College and youth ministry. Do we need to be college educated to be youth workers?
I just graduated a few months ago. College, for me, was tough. Of course it hard due to coursework and exams, but the thing that made it most difficult for me was my mindset.
I honestly didn’t think that a college education would help me in ministry.
If a college education in ministry consisted solely of ministry related classes then it would be easier for me to see it’s merit. But I was taking astronomy, finite mathematics, and all kinds of classes that have nothing at all to do with what I was passionate about. I have yet to use difficult equations or my vast knowledge of neutron stars in youth ministry.
So…what do I think? Is college a prerequisite for youth ministry?
God can call you to youth ministry without a college education. Heck, God has done a lot more with a lot less.
BUT (of course – there’s a but…)
You should get a college education if you are serious about youth ministry. Here’s why:
It provides life experience. When you’ve gone to college and have struggled with the things that every other college student struggles with, it makes it much easier for you to counsel your graduated Sr. High students through college. How can you know what they’re going through if you haven’t gone through it yourself?
It’s good training. Despite the elective courses that may or may not help you in your ministry career, you do learn a lot. I’ve gotten to take some awesome courses that have increased my knowledge of the Bible greatly. If you feel called to ministry, why would you not go all out and try to learn as much as you can?
It helps you get a job in YM. It is significantly harder to get a job in youth ministry without a college degree. You may be able to snag a part-time job or be a volunteer youth leader but finding a full-time job without a degree is nearly impossible. Do a quick scan of requirements for YM jobs on Youth Specialties – most require a 4 year degree. There are a few that don’t mention having a degree in the requirements – I’ll give ya that – but those jobs are still bound to have applicants that do have degrees. Let’s face it…the person with the degree almost always looks better (on paper) than the person without.
It can translate into longevity. If you can spend 4+ years studying late, cramming for exams, and taking a course on underwater basket weaving without giving up – chances are you can spend 4+ years dealing with troubled teens, staying up all night for lock-ins, and convincing parents that God can impact lives on a Ski Retreat. Longevity is so crucial to youth ministry but is often neglected. Most students have 3-5 youth workers while they’re in the Church – let college help you prepare to stay in YM for the long haul.
Again – God can use you without a college education. You can still teach teenagers without one. You can still change lives without one. But when God calls us to do something, we should do it to the best of our ability. That may mean going into debt and spending four more years in school – but it’s worth it.