I live in a swing state for this 2012 presidential election, where commercial breaks actually consist of back-to-back-to-back commercials about the upcoming election. It’s pretty common to hear, “I can’t wait until November 6 is over.” I will be glad when the politicking dies down in the US, but this is one topic that never seems to rest in youth ministry.
Youth ministers often feel like one of the most frustrating parts of their job is staff infighting and parish politics. Parish politics is not something that anyone wants to deal with, but few can work in parish ministry and not be affected. It can be especially disheartening when one first starts working for the church. We have the ideal of a parish staff actually living out the Christian faith. Try as we might, frail humanity seems to trump holiness more often than we want. It is frustrating, distracting, and can easily discourage us from being faithful to what God has called us to.
If you are in the middle of a major parish political battle, here are some things to do so your November 6 comes sooner than later.
- Remember that every single parish has its quirks. Really. I am not denying that your parish issues are weird and tough to deal with and that the grass looks greener at your friend’s parish. But, what you can’t see is that while they might have a great relationship with their pastor, they have half the budget you do.
- “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Start praying daily for those by name that bother you the most. Pray for extra grace. Pray for insight. Pray for a miracle.
- Remember who the real enemy is. “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12). The parish staff or parishioners are not your real enemy. In your desire to lead teens to Christ, you are entering into a spiritual battle. The real enemy will try knock you out.
- Ask the Lord to reveal to you what He’s teaching you through this situation. “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
- Do some relational ministry with the staff. You know how important relational ministry is with the teens and parents. Use this strength with your parish staff, but do it genuinely.
- Be a team player. Even though the politics may make you want to become a solo operator, you aren’t building any bridges by doing that. Go to staff meetings; help out with parish projects. All these things should help strengthen your relationships.
- Discern well. Especially when the politics are bad, it’s important to discern what the Lord wants you to do. Stay focused on the Lord; don’t let the other issues keep you from your call to lead youth closer to Christ.