I love spending time with priests. At Life Teen we are blessed to have so many holy men serving parishes as priests. I often get questions from pastors about hiring the right youth minister. For example – could I recommend anyone for them to hire as a youth minister for the parish? I also frequently get asked what to look for in a new youth minister. So here are the 3 things not found on a resume that I tell them to look and listen (key into) for when considering a candidate for youth minister: I call them “The 3 Keys”
The After Mass Effect
I encourage the pastor to interview the top applicants 15 minutes after his celebrating daily Mass in the morning at the parish. The potential candidate should be encouraged to attend Mass that day. It’s in those 15 minutes after Mass and before the interview that a lot of things can be observed. I ask the pastor to pay attention to what I am calling “the after Mass effect” – simply put, does the candidate reach out and talk to anyone following Mass. Is he or she warm, encouraging and engaged with the people they just celebrated Mass with. Youth leaders need to become instantly part of the community, it’s going to take someone who passes this test to have the skills of bridge building by forming community and changing lives.
Jesus and Teen Speak
I ask pastors to listen and keep track of how many times the candidate mentions Jesus or teens in the interview or discussions they are having? We normally talk about what is on our hearts – if someone spends an hour in an interview and hardly mentions either Jesus or teens, that is a pretty good sign that they may not be fully focused on what the parish is needing them to focus on in youth ministry. Another factor to consider is the passion or conviction that the candidate speaks with about Jesus and teens. As a pastor they encounter people who are growing in holiness and who are passionate about ministry. Pastors should be mindful of this when considering a candidate.
Youth ministry is not for the faint of heart. There will be resistance to anyone who is trying to lead teens closer to Christ. It’s important that the youth minister and pastor get along well. One of the biggest reasons that youth leaders leave a parish is lack of support from their pastor. I also have seen the great momentum that can happen for a parish when the pastor and youth leader have a great ministry relationship. Youth ministry is a team ministry, having the pastor and youth minister on the same team really helps. I ask the pastor to be aware of the “Chemistry” between them and the candidate they are considering. Is it someone they can trust and minister with? Is it someone they are willing to back, even when an influential parishoner has a complaint? Is it someone that shares the same philosophy of reaching the young Church?
I know you are probably thinking “what about experience, education and a whole lot of other criteria?” I don’t discount those things at all, what i’m saying is that there are things a resume filled with the right education and credentials or an impressive cover letter won’t tell you. If the 3 keys are not there, I would keep searching.
So those are my recommendations for pastors – what are some of yours?