Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Look It In The Eye

The Youth Ministry Office organizes Youth Coordinator's meetings 3 or 4 times a year. It's a chance for everyone to see how active the diocese is, as well as for the YMO to update all the coordinators on all the youth events, training seminars, etc.

There was a point in last night's meeting where we split off into our individual deaneries (smaller groups based on where in the archdiocese our parishes are located). On the meeting agenda, one of the things we were asked to discuss was what we were most excited about for our individual youth ministries this year.

The other thing? "What are you not looking forward to?"

After discussing this in our smaller groups for a bit, we all reconvened and shared our thoughts on what we were dreading with the whole group. Complaining parents, getting high school students involved, and paperwork were all topics that were brought up.

Youth Ministry is a tough gig. It's Relational Ministry with today's youth; youth who so often are bombarded with messages from mainstream secular society. In trying to keep up with the youth, in trying to create relationships with them, there are a million things to do. Organizing events, advertising said events, finding parent volunteers, getting food, finding and training - and keeping - leaders...the list goes on. And it somehow always gets bigger.

It's tough - response to youth ministry isn't always the greatest. All of the aforementioned dreaded items are completely legitimate sources of frustration for everyone. Who DOES like it when their desk is flooded with papers and forms and registration lists and advertising posters? I sure don't. Who DOES like it when people storm up to them after mass and say that the way a program is being run is not liked, understood, or appreciated? My hand isn't raised. Who DOES like it when no one shows up? Not me.

But maybe we're not in the right mindset. Life is a bunch of experiences strung together, and from those experiences, from those interactions with others, we learn more about others, more about ourselves, and ultimately, more about God. Youth Ministry is one way to do that, and every single thing that we experience in our relational ministry is an opportunity to learn.

"No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house" (Matthew 5:15). Youth coordinators and all involved are called to be a light to those who may be stumbling around in the dark. We wouldn't need to put lamps on lampstands if everyone in our ministries already had electricity and had flipped the switch. Likewise, Christ said that "those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Matthew 9:12).

There are many out there who are sick. Heck, we're sick too. So it's lovely then, that youth ministry is a two way street between those organizing and those participating. If it weren't for those sick, there wouldn't be a need to have youth ministry. All frustrations, all suffering that we experience can and should be looked in the eye, and offered up to God with a loving, selfless attitude. Christ wasn't just speaking to Peter when He told him to feed his sheep. As Clay prayed in last night's meeting, Christ never told Peter what to feed His sheep WITH, and so we must understand that we are called to feed people with our own love, our own spirit. We should be exhausted!

I know the YMO, in asking that discussion question, only wished for us to think of what we thought could prove difficult. And difficult some things will be, no doubt. But while we recover from late nights (or more likely, early mornings!) we should also be thankful, and should feel blessed, to have been given the opportunity to tassle with a parent, a high schooler, even a stack of papers, for from those encounters, we are doing what we are called to do. It can be daunting at times for sure, but we should always go out on a limb - that's where all the fruit is.

So, in regards to youth ministry: what is there NOT to look forward to? :)

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