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Confessions of an Aging Youth Ministry Worker

By David Olshine | March 1 2007
It didn’t take long for Jenna to get my atten­tion after my “I’m Over 40” seminar at a national youth ministry workers convention last year. After an intense month that included a youth retreat and a “parent­-teen outing,” Jenna was “toast.”

Steve wasn’t feeling much better. As he approaches 50 and his 12-year-old  daughter enters his youth group, he feels  his ministry is flat, his marriage is strug­ gling and his family needs balance.

Whether I’m talking one-on-one to  youth workers or leading a seminar, I  often ask these five questions about aging.

Where do you need to ADAPT in ministry as you age?

My wife and I have adapted often during  our 25 years of marriage. Youth workers  must adapt, too, as they mature. Age  means we have less energy, but the good  news is we’re more resourceful and adapt­ able than we were when we were younger.

What do you need to tweak? What things do you need to add or delete? What  needs to be delegated, evaluated and ele­ vated? The operative word is adapt.

What areas of GROWTH do you need to consider?

Growing people learn to set boundaries and margins. Growth can also increase your ability to resist urges for more recognition, money, status and populari­ty. And when conflict arises, mature youth workers are less likely to run away.

Where do you need to pursue growth? Answering that question and following up with action can help you carry on.

Do you start to INVESTIGATE other possibilities if you’re getting stale?

Frederick Buechner defines calling as “the place where your deepest gladness and the world’s deepest hunger meet.” Calling grounds us and stabilizes us. But if you find yourself bored with your ministry and the hunger is gone, it’s probably time to investigate. But before you write your resignation letter, investi­gate why you want to leave.

Is it family tension? Your cluttered schedule? Feelings of inadequacy? Disorganization? Growing criticism?  Overwhelmed about your program­ming? Make sure you find out before you make a change. Talk with people who know and love you to seek their wisdom. Investigate your heart first and get to the root of the matter.

Where do you need to say NO

 meet many youth workers who are “running on empty.” Help lies in learn­ing to say “yes” to the non-negotiables and “no” to things that rob your passion. Work from your strengths and learn to say “no” to everything else.

 A confession: I have never organized a car wash or learned how to make PowerPoint presentations. I have been able to find people who love doing what I can’t do or hate to do. So can you.

When should you decide to GO?

Always stay put until God says “go.” There will be a day when God will say, “Enough, well done.’’ I am not looking forward to that day, but I know it will come. And it may come to you, either through a still, small voice, a spouse’s ill­ness, or some other sign that you have reached the end.

And when God does tell you to go, take comfort in knowing you have fought the good fight, run the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Now the crown of God’s applause is yours.

David Olshine is Director of Youth Ministries at Columbia International University in Columbia, S.C., and the author of over 15 books, including I Want to Talk with My Teen About Guy Stuff. He and David Burke are the founders of Youth Ministry Coaches, a coaching and consulting business (www.youthmincoaches.com). 

 

 

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