Transitional Leadership in Youth Ministry: Avoiding the Short-Timer’s Attitude

One of the most difficult battles waged in a period of transitional leadership is that against the short-timer’s attitude. You know what I’m talking about: “Well, I don’t need to worry about [fill in the blank] because I won’t be here anymore.”

It’s really easy to fall into this trap when you know you’re moving on. The excitement of the next chapter of God’s story can very easily overshadow the need to finish well where you’re at.

In the coming weeks, I am going to be writing on a variety of topics related to transitional leadership in youth ministry: remembering the past, looking to the future, setting up systems for success, and saying goodbye. These are all things that we are called to in a season of transitional leadership. Perhaps it is a commitment to these very things that will help to offset the effects of the short-timer’s attitude.

Personally, I think that this attitude is one that must be tackled head-on. And what are the strategies for making the tackle? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Pray! Pray for the youth and adult leaders you are leaving behind. Pray with them when you have opportunities. Remember that you have been granted a voice in their lives, and that you are an agent by which God has chosen to speak to them. Use these final weeks to pray with and for the people you have been serving, and bless them as they seek movement into a new future.
  2. Fight for the young people you serve. Take time to regularly remind yourself why God called you to this particular place in the first place. Chances are, even though you are preparing for a new journey, you still really care about the kids you are with. Invest in making sure that things are left in such a way that they set  up your successor for success. Do it for the people you love.
  3. It’s not about you. If there is one thing I remember from reading The Purpose Driven Life years and years and years ago, it is the famous opening line: “it’s not about you.” God is calling you to a new journey–God is calling me to a new journey–but this journey is not about you. It’s about the work that God is doing. God is calling you to something new, but He’s also calling you to finish well for the sake of those you serve. Remind yourself every day that “it’s not about you.”
  4. Commit to the projects on the table. We have a youth dinner auction fundraiser coming up on May 14th–three weeks before my last Sunday. I am committed to making sure this event happens successfully because I know that this event will be one of the last things people in the congregation remember from my ministry. Make sure that the events on the schedule happen, and that they happen well.
  5. Write Thank-You’s. Spend some time in the last few weeks being thankful to those people who have accompanied you on the journey. Write thank you notes to the people who have been really instrumental in the ministry during your time. Being thankful will help you to offset the tendency to think of your ministry as short-term.
  6. Remember that your influence will continue beyond your “formal” ministry. Relationships developed in youth ministry extend far beyond the years of being a student’s “youth pastor.” Remember that students will remember how you treated them in your final weeks. These final weeks may be some of the most important weeks in your relationships with these kids, because they will be a reflection of how that influence continues into the future.
There’s a start. What are your thoughts? How do you suggest avoiding the short-timer’s attitude during a season of transitional leadership?

2 thoughts on “Transitional Leadership in Youth Ministry: Avoiding the Short-Timer’s Attitude

  1. Great stuff erin… i think a #7 could be something about empowering specific people into some of the spaces/roles that you had as a leader. Obviously, our goal all the time is to “give it all away” but in the name of “it’s not about me” let’s keep this loving the youth stuff rooted in the multi-gen congregation! 🙂

    I’m betting you’re good @ #5 🙂 peace


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