Starting Fresh: 4 Keys Starting Right In A New Youth Ministry

I recently started a new full-time youth ministry gig about 6 months ago. For a while I was the shiny new toy at our church, and that was fine! But in reality, it can be difficult to start fresh at a new place, with all of the cultural learnings, expectations from leaders/students/parents, as well as different people pushing their own agenda. But here are some of things I learned in this transition, and maybe it can help you if you’re ever starting fresh somewhere.

Starting Right In Youth Ministry

1.    Humility is important: I think that anytime someone new is brought in, it can either inflate the ego of the “new guy” thinking they’re the Savior of the ministry, or it can cause people to be on their guard watching your every move, or both. I think its very important to maintain humility, and not to promise the world to anyone, especially yourself! If things start going right, don’t take all the credit. In fact, it may be time to get in the Word more, so that we don’t start to think its all by our own strengths!

And seriously, people are more attracted to a humble guy. Leaders are more willing to follow a man (or woman) of humility.

2.    Honor the past: Get the “old” youth pastor to come in and speak one night (if he’s around). Encourage him to join you at events. Go to lunch with him and ask about the past. Solidarity is a good look for your ministry, and for the Church as a whole. I think its just a way to show that the church is healthy, that there is no competition, and trust me, students are paying attention to those types of things!

3.    Don’t change everything. But do change SOME things: Obviously you don’t want to come in and blow up every program, recreate a ton of new things, and eventually get everyone looking at you like a wacko. But, you should change and improve SOME things. It gives you credibility, and it energizes the students and leaders. My goal was to have people saying “things are changing and happening here… I need to be apart of it!” If you’re not creative, than start getting other leaders and creative types around you and ask them their feedback on programs and ministry, and then start working. That right there could help energize the ministry as people realize they have a voice.

4.    Get to know people. Listen to their stories and where they’re coming from: Sometimes I needed to slow down, put aside any of my own personal work, and just focus on getting to know people. Hear their stories, hear how the church and ministry impacted them, and remember them. The truth is, you can never go back to being new again, so take this time to focus on what’s really important at the beginning!

My hope is that some of these tips can help you to transition well and to start fresh! What lessons have you learned? Kyle Daubenmeyer

Kyle Daubenmeyer is currently the Youth Pastor at Rockpointe Community Church in Sterling Heights, MI. He loves sports, good movies, vacations, and spending time with friends and family. He has a lovely wife named Kristin and 2 beautiful daughters. He tweets at

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  • http://www.smarterym.com/ Aaron Helman

    This is a great list! I’d also add something like this:

    Now is the time to build your own habits. At my first job, I wanted to get into the schools for lunches on a regular basis, but I told myself I would do that “after I had everything else in place.” It never really happened.

    I’ve found that it’s far easier to build good work habits at the beginning instead of doing them later.

  • philbell

    Aaron, this is a great piece of wisdom! It’s imperative that we build a plan of ‘essential practices’ before we even start our new position, (not that I am planning on moving any time soon).

    I think these keys are good for all of us, even if we have been at our church for a while… Humility as a leader is so essential.

  • http://www.smarterym.com/ Aaron Helman

    I read somewhere that first impressions really do make the biggest impact ON OURSELVES.

    The person you are in your first week on the job is the person everyone will always believe you are and the person you will believe you are.

    Looking for the article right now. If I can track it down, I’ll send it over.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottTinman ScottTinman

    Great post and relevant to me as I am in the 1st month in my new position…except I am not the shiny new toy but a refurbished old toy since I am an older youthworker :) I would also say enjoy the time as the “newbie” and the building of new relationships is a huge key for long-term success

  • philbell

    I agree Scott. I am wired to ‘get things done’ and often a new position will make me default to my task list. It’s important people like me keep that firmly on my radar! Great addition mate!

  • leneita

    Excellent! One piece of advice a mentor gave me as well is to listen before you do ANYTHING new. Take a couple of months and ask some questions, and listen to the answers. Talk to parents, youth, team leaders as well as the leaving youth pastor if at all possible. Ask- “What do you feel the youth ministry does well and What are the challenges?” Then you aren’t just coming with your ideas- you are able to start where the ministry, students and families need you first.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.daubenmeyer Kyle Daubenmeyer

    That is great advice, Leneita! I like that you said “take a couple of months”… I think the tendency is to rush, rush, rush, without settling in and observing and listening.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.daubenmeyer Kyle Daubenmeyer

    Hey Aaron! Thanks for the feedback… Yes, and if you have any of those thoughts when you’re newer on the job, its probably because you noticed some improvements that needed to be made, while you still had the fresh perspective. Once the fresh perspective wears out, you can never get it back yourself! So you’re right, building habits and writing down these observations will help to make sure you make these a habit.

  • Rob

    I think even as time goes by its a great idea to still treat the “old” youth pastor to lunch!

  • philbell

    I agree! But, can you define ‘old’? Haha!

  • http://twitter.com/freshmonk Jay Lehman

    Kyle – solid and essential stuff! Do you think the pace of change you can implement depends on what kind of shape the ministry was left in by the last guy?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.daubenmeyer Kyle Daubenmeyer

    Oh, definitely… I think that applies more though if the “last guy” did a great job. If he did, then it may be best to lay low for a while, get to know the people and culture, and then bring your own flavor in after a lot of observation. If you move too quick in a situation like this, you may lose some people. But if the last guy didn’t do too great of a job, then yeah you may have to come in and start implementing changes sooner.

    I’m curious… Are you living this out currently? Or in the past?