Seminary and the Youth Pastor - Is Bible College Enough?

In my undergrad, my academic advisor counseled me with something like this, “Well, if you’re planning to be a youth pastor, I’m not convinced that learning Greek will be all that beneficial for you.” Is that right? Is learning Greek beneficial for running a youth ministry? Should a soon-to-be youth pastor invest in a seminary education that involves rigorous Greek and Hebrew study? Well, I am an MDiv grad, and I am writing for a seminary blog, so my obvious answer is, “Of course!”  A few thoughts:

  1. Youth pastors must firmly believe that burying God’s Word into the hearts of teens is the most important aspect of youth ministry. God’s Word is ultimately what changes people’s hearts and lives (John 8:31–32; 17:17; 2 Tim 3; Ps 1). Pastors have been called by God and by His Church to preach His Word (the Pastoral Epistles are filled with this—especially 2 Tim 4:1–5). This must be our highest priority. An all-too-common statement from teens rings loud: “I read the Bible, but I just don’t get anything out of it.” The teaching and preaching of the youth pastor should seriously show teens how to remedy this issue. Don’t just make good points; show the teens how you got that point from the text. Remember that as youth pastors we only have a few hours a week with most of the teens in the youth ministry. Guard your teaching opportunities. Don’t let youth ministry gimmicks take the place of Word-focused opportunities.
  2. Youth pastors can’t really run a youth ministry without serious study of God’s Word. I really thought I was ready to run a youth ministry when I finished my undergrad degree (BS in Youth Ministry). But I had to grapple with the question of why do we do what we do in youth ministry?  Is our methodology based on practicality, or is our methodology based on theology? If the foundation of our youth calendars is simply what we feel like will “work,” then we’re missing the point. We need to have theological reasoning for our methods.
  3. Youth pastors need training in Biblical counseling, badly. I’m tired of reading pop youth ministry magazines that seek to give youth pastors some good ideas on how to counsel teens but never point to the gospel of Jesus Christ nor direct me to the text of Scripture. My heart hurts for these teens who struggle with sin issues, family issues, friend issues, life issues, etc.  As a young, new youth pastor (of three years), I need all the help I can get when it comes to dealing with such difficult issues. Thankfully, I have taken seminary-level classes on Biblical counseling, and I have great Biblical counselors surrounding me (like Dr. Jim Newcomer) to point me in the right direction. God’s Word is sufficient.

So, is seminary required for youth pastors across the board? No, of course not. But, close.

We need more youth ministers that are thinking deeply about the Scriptures, and seminary is a great place to help make this happen.

Text-first ministry. This is how the Holy Spirit works in lives.

Today’s post was written by Pastor Paul Campbell. Paul is a graduate of CBTS of Virginia Beach, and pastors the youth at Colonial Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.