No Expiration Date for Veteran Volunteers

By Guest Contributor February 12, 2015

By Phil Bell

Many veteran volunteers think they have a “sell by” or “best before” date in youth ministry. Like a sour bottle of milk or rotten ground beef, these adults fear that once they’ve crossed a certain line, students will turn up their noses at anything they say. However, I have seen a number of veteran volunteers who stuck around and continued to make an incredible impact on the lives of students. What separates these volunteers from the ones who decide their age hurts their effectiveness?

1) They take on a new role. Veteran volunteers who stay in the youth ministry trenches realize the importance of investing in younger leaders. Youth pastors like me need coaches and mentors in their ministries. Sure, I can train younger leaders myself, but veterans can invest in the up and coming leaders in steady relationships that I don’t have time for. Watching veteran leaders walk alongside younger leaders is a joy. This equipping role may look a bit different from what they used to do, but it’s uniquely rewarding to watch someone fulfill the leadership potential you nourished in them. Meet with your veteran volunteers and encouraged them to invest in and coach younger leaders, not by flaunting their superiority or experience, but by humbly offering guidance and advice.

2) They realize that Millennial students are less concerned about age. Yes, it’s true. Studies show that Millennial students are actually very accepting of authority figures and experienced leaders (more so than Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers). They may have less respect for “because I said so” authority, but if you know your stuff and have something to offer, Millennials will welcome your influence. Students don’t expect veteran volunteers to understand everything in their world; they simply want to be known, be heard, and belong.

3) They support the head youth worker. If you are a veteran volunteer reading this post, I can’t tell you how important it is to fully support your youth pastor or head youth worker, even if that person is less experienced. The younger head youth worker will make mistakes and will need wisdom from a friendly face. They need a supportive coach, not a critical challenger. But trust takes time. It may take months to show the youth worker that your experience is a blessing, not a threat. Approach these situations with sensitivity and grace.

expiration_quote4) They are flexible. I know this may not seem significant, but veteran volunteers have some of the most flexible schedules and can be the most dependable people. Yes, it’s great to have volunteers of all ages, but veteran volunteers understand commitment and often have more time to invest. They probably don’t have little kids at home and their work schedules tend to me more consistent. Veteran leaders with flexible schedules can show up to a sports game or a concert when no one else can, and that’s worth far more than trendy clothing or knowledge of pop culture.

5) They have captured your ministry’s vision. When youth workers continuously cast the vision to reach the next generation for Christ, we will see more veteran youth workers stick around. Vision trumps age. Veteran youth workers will look past their age if they are determined to do whatever it takes to reach and equip students. Global missionaries are more than willing to cross culture and language barriers to spread the good news of Christ to people in other countries. Why should age be any different when we’re sharing the gospel with students?

Who are the veteran volunteers in your youth ministry? How can you help them rediscover your ministry’s vision and redirect their efforts to influence students and other leaders for the long haul?

CC Image courtesy Steve Snodgrass on Flickr.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More