Monday, February 28, 2011

The 18 month Myth

Myth Busters ... So how do we get away from this myth in Youth Ministry?

Here’s an article from Group Magazine. It’s at the bottom of the page after 100 Youth Ministry Gems and 10 Things I Wish I’d Known. (Good Stuff). You can click here to read the rest


By Rick Lawrence

"Studies indicate that the average youth director lasts only 18 months." So says George Gallup, the granddaddy of Christian pollsters. I’ve heard the same factoid quoted by esteemed youth ministry speakers, authors, academics, and average-Josephine youth leaders hundreds of times. So it’s gotta be true, right?

Here’s the trouble: I’ve attempted to trace this now-infamous truism back to a specific source, and I can’t find one anywhere. Gallup doesn’t cite a particular study. Neither does Barna. It’s a ghost vampire not even Buffy can kill. The 18-Month Myth is now part of youth ministry lore. It’s been used over and over to describe youth ministers as easily scared gypsies who bolt at the first sign of trouble.

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s all a bunch of bunk.

For years I’ve challenged people who reel off this 18-month statistic to cite their sources. I’ve disputed its authenticity for two reasons: (1) The average group reader has five years of paid youth ministry experience and has stayed at the same church—both as a volunteer and paid staffer—for more than six years. (2) At conventions, workshops, and in casual conversations with youth ministers all over the country, I hardly ever meet one who bags it after a year-and-a-half.

So we here at group decided to find out the truth, once and for all. We asked our research staff to complete a scientific survey of North American churches using a representative sampling of denominations. Here’s what we discovered:

*The average paid youth minister has just over four years experience (4.2 years, to be exact).

*The average paid youth minister has been at the same church for almost four years (3.9 years, to be exact).

So you’re not the lone stable person in a sea of here-today, gone-tomorrow gadabouts. And, if you’re a group subscriber, it’s a good bet you’re even more committed to your profession and your church than those nefarious nonsubscribers out there.

Now I feel all squishy inside—the good kind of squishy. I hope you do, too.

Rick Lawrence is editor of group.

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