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12 Tips for First-time Youth Pastors

Jeff martin teaching youth pastors

Are you new to student ministry? During a panel discussion at one of our Iron on Iron student ministry conferences, Jeff Martin, a seasoned student pastor and good friend of Snowbird, was asked the question: “What advice do you have for a new student pastor?” His insight is below:

1. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care

You can easily spend 20-25 hours preparing for talks and studies, but try to get that down to 15 so you can spend more time with people.

2. Don’t rip off Podcasts

What God wants to say through Matt Chandler to the Village Church isn’t necessarily what He wants to say to your students. If you’re going to use Podcasts for study, use 5-10% at most of the content to supplement your talk.

3. Constantly remind yourself that ministry is a marathon, not a sprint

Jesus had three years to change the world but he never seemed to be in a rush, and he continually took the time to withdraw, rest, and be with God.

4. Have an outlet in another state to vent to

If you vent to someone at your church it will always get around to someone you don’t want it to get to. But you need to talk to someone.

5. If you have a “problem parent” see if there is a way you can use them

Example: I had a parent that was never happy with my email content to parents. I started sending her my emails first and asking her if there was anything missing or anything I needed to change before sending it to the rest of the parents. It used her complaint in a way that got her involved, stopped her complaining, and made my emails better.

6. Calendar and Communicate

Set dates for things and then work backwards for when things need to be done for that thing to happen when it needs to (ex. I worked 12 weeks back for a retreat weekend and I worked 8 months back for summer camp). Then, with communication, remember that parents want the menu, not the recipe. If you have too much info they’re just not going to read it.

7. If there’s a conflict with your pastor, don’t try to go toe-to-toe

The pastor is going to win.

8. Set leaders up for success

If you have a first-time volunteer, give them something that’s going to go well, and they are much more likely to stay around. Example: If middle schoolers are horrible, don’t give first-time volunteers your middle schoolers.

9. Return from vacation on a Monday

If you come back on a Saturday and have Sunday responsibilities, then you won’t fully rest on vacation.

10. The longer you don’t address something, the worse it’s going to get

Think about David not appointing Solomon as his replacement. Would it have been uncomfortable? Sure! But his passiveness led to people dying).

11. Lead how God has wired you to lead

If you’re doing this, then 70% of your job is going to be life-giving. Don’t try to be the leader you’re not.

12. ALWAYS remember that God loves your students more than you do

This is especially important to know if you ever have to leave your church. God is going to take care of them. Jesus is their savior, not you.

Jeff Martin is the lead pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Johnson City, TN. For more information about Jeff Martin visit

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