The teenage years are some of the most important in a person’s walk in faith. According to Lifeway Research, 66% of young adults between the ages of 23 and 30 who attended church in high school reported that, between the ages of 18 and 22, they walked away from their faith. Providing a solid foundation of faith in those teenage years is vital to protecting young adults from walking this path, and a strong youth ministry program is a great tool toward that end. At the head of any youth ministry program is a youth minister or youth pastor. If you love young people and have a passion for the Bible, a career as a youth pastor may be a good fit for your passions and goals. Here is a closer look at how you can become a youth pastor and start impacting the next generation for Christ.

What is Youth Ministry?

Youth ministry is a specific type of ministry that focuses on meeting the spiritual needs of teenagers and children. Most youth ministers work primarily with junior high and high school students providing a Christian education through youth meetings, Bible study groups, counseling, and teaching. They may also work with young adults. This is a prime time for spiritual growth and questioning, making it an ideal time to pour into kids and help them solidify their belief structure.

Youth Pastor Job Description

A youth pastor will perform two primary roles. First, they will spend time studying the scriptures to present teaching to the young people they minister to, and second, they will organize youth programs and activities. Youths desire social outlets and fun activities, so this part of the youth pastor’s job description is vital. When the youth ministry program is engaging and interesting to the students who come, the youth pastor has more opportunities to spend time cultivating spiritual growth and awareness.

While each denomination will view the role of its youth leaders differently, the job has some specific skills that are necessary. These include:

  • The ability to speak well in public
  • Detailed knowledge of the Bible
  • An attitude that makes kids want to approach and trust the person
  • Understanding of the unique issues the youth in today’s culture face
  • Ability to give advice on many subjects

Can You Become a Youth Pastor without a Degree?

While some churches will hire volunteers to work with their youth, this particular career path is best for someone who has a degree in the ministry. The level of biblical knowledge necessary to effectively train the next generation is high, and a bachelor's degree typically provides a solid foundation. Many youth pastors will even pursue additional seminary training after a bachelor’s degree.

What Should You Study in College to Be a Youth Pastor?

To have a career in ministry to youth, consider studying theology and ministry topics in college. You will want a degree program that explores religious philosophies and doctrine, particularly in the denomination you follow. Church history and practice training are also helpful in this career path.

Yet a theological degree is not all you need. You will also want to learn about public speaking and writing, as those are going to be important parts of your overall job description. Understanding youth developmental stages and a little bit of psychology is also helpful, so you can present biblical truth in a way young people can understand.

Some degrees that University of the Cumberlands offers that might fit this career path include:

Whether or not you pursue a bachelor’s degree, you will want hands-on practical experience before starting work as a youth pastor. Many youth pastors will work under a senior pastor on a volunteer basis before starting work as a paid youth pastor.

Other Qualifications for a Youth Pastor?

Successfully working as a youth pastor requires a charismatic personality, a love for young people, and solid Biblical knowledge and understanding. Experience working with youth, usually on a volunteer basis to start, is helpful before applying for a paid youth pastor position. Teaching Sunday school, working in youth programs as a volunteer youth group leader, hosting Bible studies, and spending time volunteering in the local community in youth programs helps build that experience. Some youth pastors will take foreign mission trips before settling into their careers, and this can help them see how youth in other cultures interact with biblical teaching.

References are helpful when applying for a role as a youth pastor. Youth pastors carry a tremendous amount of responsibility, and parents put a lot of trust in them to care for and direct their children. Parents and other church members want to know that the youth pastor is a person of good character with strong leadership skills. Character references help a resume look more inviting to a potential church looking to hire someone as a youth pastor.

Finally, a youth pastor needs to have a strong personal walk with the Lord. You cannot minister to youth if you are not ministering to your own heart first. Get into a good Bible reading and study habit on a personal level, and you will have the spiritual reserves to pour into others.

How Much Do Youth Pastors Make?

Youth pastors rarely enter the field with the goal of making a lot of money, but rather with the goal of finding a way to minister to youth. However, you do need to be able to pay your bills and put a roof over your head. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track youth pastors specifically, but it indicates a median wage for all clergy of $51,940 in 2020. According to, the average wage for youth pastors in 2020 was $48,938. This makes sense because the youth pastor serves under a senior pastor, so it would be logical for the youth minister to have a slightly lower salary.

Youth pastors who have formal education earn more, on average, than those who do not. Worth noting is that this field does have a salary increase of about 2% a year, which is a bit less than an average cost of living adjustment.

Start Your Training to Launch Your Ministry Today!

A career as a youth pastor is a rewarding one. You are given the opportunity to pour your life into the next generation, making a difference with teenagers in their most vulnerable times of life. This career path is in high demand as parents look for ways to impact their youth through the church.

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a youth pastor, University of the Cumberlands can help. Our bachelor's degree in youth and family ministry and our online bachelor's degree in missions and ministry can both provide a solid foundation for a future career as a youth minister. If you are interested in learning more about the Mission & Ministry degrees offered at University of the Cumberlands, contact an admissions counselor or request more information today.