Growing Older In Youth Ministry Sucks

I hate to disappoint you youngin’s in ministry who, like me, romanticize youth ministry. You may think it’s great being the grizzled veteran whose seen it all only to sit with a bottle of scotch at night smoking cuban cigars and wondering where the time went…ok the last part isn’t true. well, partially, I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which, I just felt like monologuing my own youth ministry noir.

I’m 49 on my way to 50 and I’m not happy about it. I called a childhood friend tonight so he could cheer me up and that level was unlocked. He asked me how my journey towards 50 was going and I told him it sucked.

I basically feel like I’m semi-re-tired. I have way too much free time, other than making youtube videos, podcasts, etc. My youth group and church isn’t very needy so I’m left to my own devices. Growing old sucks, but growing old in youth ministry, at least right now, in this moment, isn’t great either.

I lack the desire to do do many of the things I used to like to do in YM which is normal in the aging process. Maybe I just need a testosterone shot or maybe God is doing something else. I’m prayerfully considering both options but that isn’t all I’m struggling with.

I came to the realization today that I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t believe there is a fixed point in time that I am supposed to reach. I still believe in God’s providence and His presence in all things, but my reality is what I make it. There’s no “big break” coming, no matter how hard I try,

I feel like Barry Allen in the Flash trying to get faster so he can save Iris from her death that he saw in the future. Flash finally taps out and admits he can’t do it.  Whatever future I saw for myself as a young man, it’s just not going to happen and I’m spending much of this year coming to terms with that, but It’s not easy.

I wish I had some words of wisdom for you. Maybe when I hit 51 I’ll have better perspective or maybe I won’t. My journey through Ecclesiastes is helping.

Verses like

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. Ecclesiastes 8:15

and

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, Ecclesiastes 2:24

are certainly helpful.

I still wound’t give up all the memories and God moments I’ve had with students and maybe that’s the normal progression, or rather regression, of aging.  Maybe I need to take more time to reflect and less time trying to get somewhere. I don’t know. I’m still working that out.

I hope you don’t mind a little bit of honesty and a little less How To. This is the disciple project blog and aging in ministry is part of my journey as a follower of Jesus and if you’ve read this far, thanks, I appreciate it and there may be even more honesty forthcoming. I hope it serves you well in your life and ministry journey.

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The Challenge Of Aging In Youth Ministry

What do you think my greatest challenge is?

Church politics?

Middle School kids who don’t shower?

Lock In’s?

Parents?

All of those are challenging in their own way, but all of those are externals that I can handle. It’s what’s happening internally that is the most challenging, I’m getting older.

I turn 48 in a week and I’m freaking out a little. I’m pushing 50 and I’m still a youth pastor. I’m a little shocked that I feel this way and that I am still doing what I love,  but I should’t be. I heard the term “lifer” when I was in my 20’s and committed early to being a life long youth pastor in a culture where youth pastors were using student ministry as a stepping stone to somewhere else. That was unpalatable to me.

25 years in and I’m pretty happy, thus far, about how’s it’s turned out but the realities of keeping up  emotionally, physically, and mentally are quickly approaching.

There are things I just don’t care about anymore.

I don’t care as much about what’s hip or cool.

I don’t care about some break up.

I don’t care about whether I play a game or not.

This is not apathy, it’s just life.

My eyesight is shot. I lose my reading glasses everywhere to the point that I buy them from the dollar store by the dozen and leave them at the church, the house, and the car.

These things have me emotionally guessing at how I should feel about all of this.

There are days I wear my age like a badge of pride and that I can still hang with these teens and that, by the grace of God, I have earned their respect somehow that they should follow my lead.

Then there are days where I’m the broke down loser who can’t seem to get it together and thinks often about sneaking away in the middle of the night to write his youth ministry memoir.

Most days I’m in-between, keeping a level head, doing the work of  loving kids.

I have a feeling this will not be my last post about this, as I’m not quitting anytime soon.

I’ll keep you posted if I start having a hankering for prune juice.

Your Turn

Are you feeling the pinch of aging in youth ministry?

What are the challenges you face? How are you coping with them?

 

 

 

 

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