Let me try to explain. When a church hires a new youth minister, there’s inevitably a difficult period of transition. The former minister likely formed some close bonds with many of the kids. He may be the only youth minister some of the kids have ever known. Letting go is difficult for the kids — every single time.
This is true whether the old guy quit, retired, or was fired. It’s even worse, I think, when he continues his relationship with the kids — by remaining a member of the church, or through Facebook, or such. For the older kids, juniors and seniors especially, they may even graduate and leave the program before they can bond with the new minister.
Meanwhile, the volunteers — young couples, parents — will have been heavily involved in the ministry and (hopefully) the lives of the kids. They’ll have taken ownership of their work and programs. They’ll likely want to keep doing things “the old way.” They’ll have bought into the former minister’s philosophy, programs, and calendar. They’ll want to do the spring break trip just like last year because, well, they know how and they think it went just great.
I think these are inevitable facts. So how does the new guy (or gal) deal with these facts? What are the wisest strategies?
Well, this is what I’ve noticed — and I’ve been watching youth ministers a long time. I even had one grow up in my house.
Most ministers seem to make a point of bringing in “their” volunteers, “their” parents, and putting into effect “their” ministry. And they generally focus on the younger kids — sophomores and younger — because they’ll have time to bond with them and have a real impact. And it’s my impression that some schools and some older youth ministers counsel the new guys to do exactly this.
Thus, new ministers will, within a year or so, try to recruit a new staff of volunteers and will concentrate their efforts on the younger kids. And they’ll generally change most elements of the program. I think some will change a recurring event, such as a mission trip, they have no complaints with just to put their own stamp on the ministry.
Obviously, sometimes you have to run off the old volunteers because they aren’t right for your program or they do lousy work. And obviously some programs need to be changed to suit the minister’s philosophy. But I think sometimes they change things because they’ve been trained to do so as a means of taking control of the ministry — perhaps so that old traditions don’t control them down the road.
And my questions are —
* Am I right?
* If so, are these practices wise?