I linked to this post earlier at Stupid Church People that really aims some sharp criticism at youth ministry and youth ministers in general. The post itself is a good read but equally interesting are the comments others have posted. Here's the main thrust of the post:
I have written how the church needs to trust young adults to lead it if it wants to remain relevant... however, I no longer think that the training ground for this should be youth ministry. We have it all backwards. We let the young lead the young and this is where young pastors develop this sense of ego and entitlement that they bring with them into "big church". It's a psycho-social phenomenon that needs to be studied. I think it's both harmful to the students and to those young leaders that lead them.People complain that I am long on observations and short on suggestions. So here's one: If your church has a youth pastor under the age of 30, promote them immediately into either adult ministry or children's ministry. Then, go out and hire a 30-something youth pastor (preferably a woman), and be prepared to pay them well so they will stick around.
I've commented here before on my thoughts about young people being youth ministers (I myself started at the age of 23). There are pros and cons to it, but after having read the responses to the comments at the Stupid Church People post above, I'm more inclined to say that it is less the age of the person than their motivation for doing youth ministry that makes the difference. How often is a young person serving as youth minister in a church because 1) She/he is still in seminary and no one trusts them to do anything else, 2) She/he will work for little pay or for free, 3) She/he has no idea what they want to do for a career and the youth ministry job gives them something to do while they decide, 4) She/he is biding his/her time until they are allowed to do "real" ministry somewhere with adults?
Ultimately, the issue here isn't the age of the person. Many young people are fine youth ministers. The question rather should be "Is this person truly called to youth ministry? Is this the place they will be most effective in the church?" How can you tell the difference between a youth minister who is just biding his or her time and the one really called to youth ministry? Simple: Check in on them in 10 years and see if they are still in youth ministry. The ones truly called to work with youth can't help but keep doing it, in spite of low salaries, missed opportunities, and being forever "low" on the church staff totem pole.