I spent more than a year looking for a Student Pastor. Over that year-long journey, I sifted through about 300 resumes. It probably should have been more because we marketed this position in bursts. I’m also kind of one-tracked at times and when I was chasing down one particular candidate, I went into a holding patter with all the other candidates.
So why did it take so long? I think it was because I was looking for an extremely rare candidate. I knew going into it that this was probably going to take a long time. I’ve been serving along-side Student Pastors for well over a decade and honestly, I’ve only seen this type of Student Pastor one or two times. So, let me tell you what I was looking for.
- Loyalty to leadership and vision of the church. Loyalty isn’t the best word here, but I couldn’t think of a better one. I was looking for a Student Pastor who was 100% on board with the vision and mission of Gateway Church, John Burke (lead Pastor of our Church) and me as Director of NextGen Ministries. I wasn’t looking for a mindless robot that we could control, but someone who saw coming here as an opportunity to enhance and add to the great ministry already taking place. I was not looking for a Student Pastor who would simply transplant his or her existing program and just simply do what he or she has always done. I wanted someone who would take their wins and strengths and figure out how to leverage those in the unique setting that is Gateway Church. They had to be a team player… all the way.
- Chemistry. Honestly, this is one is big for me. If I’m going to work with you a lot, I really want to enjoy working with you. There really needs to be common ground because at times the lines are going to blur between working relationships and what feels like family. It doesn’t matter if you led a ministry of 2000 teenagers, if my team or I don’t really enjoy being with you, it’s not going to work.
- A leader of leaders. I really wasn’t that interested in hiring a student pastor who is awesome with students. I’m wasn’t looking for God’s gift to teenagers. Honestly, I was interested in finding someone who would be a strong communicator to students, but they saw that their primary responsibility would be to lead leaders and equip and empower leaders to lead students. Even someone who would lead leaders, who volunteers who lead students. This is the difference between a student ministry that runs 100 students and one that runs 500+
- NextGen Minded. I was looking for someone who saw themselves as a member of a NextGen team before they saw themselves as Gateway’s Student Pastor. My team has been hard at work at developing a strategy for families and we want someone to come in and help us develop this strategy as it relates to families with teenagers. I wanted someone who see value in what we’re doing generationally and will speak into other areas when they see things that need help. More than ever before, I’m looking to blur the lines between Student Ministry and Children’s Ministry. All of our kids will promote up into the student ministry and scores of the teenagers will serve in the Children’s Ministry, it only makes sense that the two would be more integrated then anything we’ve ever seen.
- Parent Minded. I was looking for a Student Pastor who recognized that the parent still holds more potential than the Student Pastor. Sure, at certain ages, a Student Pastor may have more influence, but at best, that relationship will be significant for 4-6 years. The relationship a student has with his/her parents will extend for decades. I was looking for a student pastor who was passionate about equipping parents and seeing them for what they are and could be in the life of a student… even when they are still far from God.
- Culturally Relevant. I was looking for a Student Pastor who is culturally relevant to both Austin and Gateway. Gateway is about as non-traditional as you can get and it’s not just about a certain style, it’s about a DNA of raising the church up out of the culture. To many of us in the church have gotten crusty and don’t relate with a post-church generation.
Lastly, we needed someone who had led a Student Ministry of more than 300 students and has been on staff or leading in Student Ministry for more than 5 years.
Let me tell you, there just aren’t many people who met my qualifications. Not many people at all.