Why I recruit retired adults to be youth leaders

Topic / Volunteers

It seems like most youth pastors and sr. pastors think that college students or young married couples make the best youth workers, usually because, “The kids can relate to them” or “They’re energetic.”

Looking back over my 10 years in youth ministry, I can honestly say that I’ve had more problems with the college kids and young married couples than any other volunteer demographic. Granted, I probably fit into the “young married couples” category myself, so I’m not too hard on the immaturity. It’s just that every single retired youth worker I’ve had is absolutely wonderful! They’re the most incredible youth workers ever!

Here’s why you should consider recruiting youth workers from the retired demographic in your church:

1. Life experience
They have the life experience and wisdom that no young adult or college student could ever have. They’ve been through the school of hard knocks, they’ve learned valuable life lessons, they know what it’s like to make both good and bad decisions, and they are usually more than willing to share that wisdom with others.

2. Spiritual maturity
Many retired people are the prayer warriors of your church. They’re the ones who love to tell people about Christ and what He’s done in their lives. They love the Lord with all their heart and have a relationship with Him that is so alive and vital it’s contagious!

3. Love kids
Many of them are grandparents and love teenagers! They really do. Some of the kids in your youth group love their grandparents, too, but they live 1,000 away or maybe their grandparents are in heaven now. Some of the retired adults that serve in my ministry have become “grandma” and “grandpa” to those kids. Plus, this older demographic has already raised their own children and know more about kids now than anyone else.

4. They have time
A lot of retired couples have time to invest into kids throughout the week. That’s hard for college kids and young professionals to do with jobs, family, and everything else going on, but retired adults love spending their time with teenagers.

5. Incredible role models
Most retired adults live lives outside the youth ministry and church that are completely consistent with what they say and do inside the church. They often provide living examples for teenagers that life-long marriages are possible, that faith intersects life every day, and that imitating Christ is both possible and incredible.

The excuse: I’m too old
Most retired adults and senior citizens are surprised when I approach them with the idea of serving in the youth ministry. The first excuse is, “Oh, I’m too old for that. I don’t know anything about the teen world.” My response is always to reassure them that it’s okay. “Teenagers don’t care if you know all the latest bands, have seen the top movie of the season, or if you can play dodge ball. All they want to know is that you love them and that you care about them.” Then I run through some of the reasons above why I think they’d make a great youth leader and share how they can become an irreplaceable partner in the vision for our youth ministry.

Do you intentionally recruit retired adults and senior citizens to be youth leaders?

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Posted on September 3, 2008

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  • Good post Tim! Over the years I’ve had retiree volunteers and they’ve been great. Many times they have taught me something. I’m glad you wrote this, I believe every youth leader can benefit from recruiting a retired person to help lead.

  • I think your points are very true except for one thing. I recently came through a youth group and I still help out as a leader in the youth group. I know that I would have personally felt awkward with a retired adult being a youth volunteer. I think youth DO care about whether or not they feel comfortable with the leaders, and especially in our church, the youth are not very comfortable with the older adults. It might be because of how traditional all the older adults are, and the youth have had bad experiences with them. I feel like the kids in our youth group would have a hard time being themselves because they would feel like the adults were always watching them… and they don’t like any of the same kind of things. I also think they’d probably get the “you’re too old to understand… things were different when you were young” attitude.

    Maybe this is just our church, but I feel like it wouldn’t go over well.

  • @ Corey Potter: Point well taken. However, it sounds to me that it’s a stereotype issue more than an “old person” issue. Kids might feel that way at first, but what if the retired adult truly demonstrated to kids over a couple weeks how much they care for them, that they’re there to listen and encourage them, not to judge or be critical? I’m sure the teens could quickly change their minds if that’s the genuine heart of the older adult. If it’s not, then yeah, you’re probably absolutely correct, but you shouldn’t recruit adults who don’t have a heart for teens either way, regardless of their age.

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