Editors Note: This blog is based off an article Todd Lemieux published on his website called The Sainthood Project.
I caught about 20 minutes of the insanity that is the show “Ice Road Truckers” as I was flipping through the channels late the other night.
These guys drive shipping trucks across the worst roads on the planet and maybe even worse than roads on Mars. They drive through the northern most parts of Alaska, on ice roads and through snow drifts. It was pretty amazing to watch. It follows the pattern of “Deadliest Catch” that shows guys who fish off the coast of Alaska. I get the feeling that Alaska is pretty deadly.
Anyhow, these drivers have to bear down for long periods of time and the rewards are not immediately evident. The same can be said for pursuing sainthood, especially if you are a full-time youth or young adult minister at your local parish. The work you do may be met with resistance or indifference. The fruits of your labor may not be plentiful. Here are tips to help you keep things in perspective over the long haul:
- Pray. Always the most important thing and central to anything that we do as Christians. Find a way of prayer that works and stick with it.
- The Community. Most parishes are located in communities that have some sense of history. You not only have to respect the history, but in many circumstances, the Church is a part of the history. In these cases it is important and okay to do what the community expects from the Church on certain levels. Make small inroads weaving God into the traditions of the community.
- Trust. If you are new in the parish or if your ministry is new to the Church, no one is going to trust you for a time. Maybe a year. The fact that you are the newest grad from X university of ministry all-stars and you are bringing a history of ministry means nothing to most of the folks in the pews, and they are the ones you need on your side. Luckily, this is a snowball effect. Earning the trust of the community is difficult for the first 20 people, but after they become your biggest fans, or the biggest fans of the Church, you just have more people vouching for you.
- What do you offer? I say this all the time to ministries that focus on youth and young adults who try to create the best social outlet for that age group. With small exceptions, these groups socialize and party much better with you. What do you offer that is different? What makes your conversations with church-goers and those in town different then the conversations with their friends? Do you ask the big questions? Do you plant seeds?
- Patience. You also need to earn the trust of your pastor, pastoral council, head of the Knights of Columbus, Student Council President, principal of the schools. This is only going to take time. The best ministry is done after you have won their trust, though. Their support is essential for missionary evangelization.
- Connect people. One of the first questions you should be asking people, especially if you are in ministry is “what can I pray for?” If not that, then “what can I help you with?” Build a network of connections so that when there are conflicts, problems, you become the resource because you connect people to others.
- Document, document, document. Write memos to everyone involved about everything you are doing in ministry until they tell you to stop. Over communicate. Send extra emails. Spend an extra half hour on the phone. Learn to text message. You are building a record of the missionary evangelization you are doing.
- It’s not you. It’s Jesus. Any time someone else gets credit, thank God for it. Any time you get credit, thank God for it. Sainthood is the sanctifying Grace of God working through you. Learn humility. Live humility. Teach humility. Example humility. It’s difficult, but Heaven isn’t about you either and it is more important that people come to Christ then you get credit for every idea you have ever had.
- Persistence. There will be plateaus. There will be drops. There will be rises. Don’t pay attention to them from week to week, month to month or season to season. Look at year to year and five year to five year period and adjust your goals accordingly.
- Rookie season. Work like a rookie. All the time. Every program is the first one. Make sure the small details are in order. Every retreat, Bible Study, festival, social, event, program, is your chance to meet people and find out how you can lead them closer to heaven. To find the good that they need and work for it. Leave it on the court.
Or in the case of the truckers… leave it all on the road.
There are a lot of snow drifts and ice out there, but the journey is worth it in the end.