I sit with parents and prospective students every month who are curious about majoring in youth ministry at Bethel College. More often than not, the student is very excited about his or her interest in youth work, but the parents are more hesitant to see their son or daughter choose that their major in college. The concerns generally range from whether they can earn a living in youth ministry, or whether they should major in a real degree so they have something to fall back on ( I presume the concern is that they may fail and youth ministry, or get chewed up like many do in local congregations).
These are valid concerns, however I think they also tell more about the economic pressure we feel when facing correlation versus anything else. As I stated in a previous post, I think we have begun to see higher education more as a means to be productive financially versus a process to become educated and wireless. And the reality is that not many people actually were in the area the major in while attending college. I am always amazed that youth ministry as a degree tends to get higher scrutiny than degrees like music (what I majored in), or history, or even psychology (the second most popular major for college students) that requires an additional Masters degree in order to work in that world.
My argument is that you should major in the degree do you feel like you are supposed to, that God has called you to major in, and work to become the best educated person you can become. If it’s music, great. History? Superb. Psychology? Fantastic. Youth ministry? You bet.
Though some say college is a business decision, it is not. it can be, if your goal is simply to make money, but you will find that when you turned my age you will wonder if that’s the right goal. There is an oft-quoted interview of Ted Turner by Barbara Walters and she asked what it was like to be so wealthy. His response was “It’s like a paper bag. Everyone sees the bag. Everyone wants it. Once you get the bag, you discover that the bag is empty.”
I have been reflecting on how brief life is now that I’m in my midlife years, and I am more convinced than ever that we should pursue what matters to us and that part of what matters is the pursuit of wisdom. The goal of college education is to be shaped and formed, to learn an area of content, and to fully be who God is created you to be.
Stephanie Rorie, the Group Life & Family Care Coordinator for Granger Student Ministries, is a graduate of our youth ministry program at Bethel. She e-mailed me the other day and commented that she is one of the few of her friends who are actually working in the field that she majored in while in college. I tell parents all of the time that youth work is a growing field and that there are numerous types of jobs and openings out there for a college educated and mature youth worker. Stephanie has been very successful in her work at Granger Community Church since her graduation and she is balancing family and ministry leadership very well.
If you look around at many of the prominent Christian leaders who are influential today and you look back in their history of ministry, you will often find that youth work was the foundation starting point. Youth ministry is a fantastic degree for those interested in various forms of ministry. It prepares you for national leadership, cross-cultural expertise, and innovative teaching. You will learn how to connect interpersonally with people you’ve never met, you will learn how to team with community leaders and counselors to provide holistic opportunities. And you will grow in your ability to communicate Scripture to everyday life. That sounds like a list of pretty marketable skills in a variety of potential directions.
I will post a series of follow-ups to this to create a small wiki about youth ministry as a college major. You are welcome to jump in and help me do so.