We recently celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation, the Christian celebration of the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus Christ. Despite being a virgin, Mary would miraculously conceive a child who would be called the Son of God.
Tom East of the Center Ministry for Development said it so well on Facebook,
“I think this is an important day for us as youth ministers. We have the chance to be like Gabriel and bear God’s message of love and promise to teenagers. We speak on God’s behalf as we tell a young person: you are beautiful inside and out, and God has a plan for your life. What a privilege, this ministry we share.”
The feast day was significant to me, and not just because I could eat meat all day (despite it being a Friday in Lent).
Rather, I had a chance to spend some time reflecting on my calling as a Catholic youth minister. Continuing the thoughts expressed by Tom, not only do we have a chance to be like Gabriel, but we are also like Mary.
We may struggle with our calling sometimes, especially when things don’t go as well as we like. We fret about numbers. We worry about logistics. And we stress about our talk or teaching falling flat.
But we can learn a lot from Mary, especially in her faithfulness and trust in what the angel Gabriel was saying. We, like Mary, may consider ourselves unworthy or unqualified. But we are comforted knowing that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called!
And it’s not just the trust and faith that we have for ourselves. It’s the same trust we have when we defer an important teaching to another core member, it’s the same confidence we have in allowing a grade seven student greet the Archbishop at a diocesan event, and it’s the same faith we have that we are indeed making a difference in the lives of young people.
Here are 3 ways that we can emulate Mary’s “Yes” on a daily basis:
- Focus on the ultimate relationship, remembering that you are leading teens closer to Christ, and not to yourself. This may seem obvious…but how many times do we get so wrapped up in our relational ministry efforts that we lose focus on the ultimate relationship? In my early ministry career, I wanted to be in every skit, do every talk and lead every prayer. This may have strengthened a few of my relationships with teens, but it hurt some of my relationships with fellow Core Members. When we focus on strengthening the youths’ relationship with God (and not necessarily on their relationships with us), then we follow Mary’s example of her relationship with God and her unwavering faith in Him.
- Check your ego at the door. In this day of social networking supremacy, it’s easy to get excited every time someone follows you on Twitter, becomes a friend on Facebook, or likes your video on YouTube. These tools are certainly valuable in youth ministry, but not when it forsakes or replaces proper relationship. In imitating Mary’s humility and authenticity, we will still seek out opportunities for face-to-face communication. And this is coming from a guy with his own website…haha.
- Know that we are indeed making a difference! Many times the first question our pastor or parish council will ask is “How many youth came to your latest gathering?” While numbers are but one indication of success, we should take as much assurance in the small group that gathers to pray mid-week or the handful of teens that visit the neighbourhood soup kitchen on Saturday morning. Some of our best ministry isn’t always publicized or obvious, but we remain confident that we are indeed having a positive impact, and that God has called us to this ministry, much like He called Mary to be the mother of Jesus Christ.
We are blessed indeed, we are truly highly favoured. And it has nothing to do with us…it has everything to do with God.
He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30).
So when we’re asked if we like what we do or if we feel we’re making a difference…may our answer always be a resounding “YES!”