Youth Minister Interview Questions (by Rick Patrick)

by Guest Blogger on August 19, 2011 · 40 comments

As our Youth Minister Search Team forms a week from Sunday, we will ask our Youth Minister candidate a number of questions.  Help me out, SBC Voices.  What question is missing from this list that should definitely be asked?

1.  Tell me about your salvation experience and your call to ministry.

2.   What do you like most about working with youth?  What do you like least?  Why do you want to be a youth minister?

3.   Describe your ministry philosophy and approach.

4.   Are you willing to minister within the doctrinal parameters of our statement of beliefs?

5.   Will you allow us to conduct a standard background check?

6.   Is your wife supportive of youth ministry?  How do you envision her role in your ministry?

7.   While we know God calls people to new ministries according to His Plan and not ours, we are not interested in a revolving door.   Do you envision your ministry among our youth lasting awhile?

8.   What Youth Minister or Pastor has influenced you the most and how?

9.   What are your favorite topics for preaching and teaching?  Describe your communication style.

10.   What kinds of music, authors and conferences appeal to you the most?

11.    What are your plans for continuing education and ministry?

12.   What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?

13.   Describe a ministry success and a ministry failure.  What did you learn from the difficult experience?

14.   Suppose I am fifteen years old and an unbeliever.  How would you share with me God’s Plan of Salvation?

15.   Is there anything I should know about that we have not discussed?  Do you have any questions for me?

1 Jason August 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I would interview him as a pastor to the whole church. He is a pastor, with a role within the body to youth, but he is still a pastor to the church as a whole.

So, I would treat him like a pastor, not a sub-pastor employee that works with teens. You know what I mean?

I would ask about how he integrates specific ministry (youth) with the general ministry to the church. How it “fits in” with the overall vision/ministry of the church.
I would ask how he seeks to minister to parents and encourage them to disciple their children. How he views parental involvement in ministry.
Of course, I would ask more about his theology and teaching. Find out as much as possible.
Ask about his future ministry plans. Is his plan to be in youth ministry forever? Senior pastor?

One of my favorite questions to ask, as a pastor to a PSC and vice versa: how do you determine success in ministry?

Just a few thoughts.

2 Rick Patrick August 19, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Great suggestions. Thanks, Jason. You’re so right that youth ministry needs to be integrated within the overall ministry of the church. Future plans are also important. He may want MY job! And “success” in ministry is worth exploring since we all know the when the honeymoon is over, those days are going to come when we need to be grounded in our calling and liberated from the success syndrome. Thanks so much!

3 kschaub August 20, 2011 at 10:41 am

I would say it’s OK not to interview him “as a pastor.” It depends on whether he is qualified to be an elder/pastor. Many youth ministers are gifted and will one day be pastors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be “pastors” just yet.

That said, he shouldn’t be treated like a hired-hand either! Most youth ministers want to learn, and a good pastors will mentor and invest in them as they serve. In my experience, that has been so important.

4 Mike Leake August 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I’m not 100% sure how I would phrase a question of this sort but I would like to know whether a youth minister feels that he is the primary disciple maker or teens or whether he views mom/dad as the primary disciple maker. This will reveal a ton.

You can probably discern the answer to this from your question #3, but I’d consider formulating a more pointed question to this end.

5 Mike Leake August 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm

“disciple maker OF teens” not “or teens”

6 Rick Patrick August 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Mike, great answer! Both you and Jason are persuading me to ask a little more about the role of parents in the spiritual formation of their youth and the role of the youth minister in equipping those parents. I will be more direct about this topic. Thanks!

7 Greg Wentz August 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Don’t hire a “youth” minister. Youth ministry over the past 30 some years has lead to a 96% failure rate. By thier 20th birthday 96% have left the faith. I believe that is from Barna research.
Read “Rite of Passage for the Home and Church” by D. Kevin Brown. (you can find it on amazon)
Read his blog at dkevinbrown.wordpress.com

8 Rick Patrick August 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Thanks, Greg. Voddie Baucham and others have also advocated a more family oriented model for ministry which may be worth considering. However, I have to say, I think it would be easier to implement such an approach in a new church start rather than in the traditional, established church where I serve. The expectation really is that we “call” a minister whose primary responsibility will be in the area of youth. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll definitely check out the blog.

9 Greg Wentz August 22, 2011 at 9:27 am

MPBC was traditional in youth ministry thinking as well for many years. Pastor Kevin lead the way to change. You can read about it in his book. The statistics may or may not be correct. I was just quoting reserarch done by someone else. If it is only 5o would you be satisfied if your car only worked 50% of the time? Just some thoughts.

10 Alan Cross August 19, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Greg,

96% of kids involved in youth ministry have left the faith by their 20th birthday?

