18 April 2013

The toughest things about being a Youth Minister...

1. I feel as though I am trying to 'sell' Jesus as much to the parents as I am to the teens.
2. One of the hardest things is just trying to get butts in the door.

Tuesday night at the parish we had a second mandatory parent presentation on raising happy, holy Catholic teens and how to empower parents to help raise their kids in the faith.  Also at the meeting I had interview times/dates available for their young person's interview before being confirmed.  We another meeting on Sunday afternoon to offer more flexibility for family schedules.  Out of 61 young people to be confirmed this November, 25 parents did not come.  And two parents came late, stayed at the talk for 15ish minutes, signed their teen up for their interview, and went merrily on there way. Major. Bummer.

I was flabbergasted and disappointed...don't parents care about their kids growing in the faith??  Don't parents want their kids to have a personal relationship with Jesus and understand the Catholic faith??  Of course, I am not making a wide, sweeping judgment that all or even most parents don't care about the child's faith life....but its at times like this when you feel like you're fighting an up hill battle.  Sure we could say there a lot of reasons why parents and teens are not engaged and connected in the Church and have a faith life...but it can be really frustrating for me sometimes, especially as I just want everyone to find all the joy and goodness in Catholicism as I do.  Either be all in for Jesus or not at all, but don't be lukewarm or apathetic.

One part of the equation I think is because many parents I would say don't know/understand/or maybe get even now what they believe as Catholics.  And this can be for many reasons.  30-40 years ago, Catholic schools and majority families were great at 'memorizing' the Catechism (a book of history/tradition/Scripture explaining why we believe what we do as Catholics), and sure memorizing has a great place in helping teach the faith, but that doesn't automatically translate to the heart, where people have a living relationship with Jesus.  We cannot expect people to just be able to rattle of prayers and the 10 commandments and then expect them to turn out to be intentional disciples.  For many years, a lot of Catholics have been 'sacramentalized' but not 'evangelized.'  By that I mean, many of us just went to Mass on Sunday because we were supposed to or receive the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation because our folks made us.  We went to formation classes, received the sacraments, and basically did all the Catholic stuff on the outside, but perhaps on the inside maybe hearts weren't being converted and changed.  And I think the Church has been realizing it for time and seeing the huge effects and implications this should have for how we educate/reach out to adults and children.  First, introduce to them Jesus, help them know and love him...and then introduce the many awesome treasures of the Catholic faith to them.

If the parents aren't living lives as disciples, how can we reasonably expect that there kids are going to jump on the Jesus band wagon with all they got? My DRE (Director of Religious formation) and I are already talking about new ideas of starting some kind of out reach/ministry to parents with children of all ages.  And it's going to take time...slowly we can turn the ship around.

I guess its frustrating because its like at times I am tying to 'sell' Jesus to these parents, as much as I am to their young person.  I just feel weird even saying that out loud, "selling Jesus"...I'm not a telemarketer!  But I imagine that there folks in the Church that could relate to that idea, because we really do have to compete for adults and teens attention and hearts just to even present the Gospel message to them; and sometimes that just can get tough.  I was talking to a youth minister friend the other day and he said he got so discouraged about always just trying to get butts in the door that he almost walked away from youth ministry after two years, because it just started to wear on him.  And it's funny cause I could relate to some of that in a very real way.  Numbers are important in ministry, of course its not all about the numbers.  But if you're only getting 4-5 kids at events, and someone down the street is getting 50-60 teens, you'd definitely ask and wonder, "What are they doing that is helping them reach more teens?"

Numbers do matter.  Getting teens in the door does matter to even try and give the 'Jesus thing' a chance.  But really at the end of the day, all I can do is my personal best and keep giving it all to the Lord and asking for more grace/guidance to help those I minister to...cause in the end, they are all his little ones; and I'm just a tool he can use to help capture their hearts/minds for Him.

I'm not hopeless or burnt out...its just hard sometimes after a rough day like this...


  1. Girrrl, I hear you! As I make the transition from CYM to retreat/presentations only, I feel so thankful I will be able to let go of that part of the job...man, it's tough.
    Prayers sent your way!

