Are You Too Old For Youth Ministry?

God must have a great sense of humor – why else would He call me into full time Youth Ministry at the age of 58? That was my first thought when I was asked by our Pastor to step into the role of Coordinator of Youth Ministry. So often I have heard youth express concerns that they are too young, to which I would reply – nonsense, you are called to be a vital part of the Church today. Now, however, I had to turn that upside down and onto myself.

I had been involved in Youth Ministry as a volunteer adult team member for over 12 years and was on several retreat teams, but this was full time Youth Ministry. Besides, I retired early after 30 years in Hospital Management and felt I deserved a rest. God, as it turned out, had other plans. I was asked to become the face of Youth Ministry; wrinkles and all. I obviously accepted the job. I have loved this new role. I take each day as a “new assignment” and wait for what God has in store for me next. I live by the following: “For I know well the plans I have in mine for you … plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”(Jeremiah 29:11). God calls us each and every day of our lives; we are neither too young nor too old to serve.

Has this journey been easy? Of course the answer is no. Throughout my life I have found myself fighting self-doubt and fear of failure. This plagued me despite the fact that I have been blessed with diverse talents and much success. I have often stated that I am my harshest critic. Having the primary love language of words of affirmation makes it more difficult at times to combat this. God has been there all along to show me the way. I just needed to quiet myself and listen to HIM.

That moment came in a very powerful way recently during Eucharistic Adoration. This was, in some respects, difficult to admit but has been liberating. I realized that much of my concern with not receiving the affirmation I thought I needed was in fact rooted in pride and self-gratification. I needed to receive some credit from others. I pray and am fond of saying “all the glory and honor is God’s” , however an introspective look revealed the harsher truth that I all too often focus too much on the accolades. My father the ex-marine often said, “to walk the talk”, and I needed to commit. Truly live the words “to him belongs all the glory”.

I have begun to examine when I fail even in the less significant aspects of my life. For instance, I love to play golf, but not so much by myself. Being a very social person that makes some sense, but also it was so someone else could witness my good rounds. Why? Pride and self-gratification. If I make a hole in one does the fact that no one witnessed it change the fact that the ball entered the cup with one swing from me? In a deeper sense does it matter if others see me as this awesome leader of youth ? My daughter, after serving as a peer leader on a college retreat, shared the following with me; a Priest challenged the team to have as a desire that years later a retreat participant would remember something inspiring that was shared but not the person who said it. I have kept that sentiment as I lead my own retreats, but I now realize I had often failed to apply this to my every day life.

So what is this message from this old guy as he rambled on in this article? Simply this ; you are never too old to learn, to serve, and to be served.

I close with a prayer for all of you. Each day may you seek what God desires of you and for you. Trust in the Lord and do not allow anything or anyone to rob you of the Joy of the risen Christ. His love conquers all.

Are You Too Old For Youth Ministry? One Man's Career Change.

George Rutherford

George Rutherford is the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Portland St Patrick Parish in Portland, Michigan. George entered full time ministry after retiring , so he thought, form full time work as a Hospital Administrator - George likes to say “ God must have a great sense of humor, why else would he call an old dude like me into full time ministry at my age “ . George lives by the motto : “Growing old is mandatory , growing up however is optional”

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