Totally Catholic Youth Ministers Lounge

Are you in youth ministry and you've had it with crazed parents? Rollin' your eyes at the pastoral council? Tired of administration work? Love youth? Love the Church? Appalled at parish politics? Looking for some good games? For a creative ways to teach a lesson for Religious Ed? Just need a place to veg out and say "phew! Someone outside of the parish to talk to!"? Grab y'r Starbucks, turn the computer away from the staff's eyes, grab a seat on a donated dusty couch and let it all go.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Painful Growth

ugh. No one likes it. I've always hated it. It's embarrassing, humbling, maddening, sickness inducing, and excrutiating.
I'm going to share this with you because maybe you're me in a different parish. Maybe you aren't even aware of these things and I'm yelling at you to wake up. Maybe it will help parents or pastors who check this site out to know what is going on in a youth ministers' mind-and what might be going on in thier youth minister's mind.

Do you ever hear pastors roles explained like this: "He's great with people but an administrative mess! Love him to death, but can't run a meeting or keep the finances together." OR "Yeah, we are out of the financial hole here at our parish but the pastor is so hard to talk to-definately not very warm."

Well, I'm definately the first. And, being that those failures are much more concrete, those of us who are like that generally get "the talking to". And that's what I got today.

This parish has very high standards: It is a parish of money, of business owners, of higher education, of high expectations. A wrong date on a hand out throws their world into panic. A phone call or email not immediately returned is considered rude. An injustice, real or percieved could determine whether they stay here or go to the other parish across town-or leave all together. When I say high standards, I mean HIGH.

And, in one sense, this is good for me. Painful, yes. Their expectations that improve at the very things I am weak in is very real, and will make me a better worker, in the long run. It will make me a better person and maybe even a better minister.

No one likes their weak points shown to them and then told to work on them. My defensive side kicks in and says "well, co-worker who has brought this to my attention, you're not so great with kids. You yelled at one last week". or "yeah? Well, you talk down to the kids" or to the Pastor-who highly values excellence in administration-you ain't so warm and easy to talk to at all.

But the reality is that we all have weaknesses. I've said this before, I'm obviously still thinking about it: Most of us who get into youth ministry do not do so because we enjoy working in an office doing adminstrative work. I think for lots of us it's the necessary evil so that we can spend time building relationships with the kids, with their families and with our volunteers.

If you are one of those kinds of people, let yourself be open to improving your office skills. If you are in the office too much and have a great calendar of events but no one comes because no one knows you, get out there!

I'm also a bit nervous to put this out there because I don't want to give the impression that programs are better than relationships. I still believe that programs need to be at the service of relationships, that you need people in youth ministry who are able to have genuine and solid relationships with teens. But know that the other side is there, that it is real and get ready for it.

A side note of wisdom to all those who have not entered youth ministry: If you aren't sure you are good at administration, at least do yourself the favor of getting a job that you like (and get better paid at) and then volunteer for youth ministry, or get a job where administrative work is valued and immerse yourself in learning.

And for all the parents and pastors out there who get frustrated with our lack of admin skills: Be patient with us. Thank us for the good things that happen. Look for the times when an event did go well-tell the pastor and tell your youth minister. Offer to help. Offer to connect people who your YM might not know about. And most importantly:

Pray for us. We want the best for your kids and really do want to support your family. But instead of gossiping about us and complaining about us, please pray for us. I know that I'm in desparate need of your prayers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a youth minister with very little tolerance for administrative duties, I completely hear what you are saying. I will pray for you, and I hope that you treat yourself to something nice today.

You deserve it!

8:06 PM  
Blogger Jaime said...

The first parish I worked for, the administration was outraged by the fact that I wasn't in the office attending to administrative chores from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day. They literally told me that if I wasn't doing the 8-5 thing, I wasn't doing my job well. They did not get what ministry entailed. My guess is (and this is just from reading your posts here and at other places) that there may be some in your church that don't believe in what you do. This sounds like a fairly passive aggressive way to show that. I realize that while what I've said may be true, it doesn't help much. But if God wants you there, well... what're ya gonna do?

Good luck with it! As cheesy as it sounds, you are doing the Lord's work.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

Maybe some of the complainers should volunteer to help with said administrative duties.

I recently realised that all my complaining (mostly to myself and spouse) about the lousy music in our parish was for naught. It would serve everyone better for me to actually join a choir and use my talents, rather than wait for things to just get better...somehow.

7:09 AM  
Blogger TCYM Lounge said...

I think you are partly right. I'll own my mistakes (accidently putting the wrong Retreat date out there, etc) but as a friend commented "They don't know you! They don't know your passion for their kids and the Church" Right. They just see the mistakes the come home.

Another friend, this morning said, "In this community, every parent thinks that their kid should have a highly individualized program that works for their kid-and that just can't happen". I was glad to hear that, because I was being told of things I "should have done" that I didn't even KNOW was expected.

Things like-making the sponsors feel special when they walk in the door of our meetings, making sure there are refreshments (but it was during their RelEd class and I was told that we can't have food in any of the classes), my kid does service over here, why doesn't it count... I heard you let this kid to this, why can't my kid...etc.

I'm feeling mad today that it was these things that they see and get mad at. Why does no one get mad when some of the other adults talk down to their kid or orders the around? I think that's just as insulting as getting dates wrong! But it's not as concrete, so, guess who gets it-moi!

I'm still processing it all, can you tell?

Well,I'm glad you all posted. I do want to improve, we all can always improve, but at some point WYSIWYG. What You See Is What You Get. And what I do give the kids, I give them great stuff. I know this.

12:22 PM  

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