  2. Thanks Mary...sometime I would love to pick your brain and hear what you have done to try and bridge the gap...thanks for the prayers:)

  3. Love how you said, "sure memorizing has a great place in helping teach the faith, but that doesn't automatically translate to the heart, where people have a living relationship with Jesus." so true! And you're right about numbers...they do matter, because the more who enter into a saving relationship with Jesus MATTERS!! Prayers that the Lord does some mighty things through your ministry!!

    1. Thanks Eva...It's like I tell the teens, you can't just have the faith of your parents the rest of your life, you have to make it your own!

  4. I loved this: "First, introduce to them Jesus, help them know and love him...and then introduce the many awesome treasures of the Catholic faith to them."

    I think you are probably right in your hypothesis about the old approach to religious ed of which these parents are a product. As a child of a Protestant-Catholic marriage, I can tell you that I know my dad's religious formation went awry and I've seen and heard the comparison between my parents. It's how I ended up Protestant, but the benefit is that I know how to do it differently while raising my Catholic kids.

    I'm not a youth minister, but I was very heavy into leadership in our church youth council, Presbytery Youth Council and youth group when I was growing up. I was like a junior youth minister the way I organized and planned events and then felt that same let-down when things did not go as well as I'd hoped. My brother is a Presbyterian youth minister today and he's experienced these same things. It's discouraging, yes, but oh, how rewarded you will be someday by some child who comes to tell you about what a difference you made. It will happen many times, I promise.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! How helpful this will all be when you and your husband raise your kids in the faith.
      And your right, those moments when you pray with a teen or have a great talk with a young person or see them get something are such treasures...I think Jesus gives us them to help strengthen our own faith:)

  5. Patty,
    I know it is hard to not worry about the Number of teens showing up!! The diocese worries too much about #'s than about the content & who it is reaching. I worked in a parish with about 30 registered high school age & got very frustrated, when I was questioned why I wasn't getting more participation ( I'll say 20 out of 30 wasn't bad ). Also, from experience, those parents who's kids go to Catholic High School didn't push them to come to "YG" for whatever reasons.

    I'll just throw an ideas out, have you thought of something to draw parents to church at the same time as the YG activities? Alternating days that YG meets? I am sorty to admit I do know kids(newphews & their friends) that go to the church you minister at,and they are VERY introverted, and won't step out of their comfort zone to attend.(my husband has been trying to tell the one nephew that is where he need to go to meet girls, cuz that's how we met, so far no dice)
    The parish I worked at(part time) closed, & I chose not to seek another YM job, cuz I just got burnt out.

    The Teens need you. Don't give up, Don't compare yourself to the parish down the street either, If we do everything cookie cutter the same as every other place, their is nothing that makes your parish stand out as different than the others.

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet comments!
      That's a great idea, def. something to think about:)

      Keep encouraging your nephew and his friends, I'm really not scary or mean or smell :) I'm always looking for new, better ways to reach out to teens, if you think of a certain idea that could help let me know!

      Thanks for the encouragement sister!! :)

  6. Preach it sister, preach.

    On the DRE end, I seem to get the numbers...but I get alot of blank faces at the parent meetings, alot of eye rolling and alot of reluctance to get involved. It's a clock-in, clock-out kind of situation for many of them. And it hurts, because I just want to help and encourage, but in often the "requirements" are viewed as a burden. Just another thing on the long, long to-do list.


    But! Then there's those days where a parent reaches out and shares that they finally went to confession after 8 or so year of dragging their feet. Or the parent that says they've been reading the Bible with their kids at night. Or the 3rd grader who goes up to their Catechist and say that what they want for Christmas is for Jesus to come into their heart...

    and that is such a gift of joy and consolation!

    Thank you for sharing your heart and your experience. Keep fighting the good fight and loving on the people of your parish. That's where the New Evangelization happens!

    And on a practical and awesome note, have you read the book Forming Intentional Disciples?

    1. Lol! Thanks lady!

      Sometimes it shard working in the vineyard for the Lord, huh?? ;-)

      I agree with you for sure, those times when a parent/teen/student shares something deep/powerful is what it is all about!

      I have read Forming Intentional Disciples...CRAZY sobering and relevant for the Church today!
      Always love meeting another fellow worker in ministry :)
      thanks for stopping by...and the re-tweets ;-)


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