For the latest installment in our series about different types of youth work, we have an interview with Benjamin Kerns who’s a youth pastor in the US.
1. What type of youth work do you do?
I’m an associate pastor on staff at Marin Covenant Church. I oversee children’s ministry and a junior high director. I plan and implement all parts of our senior high ministry, from program planning and budgeting, to curriculum, small group questions, games, and mixers. Our ministry is pretty balanced in our approach to quality programming and relational connection.
2. What do you do in an average week?
On an average week I try not to work more than 45 hours. Things always come up, retreats always seem to happen and if I’m not careful my job will take over my life. In those 45 hours, I try to spend no more than 50% of that time in the office. That includes prep, study, research, admin and meetings. The other 50% is contact work with my students and leaders.
3. How long have you been doing this type of youth work?
I’ve been in vocational youth ministry for 16 years.
4. What other types of youth work have you done previously?
I cut my youth ministry teeth in camping ministry. I spent 4 summers working at a Christian camp in Northern California.
5. What age range do you work with?
I now work with birth through to 50 year olds. I specifically oversee our children and student ministry. But as I have gotten older, my ministry to parents has increased and is now a vital part of my ministry.
6. What’s unique about your particular type of youth work?
The truth is that there is nothing unique about the youth work I do. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with, watching, and coaching quite a few fellow youth workers and I am convinced that there is nothing new under the sun.
The unique way that God has formed me with my unique skill set and passions means that some of what we do and how we do it are nuanced, but that is it. Fundamentally youth work is youth work. (Unless God has called you to a totally outside the box sort of ministry, which he hasn’t in my case.)
7. What are some of the good things about senior high youth ministry?
The best thing about it is that I get the pleasure to walk through the most chaotic season in someone’s life and help them wrestle with their blossoming identity and love them as they sort out where faith in Jesus might fit.
8. What are some of the challenges of it?
Kids are fickle and selfish. Over 15 years, I can count on two hands the number of students that have come back and said thank you or shared how those years impacted them. They are hot and cold with faith and with you. If you find your worth or identity in their approval, then you’re in big trouble 🙂
9. Why are you passionate about senior high youth ministry?
Student ministry is so amazing because they’re almost adults. They are beginning to think deeply about life and theology and attempting to put it all into practice. They know they are not fully formed and are open for God to show up and mess with them.
Unfortunately, many adults have gone as far as they are comfortable in the process of sanctification and then choose churches that fit that spot. Students haven’t settled yet and are open for transformation and development.
10. What would you recommend for someone wanting to get into youth ministry?
Volunteer first. Try out a year long internship next. And if you have positive experiences and receive positive feedback and affirmation of your gifts and skills, then it’s time to begin to pursue what a career in this might look like.
When you volunteer and are an intern then you should have people around you to help you discern this; being open to their wisdom and discernment is the most important thing.
11. Is there any special training or qualifications required?
There are no special qualifications or special training required. Every church has a different set of standards. I know great youth workers who don’t have a high school diploma to those with Doctorates in ministry. What it takes is a calling and solid mentors.
Be humble and teachable, read like crazy, and invite feedback. It is the best job in the entire world if you are called to it, and the most devastating if you are not. Good luck in your discernment.
12. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I love working with fellow youth workers to sharpen each other so that we can be as effective as possible to reach this next generation for Jesus. I have spent the last 7 years of my professional life to walk alongside, coach, and train other youth workers.
If you’re in a pinch or need an outside voice, please feel free to contact me anytime. All my contact info is on my blog Average Youth Ministry. May God bless you and be gracious to you as you work out your calling!
After a career ending knee injury, I left competitive curling and have dedicated the last 15 years of my life to loving students. I enjoy partnering with other youth workers to help students come to know and follow Jesus. I am a network facilitator for the pacific southwest for the Evangelical Covenant Church and have been a resource for other youth workers for the past 7 years.
I still bring pizza to any and every youth gathering. And now have to run 20 miles a week to burn off the pizza weight in order to keep the love alive with my wife. I love my kids, baseball, writing, and my iPhone, and don’t understand Twitter. For the past 7 years I have served at Marin Covenant Church as the Pastor to Children and Students. You can follow my struggling Twitter account at @averageym.
Please feel free to use the comments below if you have any questions about senior high youth ministry. If you’re a senior high youth pastor, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments as well.
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