Saying Goodbye to Student Ministry: Age Matters

You’ve heard it said. I’ve heard it said. It’s been said to you. We’ve asked it ourselves every now and then. Even search teams talk about it. The million dollar question that makes every youth pastor want to roll their eyes –  “Aren’t you a little old to be a youth pastor?” For some odd reason this question seems to get asked more than once when you hit your thirties. Like you, I despised the question, so let’s settle this question once and for all. God can use anyone, of any age, to be a student pastor!

Yet, we’re not talking about being a student pastor. We’re talking about making the transition out of student ministry, and in this context, the question is valid. The truth of the matter is, if you know you’re not going to be a youth pastor, and plan on transitioning to another position, age does matter. The longer you stay in student ministry, the harder it is to transition out of it. There seems to be a certain window of opportunity for every student minister to make the transition out. If they don’t, they make it that much harder on themselves when they’re ready to. If you’re still not convinced, here are a two reasons why age matters:

Pastoral Skills

Have you ever wondered how some student pastors are able to pull off an awesome event with little resources? Or how some student pastors are able to dodge a ball with matrix-like qualities? It’s almost like second nature to them, or maybe it’s because they’ve had years of experience that’s allowed them to develop those skills over time.

All ministerial positions have certain skills needed to take them from good to great, and the way anyone gets those skills is through baptism by fire. Being a pastor is no different, and the longer you wait to learn pastoral skills, the harder the adjustment will be when you become one. If you have the opportunity to start sharpening your pastoral skills, do it earlier, rather than later.

Family Life

The older I get, the more my family life changes. A big part of that change is raising children, and raising godly children requires family time. Yet, I noticed the demands of a youth pastor can make it hard to spend time with your family. Late nights with teenagers, and earlier mornings with small children, have the ability to burn both you and your spouse out pretty quick.

Furthermore, children cost money, and that’s something a majority of youth pastors seem to be lacking. The bigger your family gets, the more time and money are demanded from you. A happy balance of both are necessities for a healthy family life, and if we’re honest with ourselves, student ministry doesn’t always foot the bill for either. If this is the case, then it’s okay to pray and consider about transitioning out of student ministry. God is not offended or upset, nor does he consider you unfaithful to your calling if you do, because God has called you to take care of your family first.

In the end, I understand the number one variable in all of this is God. He does what he chooses and has no problem proving my blog post wrong. I also believe, God calls us to be good stewards over the gifts he gives us, and one of those gifts is our calling to ministry. God expects us to make every effort to maximize the potential of our ministerial calling, so it can be a blessing, not a curse, to everyone we come in contact with. Getting older is a good thing, because God uses it to refine our calling, so he can use it for his glory.

Do you believe age really matters when it comes to transitioning out of student ministry and why?

How much freedom do you believe God gives us with our calling to ministry?


  1. I would respectfully disagree with (some of) your conclusions. I think it's not only youth ministry that will involve nights and weekends. Senior Pastor ministry will also (at times) make it difficult to make time for family. This may be an example of the grass looking greener on the other side. Plus, I think all ministry requires relational skills. There is no box I want to be put in for being a senior pastor, just like I don't want a box that tells me how to be a good youth pastor. As far as the money, meh! If you're working at a church that pays very little and you can't support your family, then maybe you need to find a different church to do youth ministry. I guess what I would like to see is more longer-haul mindsets when it comes to youth ministry. We see too many youth pastors getting experience and then leaving the field so new youth pastors can come in. But if all youth ministry has is young youth pastors, then we neglect the wisdom and experience that only comes from the long haul. (For what it's worth, I'm now a youth pastor in my 40's with about 17 years of experience. I don't see senior pastor ministry calling my name anytime soon.
    • Hey Rick! Thank you for the thoughts. I believe there are plenty of youth pastors who do have a long haul concept, however, this series of post isn't for those who are staying and planting in youth ministry. Though I did consider writing a post to those who do stay, and with your comment, I probably will now. The goal of this series is to help those who are wrestling with God calling them out of student ministry, which can be very difficult, because our love for students can cloud our discernment when it comes to this matter. These are just two reasons to add to the discussion when it's time to have it.

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