministry Conference that just took place in Chicago this past weekend. The people at Simply Youth Ministry are some of the most well known leaders in the game–along with the voices of people like YouthSpecialties and Willow Creek, there are SO many “big” voices that seem to be saying SO little about transition.

Now, just so that the air is clear, I did not attend the SYM conference this past weekend. However, I did spend a little time parousing the list of available workshops and breakouts. While there were 16 workshops related to technology and the use of technology in ministry, there was not a single workshop related to transitioning out of a church. Not one.

Is the way that we are training youth ministry leaders contributing to the fact that young hearts are broken and lives shattered when God calls a leader to something else, but doesn’t work through that transition smoothly? Or leaves without notice? Or handles the process poorly out of fear? Or isn’t prepared to put forth the energy to create real transitional structures?

I really believe that this is an area where the education and training of youth ministry leaders needs some serious improvement. Are schools like Indiana Wesleyan University, which offer undergraduate programs in youth ministry, even touching on this in their elaborate curriculums?

It’s a reality that, though the tenure of folks in youth ministry does seem to be lengthening, there will be natural transitions that require a person to leave a church at least once and probably more times than that, during the course of their ministry career. It’s a hard reality, but one that needs to be addressed.

What are your thoughts on this? How can youth ministry leaders be better equipped to “leave well” from a youth ministry position? What does it look like for a leader to “leave well”?

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One thought on “When the Hearts of the Young Are Broken, Part 2

  1. I think it is important for youth ministers to be trained to “leave well.” I don’t think it has to be a super complicated process. It doesn’t have to be that complicated to leave well but it just needs to be concious thing. I think it starts with being on honest with everyone from the start. Why were you called to this place now? What are you called to do here? What is the overall calling of your life? This way when you are called to something new everyone realizes that what you were orginally here for is finishing and this new thing is in line with the overall calling you have.

    If you are leaving because there is something else you are called to, high school kids will understand. They aren’t dumb. They can understand that there are new opportunities for you and new phases of life for them, just as they will begin a new phase when they graduate high school in a few years. Let them celebrate the new phase with you. Let them celebrate all that has happened previously with you. Be supportive of the new phase that they will be in without you being there all the time. Keep in contact for awhile after you leave.

    That’s my advice. If you want to talk more about it, let me know. In my time in youth group I experience a complete cycle of youth ministry changes.

    Like

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