A 4 Balloon Youth Pastor

I used to think of being the best youth pastor as if I am feeding a 4 headed monster. Like the huge dog in Harry Potter except with an extra head! Any of these heads could bite you or lick you depending on how much you are feeding them.

A 4 Balloon Youth Pastor


However, I’ve come to realize that being a successful youth pastor is more like playing a never-ending version of the balloon game. You know, the balloon game where you have to keep a certain numbers of balloons in the air at all times and the longest time wins. So you are running around the room hitting these things in the air only to notice another one floating slowly to the ground and so you make sure you run over to that one.

If you wanna be one a top-notch youth pastor you obviously need to be right with God and have a personal prayer life that is growing, developing, modeling, and pointing yourself and others towards Christ. BUT I want to focus in this post on the systematic part of the youth pastor JOB. Therefore, I am going to assume the above is already your foundation and to be a top-notch youth pastor beyond that it is to juggle these 4 balloons in the air.

Students –  This one comes natural to most youth pastors. They feel called to youth and to help youth grow closer to God. They are contacting, discipling, mentoring, encouraging, counseling, etc. with youth. It is probably the balloon we are best at keeping in the air.

Leaders – This one for some youth pastors is a walk in the park and for others it’s like pulling teeth. You job as a youth pastor is to recruit leaders and then to train your leaders and finally you have to retain your leaders. It’s this ongoing cycle of finding, developing, and maintaining. If you are great at recruiting a leader but can’t develop them, you won’t be able to retain them. If you are great at developing leaders and retaining leaders but can’t recruit them, you may find your youth ministry stuck sooner rather than later.

Parents – More of you stink at this balloon than those of you that are great. We tend to neglect this balloon and sometimes may even play the game without it in the air and pretend it was never part of the game. I hate to tell you this but relationships with parents is part of your job. You need to communicate with them and you need to come alongside them. And the crazy part about working alongside parents- it can actually be really rewarding for you as a person and a youth pastor!

Staff – For those of you in a smaller church, this should be easier. Those that actually have a church office, this should be easier. Staff relations is also part of your job. You aren’t an island, nor should you be. You need to work with your church as part of the larger mission and vision of your church. Communicate with your lead pastor, don’t mess with your finance team, help your secretaries set up the calendar and the bulletin with your youth ministry stuff. It’s all part of the gig.

You get hired as a youth pastor and the balloons get tossed up in the air and the game begins. You have to keep all these balloons in the air. And at no point will all of them be at the ceiling, right when you work hard on one area you may see the other drifting down. You will constantly be adjusting to keep them in the air and that’s just part of the job.

The ineffective youth pastors will burn out and will leave the ministry because keeping these balloons in the air is too much work. OR one of these balloons got you out of the game. The parents decided you weren’t helping them enough, your pastor realized you are an island, the youth won’t come because you don’t relate to them, you have no leaders and thus can’t do anything. 2 years is the average time a youth pastor is at a church and my assumption is it is because of this balloon game. 2 years is probably the amount of time you either can’t keep all the balloons up or the amount of time it takes someone to realize you have been playing but you’re actually out.

The average youth pastors will drop a balloon every now and then (usually the same ones every time) but will quickly correct the problem. They do a decent job.

The really effective youth pastors will be great at keeping all these in the air. There will be times where it gets close to the ground but they kick it up just in time. Maybe they have a sign by their computer that reminds them of these balloons. Maybe they just have the instincts of where all the balloons are and can get there in time. Or who knows how they do it, but they do, and that’s what makes them so effective.

This isn’t a post that should make you busier but more aware and know that it this is all built on the foundation of prayer and your personal walk with God.

Go write these things on 4 balloons and go play in your activity area. Tell your senior pastor it’s your homework. Have fun out there!

David Headshot

Mark Knight is a Children’s and Youth Pastor in Tacoma, WA. He leads a team of directors that cover ministry from birth through young adults. He graduated from Northwest University with a double-major in Youth Ministry and Biblical Studies. Mark is married to his amazing wife, Lindsay, and they are expecting their first child in December.


5 More Things Youth Pastors Need to Start

David Hanson wrote a fantastic rant post, “5 Things Youth Pastors Need to Stop”. Hopefully, you have stopped doing those 5 things by now but if not, there is still time. And if you have stopped those things or are planning to stop, here are 5 things Youth Pastors need to start!

1. Start Communicating the GOSPEL Dynamically

Entertainment can’t be the KING of your youth ministry and yet sadly it is for many churches. The KING has a throne and the KING’s name is Jesus. He needs to be the MAIN focus; the biblical story, his story, the gospel needs to be presented at every gathering or you’ve missed an important opportunity.

However, if you are going to push the gospel you need to learn to communicate it in a way that is engaging and dynamic. Primarily, because the gospel IS engaging and dynamic! So when you bore it all up, create a slumber party in your sermon, and cause people to leave scratching their head saying, “What?!” – it’s time to adjust the way you present the most life-changing, exciting news of ALL-TIME! If you don’t know how or where to start on that, stayed tuned for a followup post to this point.

2. Start Making it About Fruitfulness

Numbers can’t be your focus. When numbers are the focus, you lose sight on what Jesus thought was important. Jesus wasn’t anti-crowd or anti-big groups, however, he did push crowds away if they didn’t seem to get it. (John 6:60-66) Through Jesus’ teachings we learn that his primary goal was not MORE butts in seats but those that are growing the right fruit.

If God has entrusted you with 10 teens, disciple them so they are bearing good fruit! And they will then begin to disciple others. If God has entrusted your ministry with a 1,000 teens then find ways to make sure they are bearing good fruit so they also begin to share it with others! Both are HUGE tasks that need lots of prayer and all of the Holy Spirit.

3. Start Being You

If slang, trendy clothes, and knowing the lyrics to a Taylor Swift song is you. BE YOU and the teens will love it even if they pretend to hate it. If wearing New Balance shoes, cargo shorts, and saying things like “Aw Shucks!” is you, then BE YOU.

Don’t try to be a teen, cause you aren’t one. Don’t try to be considered “cool” by them because that actually will stunt their spiritual growth. What they really need is a Youth Pastor that is confident in who God has them to be! That’s what they want to become! I’ve seen very effective Youth Pastors on both ends of the “cool” spectrum but the defining quality was they were themselves, they weren’t faking it. Just be you, and lead your teens.

4. Start Creating a Long-Term Plan

You simply can’t allow anymore throw-away nights. Off-nights? Maybe. But don’t throw-away anymore nights. Create a plan for your gatherings and a goal/vision behind the gatherings! Pray that God gives you vision for these students for the six years (academics pending) you get to invest in their lives.

5. Start Implementing Healthy Margins In Your Life

Margins are what allow you to do youth ministry or any ministry for more than a few years. Burnout is real and you can’t do everything. Maybe this is a reminder to say “No” to a few things and “Yes” to a few days off. The reality is, inside ministry there is always something else that you can do so it’s important to find healthy margins.

David Headshot

Mark Knight is a Children’s and Youth Pastor in Tacoma, WA. He leads a team of directors that cover ministry from birth through young adults. He graduated from Northwest University with a double-major in Youth Ministry and Biblical Studies. Mark is married to his amazing wife, Lindsay, and they are expecting their first child in December.