What does it take to hang in for the long haul of youth ministry? How can someone stay at the same church for a lengthy period of time and see great fruit because of their longevity? What are some of the keys to staying healthy and happy in youth ministry? Today, we hear from youth ministry veteran Joel Snyder, who has been in youth ministry for 25 years at the SAME church!
1) Joel, you just recently celebrated being in youth ministry at the same church for 25 years! How did you do that?
LOL – The question seems to almost be a statement as well!? I think it was a combination of a couple of things . . . 1) God was gracious. 2) The church family was forgiving. 3) I had a big desire to see the ministry succeed despite what some people would consider roadblocks. Also, I never had a desire to minister anywhere else. I loved the people and wanted to serve them and God for as long as I could. I truly believe loving the people and getting integrated into the community is a huge part of longevity for those in ministry.
2) What are the greatest benefits from staying at the same church for so long?
Greatest benefits: When you have been at the same ministry for a long period of time you know the people and the history of the church and community. You have insights that few others have. That gives you two things . . . 1) wisdom not to make the same mistake twice. I have had the opportunity to save the current pastor a bunch of headaches because of past mistakes I and others have made. (I am not perfect, however. I have missed opportunities as well) And, I have saved myself some aggravation over the years as well. 2) That wisdom and insight gives you a little more power than the average minister – not that power is the ultimate goal. But, I have been called on more than once to provide leadership that I am sure most youth pastors may never be asked to do. I guess it is almost a respect that I have earned. It is a good feeling for a man – to be respected.
3) From your vantage point, what are some of the ministry challenges younger youth workers could overcome if they persevered at a church a little longer?
Sometimes there is a the challenge of “Am I really making a difference in the lives of kids?” The biggest blessings in ministry for me have come from former youth group kids. I can watch them now as they have taken leadership positions in the church, become missionaries, and ministering to people in their every day life. Over the years I have received notes and messages from former youth kids who thanked me for taking the time to minister to them. I can see the fruits of my labor first hand. It has been great to work with a team of youth leaders who were almost ALL comprised of kids I had in youth group. I would have missed out on a lot of this had I left at any time.
Another challenge might be not being known in the school and community. Because of my longevity I have been able to be a basketball coach, football coach, chaperon on school trips and also been to the Sr. Class Trip twice (Three times if you count the time I went as a student.) I know the teachers and they know me and even introduce me when a new Principle comes to town. I can spend time with kids at lunch on a weekly basis. It has taken some time, but it is worth it.
4) What are some of the keys to staying healthy in ministry?
I think the key to staying healthy (not that I am great at it myself) has been to have people who will keep me accountable and ask the tough questions. I have a number of people at the church who do this, but I also have one or two men who don’t live close to me who can encourage me. This is important because they only know me. They don’t know the people I am dealing with and they can make suggestions based only in Biblical terms. It has been extremely helpful.
one more thing . . . In 25 years you are going to make some enemies at the church. I have found that “Wise Counsel” is extremely important. I have done my best to surround myself with people who are vastly different from myself. I have all different age groups that I have made friends with. While I didn’t start with the intentions that these people would be the “Sounding board” that they are, I can certainly see how important they have been. They have saved me from making mistakes and they have gone to bat for me when I have been criticized. If I had to start again, I would certainly, intentionally, find people in the church community on whom I could lean on and who would have my back.
Joel Snyder loves Jesus, people, and he loves life. Joel is married to Jana and has a one year old daughter, Ella. He has been in ministry at the same church in Richfield, PA for 25 1/2 years as the youth pastor and just recently went over to the dark side to become the Assistant Pastor. He enjoys (American) football, social media and technology. He blogs about life at www.abunchofstuff.us