Youth Minister

Today’s kids are faced with plenty of obstacles that can cause them to struggle at home, at school…and within their church. Providing religious guidance to the younger generation poses a unique set of challenges, which a youth minister is trained to effectively navigate. It’s a position that combines education, worship, volunteer work and community outreach; and it plays a vital role in strengthening and shaping the future of his or her congregation. To make a difference in the lives of children and teens, youth ministers complete coursework related to creating a positive environment for religious worship and spiritual growth. They also learn how to provide guidance and support as it relates to an individual, their family and community factors.

Job Activities & Responsibilities

A youth minister is responsible for developing and advancing youth ministry services within a church, and typically works with students in grades six through 12. He or she must act as a role model, while at work and within their private lives. In addition to working with youths every Sunday before, during and after a church service, youth ministers also host daily or monthly meetings, lead Bible study classes, and are available to counsel children with flexibility.

Youth ministers must demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate and guide children and teens. Key skills, such as active listening, leadership, conflict resolution, public speaking and creativity, will become essential assets for this career. The day-to-day responsibilities of a youth minister vary from one church to the next, but often include:

  • Offering counsel, guidance and support for youth congregations
  • Planning lessons, activities and programs that speak to the younger generation
  • Attending church services and congregation activities
  • Delivering motivational speeches and sermons; leading prayer sessions
  • Recruiting and training church volunteers


The majority of churches and ministries are looking to hire youth ministers holding at least a bachelor’s degree. Having finished a degree program focused on theology or a related field is most desirable, as is completing concentrated studies and possessing a background in education. Bible colleges and private schools generally offer a variety of degree programs that allow students to major in youth ministry, or theology with a focus on youth-related subjects, counseling and leadership.

Step by Step: How to Become a Youth Minister

1. Complete a degree or certificate program. Those who choose to minister today’s youth often earn at least a bachelor’s degree (preferably in theology or a related field). Specific majors aren’t always required, but students should aim to complete coursework in communication, religious history, church rituals, and child psychology. Public universities rarely offer a specific youth ministry studies program, and aspiring ministers often attend a private, Christian university in order to major specifically in this field. Some churches and religious organizations will hire candidates who have completed a certificate program related to youth services and theology.

2. Complete a Catechist Certification Program, if required. Some churches require all individuals (even non-ordained or lay persons) that lead or instruct others in the Catholic faith to hold a Basic Catechist Certification. To earn a certificate, students complete coursework in subjects such as teaching methodology, scripture, the sacraments, morality, and prayer.

3. Expand knowledge and experience working with youths. In order to land a position working with youths at a church or religious organization, previous experience is a must. Prospective youth ministers must also have an understanding of the community and the cultural trends and issues specific to younger church members in the area, such as poverty, graduation rates, and high crime zones. Internships and volunteer work help boost experience and knowledge of today’s youths. Ways to accomplish this include shadowing a youth group leader at a local church; stopping by the church daycare; attending a youth retreat; and/or sitting in on children’s choir practice. It is important to hone skills for effectively leading and overseeing the spiritual care of a group of children and teenagers.   

4. Pursue an advanced degree, training and/or credentials. Youth ministers who wish to lead service-based church programs, perform religious ceremonies, or minister their own congregation improve their chances by completing a master’s degree program. Graduate-level studies often touch upon ministry theory and practice, public policy, social work, community development, and leadership. Attending and presenting conventions, as well as completing special programs are all resume- and experience-building activities that benefit a youth minister. It is also not uncommon for a church to require their youth ministers to become ordained; the requirements for ordination vary from church to church.

Career Salary, Outlook & Growth

Youth ministers are hired to work at churches, non-profit religious organization, and schools. The highest-paying positions are often found within ‘megachurches,’ which see average weekend attendance reaching 2,000 or more people. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), youth ministers fall under the category of workers that assume directorial roles for religious activities and education, which were paid a median annual salary of $38,980 in 2017.

A variety of factors can affect the earning potential of a youth minister, including educational background; college degrees held; specialized training; and geographic location. For example, the BLS identifies the following states as paying the highest annual mean wage for those in charge of youth religious activities and education: North Carolina ($87,860), Alabama ($83,470), Kentucky ($71,420), District of Columbia ($73,470), and Colorado ($63,520).

Projected employment growth for youth ministers is expected to stay in line with average U.S. figures for all other jobs (5% to 9%), with an anticipated 19,400 job openings becoming available from between 2016 and 2026.