Recently someone asked me how long I wanted to continue to do youth ministry. I have been a DCE for 22 years and Youth Ministry has always been a part of my call. For the last 10 years, it has been the main focus.
As they asked the question, they mentioned that many youth workers do not continue after a certain age and since I was that age, they just wondered what my next plans were. I had not thought about “what’s next,” as I have enjoyed discipling young people in their faith. So, it caused me to stop and ponder these things. I decided that I am “seasoned, not stale.”
You may be familiar with the website 100LifeHacks.com. You can find all sorts of remedies and solutions for many of life’s challenges like getting out tough stains… I came across a great hack for when you have stale Tortilla chips. “Toss them in the oven for 10 minutes at 375” and they come out fresh and crunchy.
So, when I wonder if I have gotten stale doing the same thing for so many years, I contemplated a LifeHack for youth workers. Can I still be effective working with youth after the age of 45? I think it depends on how you define your ministry. If Youth Ministry is only led by a cool, young, hip, trendy person – then no, I cannot be effective. In fact, if that is the definition, then I never could have done YM, as I was never one of the “cool kids.” However, if ministry to youth is about building relationships that help youth connect with each other, the church and God… then, yes, I could be doing that for many more years.
“At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40 we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all!” Ann Landers
This quote may have some truth in it. As I have grown older, I have found a freedom in ministry that I didn’t have as a young person. I have confidence to share a vision for what I believe God wants us to do in the church. I have become a better listener than when I was younger. I no longer have the need to always share my story, but can sit comfortably and ask questions that lead others to share their story. I am also less selfish. I can care for others without any need for thanks or recognition.
In order to last long term in YM, I believe we need to be intentional about taking care of ourselves. In an airline emergency, the instructions are, “put your own oxygen mask on before helping others in need.” It is imperative to be a manager of our health, our relationships with family and friends and our spiritual disciplines of prayer and Scripture reading. When we focus on the unseen parts of our character, the public ministry is strengthened. I know when I am rested, and living in balance, I am much more effective as a wife, mother and minister. When I am running on empty, I can resent when one more person needs something from me. KINDLE (a leadership organization for DCEs) uses the phrases “Stewardship of Self” and “Stewardship of Faith.” Both of these have become counter cultural. It feels selfish of me to take an hour away and go to the gym, or to spend my quiet time in prayer when I should be getting other things done. Instead, God calls us to order the details of our lives, which allows us to share His love with others.
I have found some helpful LifeHacks for my survival in youth ministry.
- I purchased a quality air mattress for overnight youth events.
- I have recruited young adults who love to stay up all night, so we can still host lock-ins.
- I bring ear plugs to all sleeping events so I don’t keep others up if I snore.
- I have learned not to take myself so seriously and laugh at my own mistakes.
- I have also learned to be honest about my limitations and plan my schedule accordingly.
- I realize that Youth Ministry isn’t just a job – it’s a calling. I pray I will always have the opportunity to connect with teens and let them know someone cares.
So, as the years continue to fly by, I like to think that I am more like my well seasoned stoneware, which brings more flavor to the food baked in it, and not just stale. May God bless you as you continue to serve and make an “Eternal Difference” in the lives of the younger generations.