Stuff Youth Ministers Like #7: Complaining

I knew a youth minister who literally worked inside of a closet. Sure, it had been “renovated,” but it didn’t alter the fact that his ministry was based out of a “former” closet. It was the kind of closet that makes a person long for a cubicle; it still smelled like toilet bowl cleaner and that stuff you use to clean up tile floor when a kid tosses his cookies post-dodgeball game.

There was another youth minister I know who had no budget and not only had to fundraise money for her youth program, but for her own salary as well. In case you think you read that wrong, I’ll rephrase. She needed to ask people to give money to her youth ministry budget and to her salary. If she didn’t raise enough money, she took a pay cut.

And there was one other youth minister that got attacked by bears every time he walked into a parish staff meeting.

Seriously, he showed me the bite marks.

I heard all of these stories (well, the first two) at a gathering of youth ministers. It was a meeting I frequently attended and, without fail, after a half hour of small talk the stories began. Stories about how “nothing can get done at our parish because the priest just doesn’t care,” and that “parents stand in the way of everything we try to do.” Every meeting contained a laundry list of complaints. Eventually, I stopped going.

I think there is a difference between being supportive in ministry by sharing our struggles and brokenness in community, and old-fashioned complaining. A five-minute rant about how your diocesan director won’t return your calls and how the events she plans “suck,” is not a struggle. It’s gossip. It’s one thing to share how you are struggling with your pastor being supportive; it’s another to launch into a litany of misdeeds and wrongdoings you feel he has committed.

I’ve done my share of complaining. Whether it was after a staff meeting or a really bad youth night – I’ve whined with the best of them. But I’ve asked myself, “Why do we love to complain?”

Maybe it’s because we’re seeking affirmation that we aren’t alone, or because we feel like people will be more responsive if we share “bad news” rather than a “glory story.” Maybe we just want people to think, “What a courageous and strong individual. On top of a constant stream of hate e-mails, an unsupportive pastor, and no budget, he has to share an office with the parish’s new pet python. What a hero.”

I bet if we began affirming one another for small glory stories rather than using our gatherings as glorified forums for complaints, we would be a lot happier and excited for ministry. But I’ve never had to wrestle bears to get to a staff meeting – so I could be wrong about this whole thing.

Question:What is a glory story that you haven’t shared with someone yet?

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