How Do I Become a Youth Minister?

Research what it takes to become a youth minister. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Youth Ministry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Youth Minister Do?

A youth minister is in a position to make a difference in the lives of children and teenagers by creating environments for religious and spiritual worship, as well as providing guidance and support. Youth ministers prepare sermons and talks for the youth of their congregation, which often includes reading from sacred texts. They will organize and lead various educational programs, as well as fun, community-building programs to foster friendships. Youth ministers meet with individuals and groups of adolescence to discuss spiritual issues, help resolve conflicts or provide emotional support during difficult situations. The following chart gives an overview of what you may expect out of this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree
Education Field of Study Ministry, seminary studies or divinity
Key Responsibilities Providing guidance and support for youth congregations, engaging in conflict resolution and team building, presenting motivational speeches, recruiting volunteers, planning lessons and activities targeted at youth populations
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% for all clergy*
Median Salary (2016) $34,940**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com.

What Is a Youth Minister?

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't have a specific entry for youth ministers, they do provide a brief summary on clergy (www.bls.gov). In general, clergy, or ministers, create environments for religious and spiritual worship as well as providing guidance and support. O*Net OnLine's summary report indicates ministers may also be referred to as directors of religious activities and education, and they may provide counseling as well as religious instruction (www.onetonline.org).

You may also see youth ministers referred to as children's ministers or pastors, according to O*Net OnLine. Other position titles include Christian education director, children's ministries director, youth ministry director, and youth director.

What Responsibilities Might I Have?

O*Net OnLine indicates that as a youth minister, you would typically need a skill set that enables you to address the needs of your congregation. You may be responsible for leading prayer sessions, writing and presenting sermons, organizing services, providing instruction on religious and spiritual tenets, conducting research and writing articles, and offering counsel and practical advice to those in need.

Other responsibilities you may have, according to O*Net OnLine, include creating cooperative work relationships, engaging in conflict resolution and team building, presenting motivational speeches, and recruiting volunteers. You may also need to focus on creating programs, planning lessons and activities, and working toward common goals with community and congregation members.

What Undergraduate Educational Programs Are Available?

If you're not sure whether you want to pursue a degree at this time and are already involved with a specific church or religious organization, you may want to consider a certificate program such as a Certificate in Youth and Theology. Some programs might require you to attend a retreat as part of this curriculum. Your courses would usually include such subjects as adolescent culture, practical applications to theological teachings, Bible literacy, historical foundations of Christianity, and world religions. You would usually be required to participate in mentoring and other types of social interaction.

If you're interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree, there are a variety of programs intended to prepare you for church work or postgraduate study. Some of these programs may consist of small classes where you're able to form close relationships with your fellow students and faculty members. These tend to include mentoring programs as well as fellowships and interaction with other denominations. You may also have the opportunity to study abroad.

What Master's Degree Programs Are Available?

If you already have a bachelor's degree, you may want to explore master's degree options. There are a few programs that focus on youth ministry leadership, some of which may be available online. In general, these programs tend to focus on both theory and practice and provide networking and other career enhancement activities, such as conferences, conventions, and special programs. In some cases, if the school believes you embody a strong adherence to Christian principles, a bachelor's degree may not be required.

You may also want to explore programs that culminate in a Master of Divinity or a Master of Theological Studies. Master of Divinity programs tend to be designed to prepare students to become an ordained minister. A Master of Theological Studies program, however, tends to prepare students for other career paths. These may include social work, publishing, public policy, and other leadership or service-oriented positions.

Other available programs at this level include a Master of Arts in Youth Ministry as well as various dual-degree programs. A typical master's degree program lasts two years, while a dual degree program, which combines the Master of Arts in Youth Ministry with a Master of Divinity program, tend to consist of four years of study.

You might also be interested in a service-based program, such as the Master of Arts in Urban Studies. This type of program emphasizes a holistic approach to practical theology and mission work in addition to social sciences, community development, and youth leadership.

What Doctoral Programs Are Available?

If you're interested in pursuing a doctoral degree, you may like to know that some emphasize missional theology, or the practical as well as philosophical aspects of missionary work. In order to qualify for a Doctor of Ministry degree, you may be required to be a clergy member with a Master of Divinity Degree along with a minimum of three years of experience as a minister. Programs of this nature tend to stress transformational leadership, systems analysis, and the revision of church programs to reflect current societal and community-based needs. They also tend to focus on missionary work on local and global levels. Some of these programs require writing a series of substantial papers that address relevant theological issues rather than completing a traditional dissertation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A couple related careers that require a bachelor's degree include middle school teachers and social and community service managers. Middle school teachers typically educate students who are in the 6th to 8th grades in a variety of subjects. Social and community service managers oversee various community resource organizations and social service programs. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are also similar careers, but require a master's degree. These professionals counsel families, couples and/or individuals on an array of personal and interpersonal difficulties, as well as emotional or mental disorders.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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