That is just not true. I don’t care if it comes from Barna, Voddie Baucham, Josh McDowell or whoever. There is no way that that is right. That would mean that 96% of the children of Christian families are renouncing the faith by the time they are 20!

Think about it.

11 Dave Miller August 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm

96% of statistics are made up on the spot to make a point.

12 Jason August 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm

The studies I have seen say anywhere between 70% and 90%…of course you would have to look at the specifics of the studies to see how they developed those numbers.

I’m not sure where he got 96% from…but I think anyone thinking through the issue still recognizes that the number, whatever it is, is ridiculously (even oddly) high.

13 pkrevbro August 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm

It’s failing because as youth, they’re given all kinds of opportunities to serve and to LEAD other youth. They hit twenty years of age and told to go sit in the pew and wait until their fifty for any opportunities to lead and serve, unless they go off to become doctors and lawyers with paychecks, then they get pushed to the head of the line.

14 Jason Roth August 20, 2011 at 12:06 am

Those statistics are WAY overblown because most research is only tracking by denomination and denominational records are skewed towards the high end any way. Case in point I know of 5 different para-church Next- gen ministries affiliated with SBC that report the number salvations their ministry sees each year to the SBC sounds correct and then you realize that those salvations are also being reported by the associations that those para-church ministries are supported by and by the churches that those children and teens attend. By the end of it all we have recorded 3-5 times the number of salvations that actually occurred. Now factor in the children/teens that “get saved” every year and you have yourself a mess. Now when we try to equivocate those kids into adult numbers it APPEARS that we have a HUGE falling away when really it is not nearly as drastic as it seems.

I get worked up over the recent bashing of “the failed youth ministry experiment” NOT because I am a youth minister but because if it had not been for my youth minister and the youth ministry i was involved in I am not sure I would be much more than a washed out angry and bitter man with nothing in my life of any real value.

Gonna leave a separate comment about the questions.

15 Jason August 20, 2011 at 12:18 am

That very well may be the case. You would have to look at the individual study to see their criteria.

I wouldn’t write off the studies without looking at their process of evaluating data.

16 Brent Williams August 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Tell me about the last time you shared the gospel with someone?

17 Rick Patrick August 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Terrific question, Brent. It’s always interesting to see how many weeks, months or years the person has to go back before they can recall an evangelistic encounter. It will also be interesting to explore the approach they used and how they handled the response of the other person. Thanks!!

18 Howell Scott August 19, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Rick,

As to #4 on doctrine, I would ask several open-ended questions on specific doctrinal issues (view of Scripture, Spiritual gifts, etc.) and let him fill in the blanks. As it is, he can easily answer “yes” to your question, but you may not have as clear an idea about what he believes on certain issues.

Also, I would assume that the Youth Pastor will be working alongside you and that you will have some type of supervisory role with him. Ask what how he views the role of Senior Pastor, how he takes/gives direction/, what is a leader, and what is his leadership style. One of the last things you want is for a pastoral staff member to not be a good fit with you or with the church. Hope that helps. God bless,

Howell

19 Josh C August 20, 2011 at 6:33 am

I second Howell’s paragraph about discussing working with the Senior Pastor. Not only will it help you get a feel for whether he “fits”, but you will also have some guidance for what the eventual person is expecting from you leadership-wise.

20 Rick August 20, 2011 at 8:02 am

Josh, well said and thanks.

21 Rick August 20, 2011 at 8:00 am

Nice reminder about the open-ended questions. And you’re right about the staff relationship issue. It’s very important that we’re on the same page there. Thanks!

22 Christiane August 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I was wondering, concerning this question . . .
’5. Will you allow us to conduct a standard background check?’

would you not screen people thoroughly BEFORE they reach the interview stage? I mean most school districts won’t even hire maintenance people without a background check, much less anyone allowed to interact with students in any capacity.

23 Dave Miller August 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Background checks are SOP for hiring now. R

24 Doug Hibbard August 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Due to the expense, a lot of churches wait until they’re down to a couple of candidates and then run the background check.

Typically, you ask that question to see the response as much as to get permission—I’d never add staff that refused to allow it. Sometimes the response is instructive: do they hesitate? Do they get defensive? Do they start adding up years to see if their record is clear? Especially a youth ministry person is likely to be driving, so you need both a background check, a criminal check, and a driving record.

25 Doug Hibbard August 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

From experiences as a youth minister: How are you going to handle when someone complains to you about the pastor of the church?

Because I found myself stuck in the middle and had no clue how to handle it. If the question had been asked, I would have at least pre-thought! Plus, that allows you to express what you expect in that situation, which will help your candidate know a little about leadership style and systems in the church. That builds towards good fit.

