Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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There are youth pastors everywhere who are thrilled with their role, thrilled with their team, and thrilled with their church. They are the ones that stay when their counterparts at neighboring churches are making news with their rates of turnover.

That kind of job satisfaction isn't necessarily because some people are more optimistic than others or because they know more than others. It's a result a the ministry environment and culture in which they work.

Mark DeVries notes as much: "Churches with youth ministries that are appropriately funded and that have clear, measurable expectations tend to have momentum, and staff members just seem to stay longer"[1].

But there are also many youth pastors who aren't happy with their situation. The goals aren't clear, the support isn't present, and the conflict runs high. They wake up each day and wonder, "Should I stay or should I go?"

Some people will tell them to stick it out, because it shows resolve and forges character.
Other people will tell them to ship out, because there are too many opportunities to make a difference elsewhere.

I don't think there's an obvious right or wrong answer (sorry).

My one caution would be to err on the side of longevity. When you think there's nothing else for you to do, or nothing else worth doing, remember that the God we serve can make a way when before there was no way. More pragmatically, "[B]oth the level of satisfaction and the level of effectiveness in ministry dramatically increase with tenure"[2].

Eugene Peterson has most inspired me on this long-term view. I quote him here at length:
"There plenty of times when sin or neurosis or change make it so difficult for a pastor and congregation to stay together that it is necessary that the pastor move to another congregation. And there are plenty of times when God in sovereign wisdom reassigns pastors for his own, presumably strategic, reasons. The pastor who in such circumstances insists on staying out of a stubborn willfulness that is falsely labeled 'committed faithfulness' cruelly inflicts needless wounds on the body of Christ.
But the norm for pastoral work is stability. Twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year-long pastorates should be typical among us (as they once were) and not exceptional. Far too many pastors change parishes out of adolescent boredom, not as a consequence of mature wisdom. When this happens, neither pastors nor congregations have access to the conditions that are hospitable to maturity in the faith"[3].

So I can't answer your question, in fact no one can. It is wise to be patient, ask for guidance, and prayerfully consider the options. If you stay, then stay with the confidence that God has you there to perform a good and valuable work. If you leave, then leave with the confidence that you are trying to be faithful, and that you have done what you could do - trust that God will raise up another leader to carry on the work in the church you're leaving behind.


Notes:
[1] Mark DeVries, Sustainable Youth Ministry, 127.
[2] Ibid., 126.
[3] Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, 28-29.


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