Be a Youth Pastor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a youth pastor. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in youth ministry.

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Do I Want to Be a Youth Pastor?

Youth pastors work with church clergies to organize youth programs and provide guidance to teens and young adults of a parish. They should be able to recruit and train volunteers, and they must also be knowledgeable about scripture.

These workers must act as role models, both at work and in their daily lives. Religious devotion is needed for a career in the ministry.

Job Requirements

Prospective youth pastors might start by volunteering with the church or secular youth groups. Many possess a bachelor's degree in a religious field, like Bible studies, theology or youth ministry. Other employers prefer applicants who have experience working with young people. The following table shows common requirements to become a youth pastor:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Some employers require a bachelor's degree*
Degree Fields Varies, but majors in theology, Biblical studies or youth ministry are common*
Experience Previous experience working with youth, preferably in youth ministry*
Key Skills Active listening, public speaking, decision making, instructional, leadership, creativity, enthusiasm**
Computer Skills Knowledge of word processing, spreadsheet and database programs*
Additional Requirements Demonstration of faith*

Sources: *Job postings by employers (October 2012), **O*NET OnLine.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although it isn't always required, many churches and ministries would like youth pastors with bachelor's degrees. Some employers require that the degree be in religious studies or a related field. Religious studies programs look at religion from a cultural perspective, giving aspiring youth pastors a wider understanding of religion. There are also youth ministry and theology bachelor's degree programs that focus on youth-related issues, leadership, counseling and Biblical concepts.

Coursework in these degree programs explore religious philosophies, religious history and church rituals. Classes prepare youth pastors to work with children and train them in the techniques and tools that are useful for engaging adolescents in spirituality and encouraging spiritual growth. Students could also expect courses in public speaking, literature and writing.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship to get practical experience. Many youth ministry degree programs include an internship as part of their curricula. Students learn how to lead a group of youth, build team skills and pick an area of interest within youth ministry.
  • Volunteer to gain an understanding of the role. Volunteering is one way to network, meet potential employers and help future youth pastors figure out their strengths and weaknesses in the profession. They can find volunteer opportunities at local churches or community centers.

Step 2: Find Employment

Prospective youth pastors can look for jobs within the religious community or at local community venues. Continuing to volunteer and showing interest in the church also shows employers that one is passionate and interested in the job and may lead to full-time or part-time employment. Individuals may also submit a resume and cover letter to larger religious organizations.

Success Tip:

  • Become ordained. Many churches require youth pastors to be ordained within the appropriate denomination. Ordination requirements vary between churches.

Step 3: Consider Career Advancement

Youth pastors may consider taking on more responsibility and leadership by becoming a minister. This typically requires the completion of a religious program at a college or seminary resulting in a master's degree, as well as becoming ordained through their religious organization or state licensed. Ministers take on advanced responsibilities such as leading congregations and performing religious ceremonies.

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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Indiana Wesleyan University include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Religious Studies
        • Biblical Studies
        • Pastoral Studies
        • Religious Music Studies
        • Youth Ministry
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
        • Theology and Religious Vocations
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies

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