We’re coming up on that exciting time of year – new beginnings in youth ministry. Over the next few months, countless parishes around the country will be bringing on new youth ministers – some of them will have had experience, and others may not. Regardless, when youth ministers walk into parishes, we often make the same mistakes, or become forgetful about the same things.
As someone who has worked at a few parishes over the years, allow me to share some wisdom on approaching the first few months – not because I’m smart, but rather because I’ve made a lot of mistakes in youth ministry over the years.
Everyday. On your way in to work, during work, and at night. You need to keep your own prayer life sacred and make it priority. Also, you need to be praying for the parish, the teens of the parish, and all the needs of youth ministry there – BUT – don’t let this prayer for the parish overrun your own personal prayer!
2. Don’t be a bull in a china shop!
Especially if you’re walking into an existing program, take some time to look around, listen, get your bearings, and see what’s already working. There’s a good chance that there are already people in the parish who have given a great deal of time, talent, and treasure to youth ministry in the past, and coming in with guns a blazin’ will not kindle in them a desire to help you.
3. Build relationships
With anyone and everyone. From the parish secretary, to the school principal, to the pastor, to the little old ladies at daily mass. When you see teens and young adults at mass, don’t go into turtle mode – be your likable, personable self. Reach out especially to the groups of people who can support youth ministry in a myriad of ways – prayer communities, Women of Graces, Moms ministries, Knights of Columbus, Boy Scouts, music ministry – these are all ministries that can support you in various ways – and youth ministry can support them right back!
4. Build a Team
Beyond getting to know a great many parishioners, put a good deal of energy into building your “team.” These are the people that you’re sharing the vision with a little deeper – because you want them on board fully. Sometimes it is parents, sometimes young adults – but your core team is something that you want to build up from the get-go. Not just warm bodies – people that are committed to growing in their faith, and will be committed to the teens.
Things won’t always work like awesomesauce. People will say no to your invitations, and to your plans. There’ll be times of frustration. If you remember to continue to pray through it all, God will certainly carry you through it. We were never promised that ministry would be easy – and it is hard. Really hard. Be willing to try big things and fail spectacularly.
Overall, get to know the parish – and be open to the huge plans God has for you, for the teens, and for the parish. You have been called there to play a part in those plans – but Jesus is the main actor in that play, so always take you lead from Him.
Question: ÔøºWhat are other things to keep in mind when you start at a new parish?