It’s really starting to anger me to hear so many stories from youth pastors about how their unhealthy, sick and twisted churches beat them until they drop out of ministry. Way too many churches have no business hiring a youth director. Seriously! They have ridiculous expectations with full-time salary packages that rival part-time pay at McDonalds. It’s no wonder their youth workers leave the ministry: they’re overworked and undervalued at church, financially stressed at home, and trying to maintain a healthy personal life that’s not manipulated and sabotaged by “ministry responsibilities.”
Granted, some of the issues are self-inflected because the youth worker accepted the position in the first place, which probably means one of three things:
1. The youth worker didn’t do their homework about the church before accepting the position and was thus naively blindsided.
2. The youth worker saw the warning signs, but was impatient for a job and brushed off the yellow flags.
3. The church’s leadership changed since the youth worker first accepted the position and now they’re in a situation that could not have been foreseen.
In case you’re in the first category, here are some warning signs to know if you’re interviewing with an unhealthy church. Hearing any of these statements from a church be should reason for caution and further investigation.
I’m not sure all the warning signs are fair (such as a church calling itself a friendly, loving church a bad sign), but it is good fuel for conversation about how to look for a healthy youth ministry position. I have learned that it’s okay and wise to ask tough questions up front. Oddly enough (or perhaps not-so-oddly), my current church was very honest about its strengths and weaknesses as a church and as a staff while I was interviewing, and it has turned out to be the healthiest and most enjoyable ministry environment I’ve experienced yet in my short (this is my third church) youth ministry career. To sum up: not only are they interviewing you; you are interviewing them.