26 Rick August 20, 2011 at 8:11 am

Great question, Doug. It WILL happen so we are better off discussing it ahead of time. Any ideas based on your experience? I think I would suggest: (1) acknowledge their concern without adding support for it, (2) encourage them to talk with me about any issues so I might help resolve them, and (3) remind them not to gab to the whole fellowship about something if they haven’t brought it to me first. Is that a start?

27 Doug Hibbard August 20, 2011 at 8:43 am

Those are good starts. What floored me was one Sunday, filling in for the pastor who was out due to his mother-in-law being near heaven from cancer, a group of men catching me after church and telling me that I was such a good preacher that next business meeting they were going to move that the pastor be fired and I become the pastor.

I had no idea what to say or how to handle it. So, I told them 1 good sermon didn’t mean I was ready to be a pastor and they shouldn’t do that. Didn’t know what else to do.

One of those same men took up half of my day on 9/11 (yes, that 9/11) insisting that in business meeting the next night it was time for the pastor to go. The pastor, who had had a stroke the weekend before, was not there and in no way was that the time for the nonsense. I learned a lot those couple of years. People wonder at short-term youth ministers, but after a little over 2 years of fighting that and fighting the spiritual decay in the church (objectively, the pastor did need to go), I was exhausted.

So, I moved on.

28 Doug Hibbard August 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

You could ask if he’s a blogger, a Calvinist, owns bunny slippers….

But that could be dangerous :)

29 Rick August 20, 2011 at 8:13 am

Does he live with his mother? Own a housecoat? Will he promise never to rap a motion on the floor of the SBC?

30 Doug Hibbard August 20, 2011 at 8:43 am

Tell him that rapping motions is actually standard form—it will keep life interesting.

31 John Willis August 19, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Don’t ask about KINDS of music and authors. Ask for SPECIFIC musicians/groups and authors. Kinds is overly general. That way if the committee is unfamiliar with them they can find out more.

32 Rick August 20, 2011 at 8:15 am

Thanks, John. You’re right–the actual names will tell us what we need to know.

33 Jason Roth August 20, 2011 at 12:36 am

Rick I have been working with teens since I graduated high school and that amounts to almost thirteen years. I want to be respectful but also honest in my response to your questions. Although I am not sure how to say it tactfully.

As I read your questions I groaned. I have answered them over and over again in interviews all over the southeast. I have been in interviews where we have had some great discussions and some that I walked out of thinking that i could have answered the questions in an email.

What you want when hiring a staff member is
1. Are they head over heels in love with Jesus? Not picture perfect storybook love but passionately desperate to be closer to Him?
2. Where is their heart? What is making them tick? Do they have a goal/ vision of what God has called them to do?
3. How do they view themselves in relation to you and the church body? Do you as a pastor connect with this person? Are they a team player or a “my way is how I go” type person?
4. Are they interested in personal growth? What are they doing to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone and become better?
5. What are their expectations? What are their plans? Say they started tomorrow what is the first step? How are they going to build a youth ministry?
6. ( I agree with the previous poster) What is needed to effectively disciple teens today? What is the youth minister’s role?
7. Does this person fit in in your community? I don’t know where you are but a country boy who likes four wheelers and hunting probably is not going to be a good fit in a city church or vice versa.
8. Does the youth minister recognize the needs of today’s teens and have an idea of how to address them?

Some of your questions could end up with these answers but they are not specific enough to guarantee that you will get what you want. I will say that after 13 years in Ymin if you were to ask me why I “wanted to be a youth minister” or any variant that seemingly questions my call I would be insulted. For some kid with no experience I can see it but I assume you are aiming higher than that. I have given my blood sweat and tears to this calling and to simplify that call into an “I want to because” answer seems flippant and demeaning.

Finally I want to say that a good youth minister will be interviewing you as much as you are interviewing him. If he doesn’t make statements and ask questions that make you stop and think then you might want to consider others. I go not trying to land a job but trying to ensure I am being obedient to God’s will. If I am unwilling to really delve deep into the matters at hand in the interview I may not be as serious about obedient as I need to be. Consequently if I am asked questions that make me reveal the 8 things I listed I get excited about the what God is doing because I am digging deeper and really getting down to the nitty gritty and that is what it is all about.

That is my two cents hope it helps and hope I was respectful enough. I don’t mean to insult please do not take it as such. Just reflections on past experiences. God Bless you search

34 Rick August 20, 2011 at 8:26 am

Jason,
Good, helpful input. I agree the questions are stated a little generically. They need to emphasize passion for youth, total love for Jesus, and the other qualities you mentioned more than just the same routine interview questions anyone would expect. That’s really what the “Why youth ministry” question was aiming at but I can see how a more experienced YM might find that condescending. Thanks for the suggestions.

