WARNING: The following blog is not written for everyone – only type-A, “control freak” Catholics (like myself) need read on. The rest of you (who don’t admit it), might seek out a priest for Reconciliation (see Exodus 20:16).
Now, it’s important to note that I’m not indicting you; I’m indicting myself. My first several years in ministry (and sadly, sometimes still today) my frequent attitude was “If I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself”. That perspective is a common one among us type-A personalities (as many of you reading this probably are). It’s also steeped in pride and pride, as we all know, is the root of all sin.
So, what’s a minister to do?
I wish that someone would have shaken me back then. I think God did try to shake me (Heb. 12:26-27) but I was too type-A to listen to even Yahweh.
“Jesus, you had twelve guys you could depend on…I only have two Core Members I can count on, and a bunch of semi-warm bodies!” I once said in a moment of truly authentic, albeit shortsighted, prayer.
The painful truth is that I had several Core Members who would have done more if I had asked them. I had several others who could have done more if I would have been more trusting and less of a control freak. What makes it even worse is that I had others offering to help in different capacities, but I wasn’t organized enough to plug them in or use them efficiently.
I was so busy on the “hamster wheel” of ministry that I had become reactive instead of proactive. I wasn’t looking far enough down the road. I wasn’t disciplined enough in my prayer to see where I was going wrong. I wasn’t seeking counsel from outside sources who could have pointed out my inefficiencies and helped correct my disorganization. I wasn’t learning from the timeless wisdom offered in the Sacred Scriptures.
There were ministry warning signs all over the place, I was just too blind to see them and too stubborn to read them. If you’re still reading this, if you’re silently nodding your head in agreement, sadly sighing “I’m guilty of that…” than I’d like to offer five quick ideas based on Scripture to help you avoid the pride-induced ministry potholes I got stuck in:
- Avoid “Do it Yourself” ministry
True youth ministry, especially Life Teen, is not a “do it yourself” program. We should never want it to be. Strictly speaking, God didn’t need the Apostles; He wanted them (see Mark 3:13). We can do more together than we can alone. Others have gifts that we don’t have. Prayerfully ponder what gifts others have that you might lack, reflect on 1 Corinthians 12:4-12, and ask God for the wisdom to discern how to better empower the gifts of those around you.
- Eliminate the “Need to Know Basis” Some youth ministers function on a “need to know basis” in their ministry. While sometimes there are delicate situations better left unshared, a majority of the time this becomes a crutch or an excuse not to bring others into “the know.” Consider Luke 8:10. The truth is that the Core Members do “need to know”… meaning they need to know what is expected of them, what needs to be done, how to do it, etc. When it comes to basic information about the ministry – more is better.
- Having a vision is not enoughThroughout Scripture, God gave people a vision. Sometimes it was a literal “vision” like He imparted to St. John, for instance. Other times, it was clarity, a revelation, a sense of something great on the horizon. In every instance, it came in prayer. If you’re not praying, you won’t have a clear vision. And when God gives you that vision, you need to know how to articulate it. Pray and share. Read Habakkuk 2:2 and notice what God says to do with the vision and why. If you don’t have one unified vision, you will have di-vision.
- Failure to plan…is sinfulThat’s right – you read that title correctly. Disrespecting others’ time, time offered in the service of Christ, is a venial sin. As the Youth Minister, you must exemplify the utmost respect for those who serve on your team. One of the foremost ways we show respect is by honoring others’ time. This affects punctuality and the way that Core meetings are run, yes, but it also means that we calendar events and functions much further in advance.
The more notice you give others, the more help you’ll probably get. The more advance notice you offer, likewise, the more souls will be touched in solid relational ministry. “Last minute” pleas for help should be the exception, not the rule. Pray Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 and remind yourself that while God is timeless, we are not.
- Cleanliness is next to Godliness – literallyThink about your workspace. Just because “you can find it” or “the system works for you” doesn’t mean it couldn’t work better for everyone else if you were more organized. Let’s say you have a vision. Let’s say you are punctual and forward thinking…both are great. If your office, workspace, files and other necessary elements to fulfill your role are a scattered mess, however, how can you function at your optimal pace? How can the rest of the team in your absence (God forbid) move forward with the call God has put before them, if you hold the only “keys” to the Youth Ministry Kingdom? Yes, Jesus gave Peter the keys, but He shared the apostolic call with all twelve. Prayerfully reflect on Matthew 10:1.
This is a team effort; you are the quarterback, not the owner. The more the ministry is “all yours”, the less that can be done in your absence – which promotes unhealthiness and a personality-focused ministry. In the end the only ones to suffer more than you and your Core Team is the teens and the parish. Let go of control, and watch how others rise to the occasion.
Most annoyances, anxieties and obstacles within a parish Core Team and youth ministry program are easily rectifiable with a humble heart, patient spirit, disciplined prayer, and constant forethought.
We, the youth ministers, need to spend less time talking about “what needs to change” in the diocese, at the parish and on our Core Teams and spend more time changing ourselves and our rigid ways. Only then will we will become what we are called to be – Incarnational.
We must do what Christ did. We must become what we desire. That is what it means to be consumed by His grace. That is what it means to be a true minister of the Church. That is what will keep those around you enthusiastically showing up each week – because they’ll see Christ at work in you.