Do I Need to Go to College to be a Youth Pastor? 5 Things to Look for in a Youth Ministry Program

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There are lots of ways to get involved in youth ministry. Some adults volunteer with their church youth group and eventually get hired. Some high school students start serving in children’s and preteen ministries and decide to make it a career. And some—or, many—go to college to get a degree in youth ministry. 
With opportunities to get involved in youth ministry without a college education, and with churches that will hire you, many are left wondering, “Do I really need to go to college to be a youth pastor?”

More than Pizza and Party Games

There’s a lot more to youth ministry than some might think. While youth ministry involves a lot of games, events, and hanging out, youth pastors often deal with some of the most difficult problems teenagers go through. When teens are in crisis—going through a break-up, experiencing their parents’ divorce, dealing with school drama, battling mental health issues like depression and anxiety—youth pastors are often the first people they turn to. 
Teenagers are constantly going through changes. Every kid in your youth group will face big decisions about their future and what they should do with their lives. On top of this, they will start asking questions about society’s biggest spiritual and social issues—things like drugs and alcohol, politics, faith and spirituality, gender, and sexuality. 
It’s true; being a youth pastor might be the most fun you’ll ever have at work. But it also means dealing with some really serious stuff. With the important role youth pastor’s play, you need to be prepared and equipped. 

Getting Equipped for Youth Ministry


College is one of the best ways to do get ready. Lots of Christian colleges and universities offer degrees in youth ministry. Going to school for youth ministry gives you the skills and resources essential to developing the skills you’ll need to guide youth in life and faith. 
According to Dr. Matt McAlack, a longtime youth pastor and director of the Cairn University youth and family ministry program, there are five main reasons why Cairn is a great place to study youth ministry. While a lot of great Christian colleges offer one or several of these, Cairn has all five of these distinctives that produce prepared, effective youth pastors:

  1. Qualified, Professional Faculty: Our professors are content experts, most holding doctorates in their specialized fields of study. Additionally, all youth ministry faculty are active in church youth groups, meaning they will teach you the best practices of the industry that they use.
  2. Intentional Mentorship: Every student gets a mentor and selects a ministry to be involved with for the course of their education. This provides 4–5 years of real-life lessons and experiences, so you’ll be prepared when you apply for jobs.
  3. Dual-Level Program Options: Save time and money in college by earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in as few as five years. This lets you keep your undergraduate financial aid for all five years—which doesn’t happen everywhere.
  4. Training for Caring for Youth And Their Families: Our program helps you learn how to disciple students and be a resource to their number one influence—their parents—as they disciple their teens at home.
  5. Tools for Effective Ministry: Through entrepreneurial and forward-thinking ministry models, you will learn how to reach kids that have not been reached and be ready for the complex challenges that come with youth ministry.

While these five distinctives are specific to Cairn, the fact remains that effective youth ministry programs at colleges everywhere can help you get ready for the high-stakes work of being a youth pastor. Don’t be discouraged: if you’re meant for youth ministry, it will be a fun, fulfilling way to serve others. A college-level youth ministry program can help you be ready for everything that comes with it
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