35 Doug Hibbard August 20, 2011 at 8:46 am

Another addition is this: find a way to determine what relationship he expects with the the pastor. Is he looking for a friend, a mentor, a father-figure, or an adversary? Depending on how long he’s been in youth ministry and where he’s been, he may expect that the pastor will be his biggest roadblock. He may also expect the pastor to be his great ministry mentor—and are you up for that? Can you meet those expectations?

Just a few more thoughts.

36 Max August 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Regardless of ministry position (youth pastor or otherwise), 9Marks suggests that “a church should ask at least four types of questions of any potential pastor: theological, philosophy of ministry, practical, and personal.” http://www.9marks.org/answers/what-kind-questions-should-church-ask-pastoral-candidate

I found their post on this addresses primary issues for any church considering new staff, with the questions not necessarily linked to a particular theological leaning. The questions are posed in such a way to provide an astute search committee with a wealth of insight about the candidate in front of them. Heartaches could have been avoided by certain churches in my area if these questions were asked by search committees, and if prospective candidates responded with honest answers.

37 Peaches August 20, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Ask more questions about what the prospective minister did, not so much about what he “would do”. You learn more from past behavior, choices and decison processes than from predictions of how he would handle things.

38 Daniel August 22, 2011 at 8:28 am

If he has had any prior experience working with youth there is one question that I would seek to fully define and one other that must be asked.
Concerning question #6 I would ask for him to describe how his wife HAS helped serve with him. I have seen to many churches expect to hire a two-for-one deal and the wife has no interest in serving in any way. I have also seen wives of pastors and youth pastors who desired to serve in a different area of church ministry than the church wanted them to serve. Because of the relationship with teen girls I feel it is very crucial that the wife is involved in some way. In our case I just kept my wife away from the Middle School students – she enjoyed the older teens and the younger ones got to live.
On a very serious note ask the candidate to define their parameters of communicating with students via today’s means: text, im, facebook posts, facebook chat, etc. How many text messages are they willingly to share with a teen in a day? A huge clue will be available to you if you friend them on facebook and look at their history. Sadly, I’ve seen youth pastors spend hours texting their kids and many unhealthy relationships can develop because of a lack of discretion in their communication.

39 Jon McFarling August 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I like the general tone of most of the questions but I agree with Jason that some more detailed questions would be nice. I was asked many the same questions in many interviews and some of them required me to ask questions to clarify what they were getting at. So in my opinion the more direct and detailed the questions the better. That way there are no misunderstandings or feelings of hidden agendas.
There are a couple of questions here that I find interesting though the first is question 10. I listen to a variety of genres some secular some christian, from easy listening to metal and everything in between (right now I am listening to a play list that has worship music, swing, country, and Scottish folk) how do you qualify the response, if I like a band or type that you don’t am I finished? Also as a youth minister it is important to be well versed in what music is popular to be able to discuss it with the students. As with music I read a lot of different types of book both fiction and non fiction. While I am partial to Sci-Fi and have read and enjoyed “he that must not be named.” I also read many non fiction books related to the filed I have been called to. So again how do you qualify the responses? Does the fact that I read Sci-Fi disqualify me or is it for you general knowledge.
Question 6 also piqued my interest. As a man who has not yet found a wife yet I have had to undergo some rather interesting questions about my singleness from pastors and committees. For the most part the feeling I get from these questions is that they are suspicious that I have some hidden agenda, or that I am hiding some unbiblcal lifestyle. In one interview I was asked point blank why I wasn’t married. To me the question was too blunt and was an indication that this church and I were not going to work. I understand the desire to have a married youth minister but is being single a disqualifier? if it is don’t even interview the person but if it isn’t be careful in the questions that you ask. Trust me I wish I was married it would make finding someone to help with the girls in my group much easier but that is were recruiting volunteers comes in to practice.
Just my two cents but I feel that the passion the person has for God and students should count more than his marital status and what he listens to and reads.

40 Rick Patrick August 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Jon,

Great input. Regarding music and books, I primarily had Christian authors and singers in mind. The point is to discern spiritual and theological influences and look into their soul a bit to see what really makes them tick. Most secular music, if morally neutral in terms of lyrics, would not be a turn off. On the other hand, if he loves Joel Osteen and “Your Best Life Now” then I’m certain we can’t afford him.

Sorry if the question about a spouse was offensive in any way. I did not intend that. If the candidate is single, we’ll skip that question. Our last six or seven youth ministers have been married. Most of the candidates we’re considering are married also. Although not a requirement, as you said yourself, it is helpful in ministering to the youth girls. I pray that God, in His perfect timing, will answer your prayers and bring you and your future wife together.

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