Do youth pastors need to have a degree in order to teach youth?
Commanded to Study
The Apostle Peter tells us that we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” (2nd Pet 3:18) and the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2nd Tim 2:15), so there is a biblical command for all believers to grow in the grace of God; to grow in the truth of God; to grow in the knowledge of God; and to handle the Word of God (“the word of truth”) in a manner that God would approve of. Do youth pastors need to have a degree before they can be a youth pastor? It depends on how knowledgeable the man is and how well schooled in Scripture he is. Some smaller churches cannot possibly pay youth pastors and the need to require an education of someone who has volunteered to teach youth seems to be an unfair burden. Each case is different. Some who have degrees have no business teaching anyone while some who have no degree are perfectly suited to it.
Each church has unique, individual members with predispositions just like you find among people in the world, so each church has to decide for themselves whether they will require a degree before someone can teach a youth class or even a Sunday school class for adults, but there is nothing in the Bible that gives us a notion that only people with degrees can be youth pastors because this was long before degrees as such were even known. In fact, there were no youth pastors in the first century church. Everyone had one pastor and he spoke to everyone at one time; youth and adults, and in many ways that’s a great idea. Our Sunday school has been inviting the older children into our adult Sunday school class in the hopes that they will learn more there than in a children’s Sunday school class. If they feel they are not getting enough out of their own age group’s Sunday school class, then they might desire to learn more and so they are welcome, as long as they understand what behavior is expected of them in the class. Degrees don’t qualify you to be a youth pastor; being a Timothy-like student of the Word can help and also a mentoring program, where an older, more experienced Christian man or woman mentors a younger Christian man or women. Every Timothy needs a Paul in his or her life but also, every Paul should find a Timothy to mentor or disciple. Men who have been mentored in the church make better youth pastors because they’ve been grounded in the faith by their elders who have learned from their own experiences (mistakes and all) and know what works best in teaching youth, how the structure of the class should be, and to identify the outcomes desired in each youth program.
Degree or Not?
I know of two people with Bible degrees but they not qualified to be a youth pastor or teacher in the church. Why? They are among the 36% of evangelicals who don’t even believe in the bodily resurrection of the believer. If someone wants to teach the youth but doesn’t believe in the essentials of salvation (Rom 10:9-13; Acts 4:12), then they have no business teaching youth the Bible since they themselves apparently don’t believe it all. They would rather have a pragmatic approach to the Bible. It’s as if they are going to a religious-belief buffet and would say, “I like John 3:16 but I don’t like the part about hell” (despite the fact that Jesus spoke over twice as much about hell than heaven). Pragmatism has reached its deadly tentacles into the mainstream churches today where if it works for the vast majority of people to attract the largest number of people and retain them for the longest time possible, then it must be right. They forget about repentance, faith, lives of holiness, good works, serving, confession of sin, humility, and other Christ-like attributes and by doing so, they take the focus off of Jesus Christ and onto “what works” or “will it work.”
Should youth pastors have a Bible degree? Yes, but if it’s from a liberal seminary, then there should be extreme caution. Today we find few youth pastors who have degrees. Only in the large mega-churches do you find youth pastors with degrees or churches that require them. Sadly, even many youth pastors are not good teachers because they might not believe everything that’s in the Bible. That makes them even more dangerous to the youth than no youth pastor at all because a half-truth is a whole lie, no matter how you look at it.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.