Starting out in Catholic youth ministry and wondering what are the things you should have? Here are a few quick ideas:
Not everyone is going to like everything you do for teens. If you only do ministry to please the critics (who normally are outnumbered by the fans most of the time) then you will inevitably make ministry about pleasing and not reaching souls! Once Cardinal Stafford told me to evaluate criticism by asking this question – “Is the person criticizing you living the Paschal Mystery?” In other words do you get the sense they are dying to self and rising with Christ in their life? He went on to say – “if you discern that they are not living the Paschal Mystery, then don’t take it to heart. If you discern that they are living the Paschal Mystery, then take it to prayer and see what you are to learn from it.” I receive criticism on a regular basis, this rule has helped me know when to pay attention and when to let it go.
Strive to develop a rhythm of prayer for your life. Make prayer a priority and stick to what you say you are going to do. In my experience and opinion, you will never say that you spent too much time praying.
It takes guts to walk up to a group of teens and start talking to them. It takes courage to ask a parent to volunteer and help out. It takes resolve to ask the pastor to help by going on a retreat so you can offer reconciliation for the teens. It takes courage to introduce your teens to Eucharistic Adoration or to go on a mission trip. Courage gets you to do things, you need to do. It makes a big difference and can make things happen for your ministry.
This is the ability to understand where someone is coming from. Over the years, empathy has helped many youth leaders to focus on loving teens and not judging them. It has allowed bridges to be built and fences to be removed. When you focus on someone other than yourself, it is a game changer in youth ministry! It’s what sets you up to love as Christ loves.
The ability to not take ourself too seriously, but to take God totally seriously. A youth leader needs perspective that you are not the Messiah and God will probably get done what He wants done with or without you. Keeping your perspective allows you to go to bed at night turning over all the events – joyful and stressful to God, knowing that He is in charge. We can never lose our sense of humor and key to that is not losing perspective.
None of the above will require you to spend any money. Sure your going to need a Bible, a Catechism, Rosary, a copy of Renewing the Vision and countless other resources to build a comprehensive ministry at the parish – just don’t skip the above things.
That is my list – any of you Catholic youth ministry veterans want to add to it?