Hiring a Student Pastor: The Age vs. Experience Quandary


Adorable Boy in SuitI’ve spent the past few years as an “over-the-hill” student pastor.  I’m old enough that I have kids of my own in the youth group, and I did not start parenting young.

One of the challenges of staffing when it comes to a student pastor hire is the “age versus experience” quandary.  A young student pastor, whose not far removed in age from the youth, identifies better with the students but the parents are nervous over his lack of experience.  A pushing-40 student pastor, with a few youth-age kids of his own, helps parents feel more secure but the students feel disconnected from his “ancient” age.   So, what’s the right age for a student pastor hire?

To me the “age vs. experience” quandary is irrelevant if you hire a student pastor to lead leaders and not just lead students.  In my tenure, I have chosen to lead through young adults called student-leaders.  These are are competent volunteer leaders who are beyond youth group age (>17) but still young enough to connect well with students.  I see my job as leading youth through leading young adults.  Effective senior pastors do not lead all the adults directly, why should student pastors lead all the youth directly?   Besides it’s no secret that churches often lose 18-24 yr. olds.  Using young adults to lead student ministry not only keeps them connected, it also allows them to leverage their age for leadership and that is maturing.

As the Student Pastor I still connect with students and parents, but I lead through young adults.  It’s a model that gives student ministry the best of both worlds: age and experience.

Join the Conversation:  What benefits or liabilities does age bring to youth pastoring?  Leave a comment below.

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  • That is a great form you have. Wish it would have been around when I was in the youth group. It was one leader and that was it. No older youth input. what a great Idea. When I look around today there are not very many that was in my youth group still in church. Sad but true.

    • Great comment Chris. Chuck Bomar argues in his book The Slow Fade that two things help young adults stay in church: 1. Continued involvement in a local church. 2. A cross-generational connection. Incorporating young adult leaders into the lives of younger students is vital for both parties.

  • Gregg Stone

    I like your concept of Student Leadership. People like to be involved, and the old “use them or lose them” theory does have some merit. I think age and experience has it’s benefits if handled properly, you can be older and still relate to the younger generation somewhat, especially if you have children in the youth group. To hire someone just because they are young, yet without experience, could create issues that the church doesn’t need to have to deal with.

    • Thanks, Gregg. I like the point of how children help you relate to students. Great comment.