Sometimes it’s hard to not let this exhaustion and “over it” mentality seep into our spiritual lives when our jobs are all about Jesus. There have been many a day for me that I could tell you every Catechism reference and Scripture passage about the institution of the Eucharist, but not the last time I truly felt moved by this loving sacrifice.
The excitement, the anticipation, the preparation, the prayers, the laughter, the tears, the wonder, the awe of bringing middle school youth into a life-changing encounters with Jesus Christ. There’s nothing like it!
I am entering my 9th year of Edge and have just launched Edge at a second parish in my diocese. So, no matter where you are in your journey of all things Edge, I can probably relate to what you’re going through. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned — and often need to be reminded of — when starting Edge:
The bottom line is we have to put our own growth and striving in holiness foremost and let our work in youth ministry follow and flow from it. Prayer, together with receiving the sacraments, is central to successful ministry. Or, better yet, as St. Augustine said: “Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.”
In my time of youth ministry I have had the privilege to work alongside college students seeking to chaperone summer trips or just help out at a Life Night. I am always amazed by their passion and zeal for the Gospel message and spreading this message with others. I have found not only do the teens benefit from college students, but the Core Team, myself as a youth minister, and the entire parish gains an enormous amount of wisdom.
Ministry is a challenge. A beautiful and sanctifying challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.
This fact is emphasized, and may even be caused in part by the fact that instead of peddling widgets or reaching deadlines, we work for and serve people. Messy, sticky, often unpredictable human persons who are as unique and individualized as the snowflakes that covered my home and parish all winter long. We can state trends and patterns about teens in the most general and terms possible, but unlike a chair or a car that is an exact clone of the one made before, the next teen to walk through your door is completely different than the one that just walked out.
Think about all the obstacles we go through in our day-to-day ministry. We live in a world of late sign-ups, last minute changes, double bookings, paper jams, and did I forget to say #TechnologyProblems? Moreover, we venture into the teenage jungle of low self-esteem, depression, and even suicide. There’s an endless amount of things that can go wrong in our ministry to teens and the easiest thing we can do is give up. However, if we take the call of Jesus seriously, we must be immersed in the messiness of life.
I know that there are many spouses out there who may be less than interested in being your Core Member or your go to date to all the youth’s extracurricular events, but for Joe and I it is a little bit different. Since we both love and understand the importance of youth ministry we have experienced many blessings and many struggles. While I would not change our situations for the world, there are a few things that we do, and would suggest, so that ministry does not take over our marriage.
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.