16 Must Haves for a First Time Youth Minister | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
March 2012

16 Must Haves for a First Time Youth Minister

By Chris Wilterdink

I say, “A local church just hired a new Director of Youth Ministry. It is a full-time paid position, and it is this person’s first paid experience in youth ministry.” Before reading on, formulate a picture in your mind of the typical person taking on their first paid youth ministry job. Are they “green”? Are they tech-savvy? Are they idealistic? Are they young?

This week I am meeting with someone in their 50s starting their first paid youth ministry position! While I have consulted with many youth ministry “newbies” I have to admit this is the first time I am meeting someone who has been in the workforce *much* longer than I have and is just coming into his calling in youth ministry. While the UMC does have a significant set of second or third-career pastors, those who begin youth ministry after other significant professional experiences seem to be in the minority! As I prepped for the meeting, I began to ask myself if the advice and resources I would offer this seasoned, former sales manager would be the same as those I offer to fresh college graduates…

In many ways, the answer is yes – I would point anyone starting off in youth ministry to several specific places and resources. However, for someone pursuing youth ministry as a second or third career, I would also encourage that person to honor their learnings from previous professional experiences as they start youth ministry. A first-time professional youth worker is just that, no matter their age. Therefore I’d offer up the following collection of resources as a great place to start for any first-timer – paid or not!

Websites/Online Communities

globalyoungpeople.org – As United Methodists, this collection of resources and information is valuable to help someone just getting started at a UMC the connectional nature of our denomination. Blog entries, resources, mission connections, and Youth Service Fund info is available here as well. Also at http://www.facebook.com/YPM.GBOD

Youth Worker Movement – This group began in 2005 and supports youth workers across the UM denomination with timely articles, events, and blog entries from a variety of inputs make this an important group to stay in touch with. The YW Movement also aids the Perkins School for Youth Ministry Also at http://www.facebook.com/groups/9171357305/

Youth Ministry 360 – Really good blog entries updated on a regular basis with a focus on relating to teenagers in a ministry context. No denominational affiliation.

Youth Ministry Garage – “Powered by Youth Specialties” this site originally brought conversation out of podcasts by long time youth workers, and has since grown into a blogging community. No denominational affiliation.

Youthworker.com – The online version of the YouthWorker Journal, this site offers a wide collection of commentary, current teen issues, as well as connections with other Christian organizations.


“Sticky Faith” Kara Powell Brad Griffin – This original concept has grown into a full-blown resource with several different print versions and online offerings, and is associated with the Fuller Youth Institute. Combination of resources for youth workers and parents.

“Almost Christian” Kenda Creasy Dean – A statistical look at the development of faith for millenials and those to follow. Interesting points on faith differences between generations.

“Sustainable Youth Ministry” Mark DeVries – Consistency makes a huge difference for youth, and avoiding burnout by building a sustainable ministry begins with introspection of yourself as a leader.

“Safe Sanctuaries” Joy Thornurg Melton – Building safe space for ministry to happen means lessons for adult leaders as well as your church as a whole. A must have!

“Generation iY” Tim Elmore – A slightly depressing take on the tendencies of Gen Y and younger, however quality observations about leadership.

“You Lost Me” David Kinnaman – An exploration of why young people are leaving mainline denominations in the US and rethinking their faith. This one is perhaps most powerful when thinking about youth after they have left youth ministry (whether via graduation, moving, or choice).

General/Local Connections

Staff Parish Team/Committee – These are people that can fight for resources, etc. on your behalf! Get to know who represents you and young people in your church.

Trustees – Those folks that care for the physical church are always good to befriend ASAP in case youth group activities go unexpectedly awry!

Cleaning Crews – Whoever cleans that space that young people use in the church deserve not only thanks, but the chance to dialogue with youth leaders about what would make their lives easier.

Dedicated UM Agencies – GBGM GBHEM GBOD just for starters. There is a wide variety of resources and people dedicated to the success of this leading ministry at the local church level. By tapping these agencies, unexpectedly helpful relationships and resources can be found.

District or Metro Area Professional Groups – Perhaps in your area there are groups of youth leaders who meet on a regular basis to soul tend for each other as well as plan joint activities. Within the UM system, these are often within districts – however ecumenical gatherings of youth leaders can also provide support and fresh ideas for ministry.

Chris serves as Director of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Chris has a BA in English Education, and an MS in Project Management, and over 15 years of local-church youth ministry experience. He is passionate about leadership and faith development in young people and helping ministry leaders understand their value in the lives of young people. A Stephen Minister, Chris is a native of Colorado living in Franklin, TN with his wife Emily, 2 children, and sausage-shaped beagle.