My friends at YM360 (who also happen to help sponsor the Youth Ministry Garage) had a post yesterday titled “When is a Youth Minister Too Old to be Effective“? Apparently, it’s go more action, traffic and comments than any post they’ve ever written.
Here’s a snippet from the YM360 post:
When is a youth worker too old to be effective?
I’ve noticed something that happens to us youth workers around our mid-30′s, or so. We find ourselves unable to naturally relate to teenagers. Most of us have reached a point where we don’t automatically pick up on their references like we did in our 20′s. They mention a fad or a movie and we realize we have no idea what they’re talking about. This happens enough, and it begins to bother us.
We begin to think that means we’re too old. We hear a clock ticking inside of us. We say something like, “I’ve lost my relevance.”
There are other signs, as well . . .
The needle on our fun-meter is not as often moved by the games and the recreation. We think, “I need to move on to more adult things.”
We see our peers “advancing” to become Minister to Adults or Teaching Pastors. We say to ourselves, “I need to move on to real ministry.”
We see our friends leaving the ministry. We say to ourselves, “Is it time for me to quit playing around and get a real job?”
As an old youth worker, I’ll chime into the discussion (but it’s got to be quick because I’ll have to run to the bathroom, eat my oatmeal, and then take a nap).
1. I’ve never felt more effective in youth ministry than I do now.
2. I don’t believe teenagers care about relevance… they care about relationships.
3. Having had 3 teenagers live in my home, I know more about teens now than I ever did and can literally talk “their language” more accurate than I could when I was in my 20’s.
4. I’m closer to Jesus than I’ve ever been and I definitely have more wisdom to pass on (which was the thesis of the YM360 post).
5. I’m more patient, realistic and encouraging about spiritual growth. I better see the big-picture of sanctification than I did when I was younger and equated “program attendance” to “spiritual growth.”
Every Wednesday night my home is filled with 10th grade boys, and after sharing a meal together, we talk, read Scripture, confess our sins, and rejoice in the power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God in our lives. It’s an unbelievable discipleship experience. Very different than how I discipled teenagers when I was in my 20’s.
I don’t know if these 10th grade guys give me respect because I “was” a full-time youth pastor for 29 years, if they endure me because I’m now a “volunteer” or if they like me because I’m “old” and they feel sorry for me (see photo above when I was the only one to wear something to “Crazy Christmas Sweater Dinner”).
I think they respect me because they know that I love them.
I don’t know all the names to their favorite songs/bands, I can’t keep up with all the new slang connected to genitalia, I’m usually the first one “out” when we play dodgeball… but, I know I’m an effective youth worker because I understand them, I know Jesus, and I depend on the Holy Spirt for everything I do when I’m with them.
When I was younger, unfortunately I think I depended more on my personality, charisma and drive.
Okay, that’s enough… now I got to go pee.
Question: When it comes to youth ministry…would you rather have young leaders or older leaders? Pros? Cons? Share your thoughts here.