One of the many highlights at the National Youth Workers Convention this past November in Atlanta was when they brough Verna Kline up on to the stage. She is an 81 year old lady who has been volunteering in student ministry for 68 years. It was so much fun to listen to her share and to see the whole room give her a massive standing ovation. She had no idea they were going to bring her up – it was a total and beautiful surprise.
One of my ongoing irritations as a youth pastor has been the opinion by some that there is such a thing as being too old for youth ministry. That it’s something people outgrow. As though it’s something for young people to be leaders in before they grow up and get into real ministry. It’s bizarre, because in any other role working with teens, we respect people who give their life to it. When was the last time we said to a high school teacher when they hit their forties that they were getting too old to teach teens history? Or thought a seasoned coach was no longer able to lead kids to victory? On the contrary, we think it’s an honorable thing for someone to teach or coach for 40 years and then retire. We respect that!
It’s no different with youth ministry. There isn’t a time when someone becomes too old to love and care for teens, to build into their lives, to invest in them. Spending a lifetime teaching young people the Word of God is an awesome thing. I love that Verna Kline isn’t one of a kind; for years I’ve listened to long time youth workers share about their 80+ year old volunteers and the critical role they play.