To the Youth Pastor,

Youth pastor, you do not know me, and we have never met, but I am the man who was at the theme park the same day you were. I stood back and observed you. From a distance, you looked like a twenty-year-old with your flat-brimmed hat, stylish t-shirt and pants that needed to be adjusted. But up close, your face showed your age, with the appearance of wrinkles and a look of absolute exhaustion. Trying to be hip, relevant and cool – but looking more like the fool to others. Please do not take this as a negative insult, as I understand. You need to engage those youth that are in your charge. You need to be unique and relevant (just like all the other youth pastors stuck in this way). The days of DC Talk and Newsboys (original) have gone, so you need to find ways to connect with those young men and women who are looking around trying to fit into the culture but thankfully do not.

Perhaps someone sold you a bill of lies. To win the culture, you need to be relevant to the culture. Maybe you were called, maybe not, but you went off to seminary and just accepted all that was taught. Perhaps you feel you are just doing “your time” as the youth guy in hopes one day you can be an associate or senior at another church. It’s possible your overseers instructed you that you need to be the cool youth guy, or families will leave the church, so you play the part and grow the ministry. Sadly, you are being misled, and the nature and importance of what you have been called into are no longer visible.

If I could have pulled you aside for 5 minutes and shared a few things, here is what I would have said,

First, splitting ministry into kids, youth, young adults, adults and so forth is a waste of time. Granted, considerations need to be made to present the Gospel and apply it within age brackets – the Gospel is ageless in more ways than one and is sufficient. However, we need to reevaluate how we do these sorts of ministries. Indeed, as men, we would not wear Bob the builder clothes engaging children; we certainly do not need to look the part for youth either.

Secondly, I know you are tired and want to impact these youth, but you are going about it wrong. Drop the hipster look, and pick up the book. Dress your age, and attract the youth to Christ in what you have to say and how you live it out, not by what you feel you need to wear or be. Teach them to be lights of the world and to shine for Christ (Matt 5:14-16). Pour into those youth and equip them for ministry in this world, thus building up the body (Eph 4:11-17). Make sure they are getting solid food, and you are teaching them sound doctrine (2 Tim 2:2, Heb 5:11-14). Prepare them to stand, pray, preach and what it looks like to be a Christian in a world that no longer accepts Christians (John 13:35, 1 Cor 11:1)

The youth do not need a 40 to mid-50-year-old man looking like Toby Mac or Michael Tait; those men are entertainers in the Christian context. Instead, the youth need a man that looks like a man—someone to look up to, trust and talk to over hard-to-understand concepts. They need to be challenged and prepared in applicable truth. In short, a youth pastor should look like a qualified lead pastor because the only difference is the age of the flock. This means if we are forty, we dress like we are forty. There is no need for hair dye, stylish clothes or trending hat styles – those all fade away – but the message we are called to preach does not (Is 40:8).

Now, you may lose a few from the group – but those who stay will be better off. Oh, and remember, Jesus said, His yoke is easy, and burden light (Matt 11:28-30), so you do not need to be “joe cool”; you just need to be a faithful elder and exhibit the qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-16, Titus 1:5-9) of an elder and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

In His Grace,


Latest Posts

Scroll to Top