Perry Rihl

It’s Not “Your” Ministry

“You Have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8

Has anyone ever noticed the ways in which the desire to serve can so easily become prideful?

It sounds weird, but it sneaks so deftly into ministry. We want so badly to do good work and we desire so deeply to serve Jesus that suddenly we begin to look at ministry, the Church, and the structures therein either as obstacles stopping us from doing the service that we deem worthy of our time, or a warped professional ladder in which success is defined by how many people hear our voices, see our faces or read our words.

This becomes blindingly clear when we see that a coworker or fellow minister is given an opportunity, or we see a speaker or presenter at a conference and think “That should be me” or “When will I get my chance to shine?” Worse yet, you hear it in the voices of youth ministers who talk about how priests or staff at the parish just don’t get it, and how dare they recommend changes to “my ministry.”

We need to understand that our pastors don’t need us or our ministry. The parents and volunteers that we serve don’t need the supposed good that we do. For goodness sake, the teens don’t need us or want us. The fact is, in the hustle and bustle of trying to make ourselves and the things we do relevant, we’ve forgotten that our parishes, pastors, teens, and parents need Jesus! We need to be less concerned with how polished our ministry looks and start reflecting the Face of Christ. We need to worry less about how many people hear us talk about the Gospel, and worry more about why our teens say they don’t hear God!

As our Holy Father Francis has said, “I want things messy and stirred up in the congregations…” (WYD 2013). It’s not about flash and gimmicks, it’s about substance and reflecting true faith!

So What am I Supposed to Do?

And none of this is to say that you don’t have a place. We should find comfort and life in the hierarchy of the Church and the place that we hold in it. It blows my mind that pope himself, on a mission from God, knew that he was only one man and chose my bishop to lead my entire diocese. This bishop, realizing his limitations, chose my pastor out of all the priests in our diocese to shepherd and serve the unique need of people of my parish. And that pastor, out of love for the people of his parish and humility in recognizing his limits, hired me out of all the applicants to be his personal liaison to youth.

In the end, this is not my ministry. I am here only because of the humility and sacrifice of holy men who saw the needs of this parish, this diocese, and the world. Everything I do needs to be guided by my love for Christ and my love for the teens, as well as my love for my pastor who has entrusted me to be his hands and feet.

To look beyond this point, to be jealous of other ministers and to think of myself as undervalued or underutilized risks calling into question the judgment and discernment of all those who stand above me. Does this mean we should never question or challenge our pastors when it’s warranted? Absolutely not! But to have a pity party in our offices when there is work to be done is a disservice to our teens and the men who have given us the opportunity to serve.

My Challenge

Stop thinking about the ministry you would like to be doing, and focus on the one at hand. Our God, in His infinite wisdom, and for some reason beyond comprehension has placed sinners at the helm of His Church. We are not so great as to deserve more than what is given us. In fact, all that has been handed to us in ministry is a gift that we have a duty to use well.

We are not enough for the tasks placed before us, but thank God for the opportunity to work. Thank God for the opportunity to strive and to let His Grace do the heavy lifting. We are not simply slaves who come into work every day and punch out in the evening. We are children of God who have received power at Baptism to reflect the love of Jesus and to participate in the conversion of hearts. We only do this when we are able to get out of the way, realize our place in the great mission of the Church, and love as Christ loves.

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Perry Rihl

About the Author

I love Thai food, old books, and stupid puns. I'm married to a beautiful, patient, and holy woman and I live and work as a youth minister in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. God allows me to lead worship and retreats all over the place and you can follow me on Twitter @dprihl.