Better Now That I Quit

BY Doug Jones

May 30, 2012


I once (a long time ago) was a full-time youth worker. I have a number of other friends who are also ex-full-time youth workers; and the ones I have posed this question to have all answered it the same way.

The question: Was your relationship with your family and God better when you were a paid professional youth worker, or is it better now, in your new role?

Each one basically said those relationships are “better now that I quit.”

I can’t tell you how that bothers me; but I can tell you it is true for me too; my relations of stated priority—God, spouse, and family—all improved after resigning from full-time youth work. Back in 2002, The Association of Youth Ministry Educators (AYME) published a study reporting among its many findings that most former youth workers (more than 70%) admitted that their relationship with God improved dramatically upon leaving full-time youth work.

What do you think about this issue? Is the way in which we approach youth work detrimental to our own relationships with Jesus and our families?

Is this a legitimate concern? Do you think my anecdotal findings and those of AYME valid or true today?

I will follow this up with some of my thoughts in the near future but would love to hear from you, today.

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4 comments on “Better Now That I Quit

  1. This is probably going to sound judgmental and prideful, but please know it’s a serious suggestion that’s in no way meant to impugn you or your friends. You have possible correlation between dysfunctional relationships and being ex-full-time youth workers. But could the causality be backwards? Rather than saying this demonstrates that youth ministry necessarily leads to out-of-whack priorities, could it be that the causality actually runs the other way. In other words, rather than asking “are their relationships better now because they are ex-youth-workers” is it possible that they are ex-youth-workers because they didn’t take better care of their relationships when they were. I don’t believe that youth work is categorically detrimental to relationships, but bad relationships are categorically detrimental to youth work.

  2. Bradley, it is a more than fair question. I appreciate your question. I can only answer for me; and my answer would be yes – I am out of youth ministry as a profession because my relationships got poor as I attempted to meet the expectations of many parents and leaders in the church as I carried out my profession and calling in youth ministry.

    But I don’t think it is as easy as – only if I took better care while doing youth ministry… I do think the way I understood youth ministry and the way it had been modeled made “taking better care of my relationships” a tall order, if not impossible. I don’t want to be heard as making youth ministry a scape goat. I am asking, “is the way we approach youth ministry detrimental” – I am not suggesting that youth ministry is categorically detrimental.

    So that clarification – I certainly can’t disagree with your comment.

  3. It doesn’t help that people in full-time ministry (not just youth ministry) feel like they need to project more of an image of having it all together than other people, and as a result, they are almost forced to create, for themselves, a culture of dishonesty.

  4. Peter – good point it definitely rings true to my experience. I think that image projection definitely comes into play in our churches. It seems that for too many of us we don’t feel safe in our churches to be ourselves. We fall into the trap of putting on a mask and being the person we think folks want us to be. Merton calls it our “false self” and Brennan Manning calls it “the impostor” – and as we reinforce our masked persona it erodes our true self and our ability to engage others and God in a authentic and genuine manner. That definitely impacts our holistic growth.

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