*Before you read this blog – I’d like to give a disclaimer. This blog is a sharing of my observations over my 23 years in Catholic Youth Ministry. It is in no way implying that we should have pride in the number of hours we work or that we at the cost of ministering to, for and with teens sacrifice our primary vocation. We are to approach all ministry with humility. Please know that our relationship with God, Family and Friends all take precedence over the youth ministry we are called to.
My first paid ministry position was as a part time youth minister. I still remember the pastor telling me “It’s a part time position making $11,000 a year. Some weeks you will work 10 hours and some weeks when there are retreats you will work 40 hours”. Having volunteered under the previous youth minister, I knew that it was going to be a full time job with half time pay. I understood what the pastor was saying and knowing that going into it helped me never to be bitter or resentful toward the hours I was putting in. Our attitudes are affected greatly by the perspective we have toward things. Let’s take a bigger perspective on how much time it really takes for effective youth ministry!
The most valuable thing you can give to teens is your time. I see a lot of youth leaders excited to serve teens, but get overwhelmed by the amount of time it actually takes to be effective as a youth minister. “The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Here are 3 Rules that I have found that give the bigger perspective on how much time effective Catholic youth ministry takes:
1.) The 50 Hour Rule
The reality is that the youth ministers I would categorize as very effective are normally the ones who put in at least 50 quality hours per week. Some are putting in substantially more than that. There are not many short cuts in Catholic youth ministry. In my experience you are either in or not as a youth minister. You are not sort of committed to leading teens closer to Christ you are over the top, waking up in the morning most days excited, staying late shutting off the parish center lights committed to the mission. You are in it for the long haul – the teens, parents and our Church deserves this. Too many parishes change youth ministry every year because the youth minister moves on after they realize just how much time it takes. I have seen this and it is often devastating for the teens who often lose trust in the relationships they form at the parish with the youth ministry team. (I know there are a lot of volunteer and part time youth leaders out there – who might not be able to put in 50 hours every week. Read on as rule 2 applies even more to you)
2.) The Five We’s to One I’s Rule
Teamwork is essential to effective youth ministry. From my experience the youth minister who has at least five We’s to one I’s in their ministry equation are seeing great results. Let’s face it as youth minister’s we have a tendency to be control freaks. There are people who enter into ministry for the wrong reasons and are merely seeking affirmation or praise. This is dangerous as that type of thinking is threatened by anyone sharing “our” spotlight. If that is your motivation you are setting yourself up for a big fall. Most of the time you will never see the fruits of the ministry and most of the time will operate below most people’s radar screens. The key is focusing on the “We” more than the “I” of youth ministry. Teamwork and sharing the burden for reaching young people with others will go a long way to making you an effective youth minister. You will learn that by living the rule of there being at least 5 committed people on your youth ministry team that you will multiply the hours being poured into relational ministry at your parish!
* On a side note – our national Life Teen staff wants to be part of your team as well. It is the reason we develop resources, videos, web sites, training conferences, camps and staff our phones with real Catholic youth ministry brothers and sisters. We want to help you be effective in your role! We would be honored to be counted us as part of your team!
3.) The “Time Out” Rule
The most effective youth minister’s I know spend over 50% of their “time out” meeting with people rather than managing administrative details. That means that a minimum of 25 hours a week is spent outside of your office and meeting face to face with people. When I travel and visit their office it is a mess and I always smile because I know they are spending “time out” with teens, parents, core team and other important collaborators in ministry. Don’t get me wrong there is a balance here as administration is part of a youth minister’s role. The question is – is this where are you most effective in youth ministry? Is it the time you spend looking at your computer, organizing your props for skits or filling out the purchase order request? Those may all be important tasks but they probably are not when you are being your most effective in fulfilling the bigger picture of leading teens closer to Christ! The “Time Out” Rule is essential to youth ministers spending major time on major things.
So as you evaluate where you are in youth ministry. Do you find yourself living these 3 rules? Take some time to pray and evaluate how effective your ministry to, for and with teens is. If you are new to youth ministry, let this blog serve as something to consider and an advanced warning about what it might take to be an effective youth minister. Remember it is not really us who does the ministry, it is God moving through us. May we all reamin open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and serve without counting the cost. Thank you for all you do for teens!