[ym360 NOTE: If you recall, last week we posted an article that kind of blew up. Our post entitled When Is A Youth Minister Too Old To Be Effective? generated more comments than any article we've posted in the last two years. ym360 Contributor Phil Bell took the idea and ran with it. This post is Phil applying the same line of thinking to Adult Volunteers. Enjoy!]
Last week, ym360 asked the question "When Is A Youth Minister Too Old To Be Effective?" As I read this post, I found myself asking, "But what about volunteers?" I often talk with volunteer youth workers, and many of my own volunteers, who are struggling with feeling like they are "over the hill" when it comes to youth ministry. They feel they don't understand students like they used to. They see younger volunteers making deeper connections on certain levels and feel inadequate trying to connect with the students they love. They don't immediately see their value.
The risk of volunteers finding themselves in this spot is that they can lose their feeling of purpose in a ministry that once seemed so purposeful.
I see and hear this struggle all the time. From my perspective as a youth pastor, it's not so much that volunteers have passed their best years in youth ministry, it's more about helping them to see a new and unique perspective as someone who is older and wiser. Here's what I've always told my older volunteers when they've struggled with their effectiveness:
Consider Your Unique Perspective To Students
So many of our students aren't quick to (knowingly) follow the influence of their parents, but they'll will listen to another parent or grandparent! Studies show that millennial students value the advice of adults. As a generation, they're more inclined to accept the influence of adults than previous generations. While they are definitely still drawn to people closer to their age, they are also crying out for wisdom and guidance from leaders who have lived an authentic faith journey. Only age and maturity can offer this perspective.
Consider Your Unique Perspective To Other Volunteers
Is it time for you to start seeing yourself as a coach to the younger volunteers? Consider the mistakes and challenges you went through as a younger leader. What wisdom have you gleaned over the years that will be a help and encouragement to those who are traveling the youth ministry volunteer path behind you? If you haven't passed on your wisdom yet, it's likely that God is not done with you in youth ministry!
Consider Your Unique Perspective To Parents
Many youth pastors don't have teenagers of their own. In some cases this creates tension between parents and youth pastors as they struggle to relate to one another. However, your age and experience in life will immediately qualify you to come alongside parents of teenagers in ways that a younger youth pastor can't. Consider how you can partner with parents and encourage them and equip them in their journey of parenthood.
Consider Your Unique Calling
At the end of the day, who cares what culture says about age?!?! God can call anyone into youth ministry and keep them there as long as He chooses. Sadly our society (and our churches) will often communicate that youth ministry is just for young leaders. However, without older volunteers, students would lack the wisdom, perspective, and stability that they greatly need at this time of their lives. If God is calling you to hang in for the long haul, do not let anyone (especially yourself) get in the way!
What advice would you give a youth ministry volunteer who is seeing their age as a limiting factor?
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