Family Ministry Today

The Center for Christian Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Book Review: ‘Before You Hire a Youth Pastor’ by Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin

by Derek Brown – Apr 9

Before You Hire a Youth Pastor: A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding the Right Fit. By Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2011, 124 pp., $7.99.

Before You Hire a Youth Pastor: A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding the Right Fit is a much-needed resource for local churches. DeVries and Dunn-Rankin put the entirety of the candidate search into perspective by asking questions that help the church make needed evaluations before, during, and after the search process. According to the authors, “When the youth ministry is built solely around the person in the role of youth pastor, you can count on a major disruption to your youth ministry every three years” (iii). Drawing from their years of experience with Youth Ministry Architects, DeVries and Dunn-Rankin lay out a collection of concise chapters that serve as steps for a team to find a sustainable fit for their church.

The authors spend the first four chapters focusing on structuring a solid search team and clarifying the current system. “A solid search process…begins with the search for the right people to serve as part of the Search Team” (4). Helpful insights are provided to be sure the right people are included as well as clear responsibilities for each member. The focus here is on the current structure of the ministry and volunteers, with an excellent evaluation tool provided in the appendix for determining who will be involved in what areas of ministry.

While questions and tools do assist in determining a volunteer structure as well as where to look for a candidate, they fall short of encouraging a clear understanding of the vision for the youth ministry. As part of a successful search including “building the dance floor,” readers may sense some gaps in terms of their unity regarding what youth ministry actually is. The book does not need to do this work for the team, but it could encourage them to consider whether their church is (for example) program-driven or family-based, family-equipping or any other variety of youth ministry philosophy before they begin searching for the ideal candidate.

In the final six chapters, DeVries and Dunn-Rankin lay out details regarding how to find and evaluate can- didates. They also provide a series of appendices that include resources, tracking sheets, sample interviews, sample letters, and more.

In this final section, search teams are encouraged to begin early with the financial picture to determine what they will be able to offer a candidate. However, the financials are apparently not shared with a potential candidate until the offer is made. Waiting this long to discuss finances could cause undue stress to the process for the candidate being considered. Search teams might consider alternative times for sharing this information, especially if they have started early in analyzing what the church would be able to sustain.

The strongest point of Before You Hire a Youth Pastor is the continued emphasis on the need for search teams to slow down. The most important piece of advice the authors give is “don’t settle” (6). Along the way, there are excellent evaluative questions and stories to slow down the process. However, it would have been helpful to also provide a thread throughout that focused on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Slowing down allows opportunity for people to seek God first and foremost rather than simply seeking a youth minister; the authors miss an opportunity to shift attention to this crucial priority. We all need a constant reminder that discerning the best fit for ministry requires not simply our own logic but the guidance of the Spirit.

[Editor's Note: Andrew A. Hedges, M.Div., is Associate Pastor of Family Ministry at MorningStar Baptist Church in Centerville, Ohio.  This book review originally appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 2.1.]