I want to get my youth ministry and church leadership audience to chime in on something, if you will. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading Mark Riddle‘s new book Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors: A Church Leader’s Guide to Staffing and Leading Youth Pastors. I’m writing a review of the book for YMX, and Mark has graciously agreed to answer a slew of questions I sent him and make this humble blog a stop on his blog book tour.
I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the book’s shortest chapters (12), which addresses the elongation of adolescence and the resulting effect that should have on youth pastor hiring decisions. I asked Mark about it so we will eventually hear his input on this question when the blog tour interview appears.
Let me set the stage a bit. Mark, in Inside the Mind, cites research by Dr. Jeffery Arnett (Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from Late Teens through the Twenties) which makes a compelling case that, developmentally, the years from 18 to 25 should be considered late adolescence. The characteristics of this developmental stage, Mark argues, should be carefully considered in choosing to hire someone from this cohort as a spiritual leader for those in earlier stages of adolescence.
From Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors, Ch 12, p 82:
If, however, you choose to hire an emerging adult to lead your youth ministry, you must give significant attention to mentoring that person in leadership and discipleship. Teenagers need their youth pastors to have a strong sense of who they are, based on life experiences. They need youth pastors who have a sense of stability in their identities.
Certainly there are men and women in their early to mid-20s who fit the bill, but they are few and far between. Church leaders need to dispel the myth that younger is better for youth ministry leadership. It’s simply not true. In fact, entrusting spiritual leadership of your teenage children to someone who’s still working through the five characteristics [of late adolescence] listed earlier [in the chapter] is irresponsible.
While there is a lot of that which makes good sense to me – considering that car insurance and rental companies have considered this age group less capable of responsible decision-making and judgment in general, and have run their businesses accordingly for, well, ever. That doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of youth pastors/minister/directors I have ever had contact with got their start in youth ministry as volunteers or staff as young adults in their early 20s.
So, I’m wondering what you think about this. And, if you agree, what are your constructive ideas for ways to bridge the time from the end of college to age 25 for those who have earned ministry degrees, but are not yet “adults” by this developmental measure?