Last week we dove into the topic of being “too old” to serve in student ministry, and dispelled some myths we have allowed ourselves to believe. Today we’re continuing that conversation.
There are times in student ministry when we begin asking questions about ourselves and if we are still called to serve in the same capacity. Often times this happens after a difficult season, a rough conversation, or when we are close to burnout. We also see this manifest itself in regard to age. We ask if we have been in it too long, if we are still relevant, or if we’re called elsewhere because we’ve done our time.
If you are currently serving in student ministry and asking if you have gotten to be “too old” for it, let me encourage you to ask yourself some questions and self-assess. Take time to think through why you are feeling this way, and if you need to make a change. The following questions aren’t meant to be a fix all, but instead designed to have you critically analyze where you are, and determine the reasons behind your feelings.
Am I still relating to students and parents?
Often times we ask ourselves if we are still relating well. I think we sell ourselves short and believe that if we aren’t completely relevant we aren’t relating well. Relating isn’t about relevance, it is about relationships. Ask yourself if you are still communicating the truths of Scripture into the lives of those under your charge.
If you find that perhaps you aren’t, or there isn’t the passion you had before, dig into the reasons behind it. Check your heart and your relationship with Jesus. Ask, “What is keeping me from pouring out?” Seek to recharge, grow, and improve, and then see what God does.
Is there something I am not doing that I should do to be a better leader?
Often when we feel burned out or that we are “too old,” we need to step back and ask if there’s something missing. Is there something you could be doing to help you be better at what is happening in your ministry? If you find yourself not being up to running games anymore, that isn’t cause to stop being in student ministry but instead is an opportunity to empower and build up other leaders to help carry the charge. Instead of looking to walk away, first look to see if there are areas to improve.
Have I stopped caring?
If you find yourself not caring anymore, let me encourage you to take some time away and do some internal checkups on yourself. Often when we get frustrated or hurt and nothing is done to rectify that moment, we tend to want to walk away and be done. If you find you have stopped caring, please take time to self-assess and heal. Look deeply into what is causing these feelings and seek to move forward in healing for yourself. If you allow this feeling to continue to grow and fester it won’t only hamper your ministry to students but also your relationship with God.
Why do I view myself as inadequate or antiquated?
I have often heard from older and more seasoned volunteers that they feel inadequate or antiquated and because of that, they aren’t sure they should continue serving. Let me pause and say that no matter what age you are, you can still pour into the lives of students. Step back and ask yourself why you’re feeling this way. What has led you to this moment? Was it a hard moment, a parent’s comment, was it some asking you if you can keep serving students? Stop and assess, and then look at your heart and what you are passionate about. Are you still feeling called to love and care for students? If so, stick with it and run after them.
What am I looking for?
This is a hard question to ask because it gets to the root of what we are desiring. You must ask yourself if you are looking to “advance” or if God is truly calling you to a different role. I want to be pretty blunt here: student ministry is not a lesser role, nor is it a stepping stone for advancement. If you are using it that way, please step out sooner than later because ultimately you will hurt students and hamper their spiritual growth. In order to find out what you are looking for, let me encourage you to think through these areas: are you looking to advance in status, are you looking for better pay, do you want an easier role, is God calling you elsewhere, or are you just frustrated in the moment? These will help you to discern more about what is happening in your heart and where you need to be.
Do I need to find time to rest and recharge?
Many times when we question our abilities or consider stepping away, it is because of overworking and burnout. Before you think about throwing in the towel, take time to rest, reevaluate, spend time with Jesus, and have mentors speak into your life. Being able to reevaluate with a fresh set of eyes and a still heart will help you to see what is truly happening and engage in healthy ways.
Am I still excited about student ministry?
If you are serving in student ministry and your passion isn’t there, ask yourself if you still find joy in what you do, or is just something you show up to. There are seasons that are harder than others, but if you have found yourself to be struggling in enjoying what you do and what you are called to, get some people to speak into your life. Look at your relationships with God, family, and friends and see if you’re getting fed. Often we must look to the heart to see if we are spiritually healthy and then we can assess why we aren’t excited about our calling.
Am I simply looking for something different?
Sometime we just need a change of scenery. This isn’t a calling away from youth ministry but perhaps God is moving you in another direction to help others. First ask yourself if you are just looking to shake things up. Do you just need to try something new or change the structure, schedule, or format of the program? Don’t just walk away, look to see if changing something is where you are being led.
What would my students say if I left?
This isn’t the final and only say because there are always students who will say not to leave and the wise-cracking ones who will say you should never have come. But what I would encourage you to do is ask former and current students who you know have valid and thoughtful insight and see what they say. Ask them how they would feel if you left. Ask them if they could see God directing you elsewhere. Sometimes what we need to hear is encouragement that we are doing what God has called us to, and let’s be honest…the praise and encouragement of a students means a lot to us. Knowing we are doing what we are called to and that life change is happening is often the encouragement we need to continue in student ministry.
Am I making a difference?
This is a question you should ask yourself, your leaders, parents, and those closest to you. Don’t bank on one negative comment, or one student who writes off your program, but listen to those who know and love you. Let them be honest with you and see what their honest insight is into your ministry. A second set of eyes goes a long way in encouraging us and making sure we are on the right path.
Some of the best leaders I have served with have been many generations removed from this current one, and their students loved them. Not because of their sport prowess, or their ability to use technology, but because their leaders loved them, championed them, challenged them, and lived out Jesus to them.
No matter your age, if you are called, you are called! Personally, I believe an inter-generational student ministry is one where students, leaders, and families will thrive. Every ministry and church is to be a picture of heaven, and as such should have an inter-generational focus to it. We are called to shepherd and love those who are younger, and we are to mirror the kingdom of heaven in all we do. Because of that we should have old and young people together. Grandparents and parents should be serving with students. And the church should be a place of discipleship and inter-generational ministry. You are never too old, you are called and chosen!