Eileen Burrell

Sufferin’ Staff Attack? There’s Hope!

Ministering to teens is awesome. Working at a parish… not as awesome.

Hear me out. In an ideal setting we’d work alongside angels, whose biggest altercation would be bumping wings while trying to help each other out.


Reality is that we work with other humans who are just as messy as we are — with egos, agendas, misconceptions, and lots of feelings that quite frankly get hurt over just about everything. In a setting like that, it’s all too easy to become discouraged. But, there is hope.

I used to work at a parish where I felt like I could do no right (I’m sure you’ve never felt that way). Walking into a staff meeting was like walking the plank. I would literally leave meetings in tears wondering how I could ever go back. Altercations were over how much money the youth were spending, or how messy the teens left the hall, or even worse…being told summer camp isn’t worth the trip if less than 10 teens sign up (because let’s be honest we’d do it all for ONE!).

Not everyone is going to understand youth ministry, or why we do what we do even if we don’t have thousands of teens flooding the doors, but that’s okay. It shouldn’t deter us from the great mission we’ve been called to, and if you are feeling defeated, or undervalued, just remember that even Jesus experienced persecution.

As I look back at those years and how I survived, there are three things that offered me hope through it all.

1. Pray without ceasing.

Yes prayer really does change everything. I spent a lot of hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament and I would drive 20 minutes just to get to the nearest church with perpetual Adoration. It’s worth it!

2. Build a support team… outside of your core team.

Too often, our best friends end up on core, or those on core become our best friends. It’s necessary to have support that doesn’t fall into your ministry.

3. Trust God.

He has you where you are for a reason. Be a light and know that even when you are weak, He is strong. Don’t sweat the little stuff when you know that you are literally helping to bring more teens/families/parishioners to heaven. That’s the big stuff. And, that should offer us hope.

As a final remark, NEVER talk about the drama within the parish staff to your core or other parishioners. Nothing good comes of it. Give it to Jesus, your pastor, and if necessary, to the Diocese, not to those unable to do anything about it.

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Eileen Burrell

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