There is this strange phenomenon where everyone in student ministry has picked up a side hustle. You have been doing student ministry for a while and now you have something to say, something to offer the big bad world. And even better, you can monetize it in some way.
I get that most youth workers don't make a ton of money and if there is a way to share some of the creative and innovative things you have done in ministry can bring you a few bucks, then it is a win, win. But this mentality has infected student ministry and is slowly destroying the greatest ministry a church can offer.
At best, being a youth worker is one of the highest callings one can have. You have been called to be on the front lines of a rapidly changing culture, with kids who developmentally are rapidly pushing back from the faith of their childhood and seeking to discover who they are as they walk through the process of individuation.
To a generation that is running away from the church and from Jesus as fast as possible, God has called you to stand in the gap, to run after these kids to generously pour out your heart and life to kids. What makes this an even higher calling is there is such little fruit or payback for this life calling. You pour out all of who you are with little in return in the hopes that some of them may come to know, love and serve Jesus one day.
This is the calling!
At its worst, it is a job. A job where you are paid to hang with kids, develop programs, glad hand parents. In fact, the job is not difficult at all. Sure, the first year and a half is a brutal learning curve, but once you walk through a calendar year, lead a trip or two, and field a few late night calls you are good to go! Job well done!
In your church's eyes, in your student's eyes, you are the best youth worker on the planet. This is true! They don't care if you are nationally famous if you have a youtube channel if your stuff is featured on DYM. They only care if you love them and provide a framework.
If you are not careful you can believe the hype that you are the greatest youth pastor and that you have something to offer the big, bad world of student ministry. Being the best youth pastor in your student's eyes is very different than being the best youth pastor in the big bad world. And let's face it, people who are more connected, already serving in huge churches with massive influence have already cornered the market on leveraging their context to maximize influence and launch a side hustle!
Don't get me wrong, you do have something to offer the big bad world. But it isn't your side hustle. It isn't some monetized study you wrote on the book of Ephesians. Every youth worker worth their salt has already done that 5 times. Rather, you are called to share your life, your heart, and your calling with your colleagues for mutual edification.
For as easy as the job is, the calling can be soul crushing. And we need youth workers who are staying sharp in their skills, and soft in their heart. And this only happens through authentic community and collegiality. When we seek to monetize everything, then we are always hustling, and then you are simply perceived as a wannabe, prideful jerk.
Seek to be a gift to your community and to your network of youth workers. If you aren't being paid well, then figure that out, but don't sell your soul or your ministry for a few extra dollars here and there. Work out your faith and your calling with fear and trembling so that you have all the mojo you need to continue pouring out your life generously to an increasingly lost generation.