EDITOR’S NOTE: The author chose to publish this post anonymously because “my parish is not perfect, but I believe firmly in ‘keeping family business as family business’. I want to protect the reputations of my coworkers while being honest and vulnerable.”
When I decided to follow Jesus in His call to youth ministry three years ago, I didn’t expect to have nowhere to lay my head. Like most youth ministers, my new job also included a move to a new city (and new state!). Prior to this, I had only belonged long-term to two parishes. When I arrived at my new workplace, I was suddenly confronted with a question that I hadn’t considered: “Should I register here or at another parish?”
Before I go any further, I’ll address two things that some of you may be thinking. First, for some, this question may be a no-brainer. You feel at home at your employing parish, it’s a vibrant community into which you’ve naturally assimilated. For others, you may be employed at the only Catholic church for miles and miles, and you have no other option. For both these groups, I encourage you to continue reading anyhow! Hopefully there will be a takeaway for you too!
While my family made the decision to register at another parish, I’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of either decision. Sometimes the reasons for this choice may be weighty and significant; for others, it may be a simple matter of location, family preference, or another. No matter what the reason, this decision should be born out of a regular prayer life and discernment.
The Benefits of Registering at a Different Parish
It creates a natural boundary between work and home life. There is a temptation in our line of work to assume boundaries “don’t count” because it’s ministry, but this is your reminder: boundaries are healthy, especially in ministry where burnout is so common. This gives a natural separation, which is healthy for you and your family.
It relieves the pressure to constantly be “on”
Like it or not, as youth ministers, we are always being watched. While being an authentic witness to the Gospel is obviously something we should never “power down”, we may feel pressured to always be “on”, which can keep us from letting our guard to let God work. There is great relief in my life at our parish, to simply be a part of the flock.
Your pastor is not your boss!
Don’t get me wrong – I love my boss! I appreciate greatly the friendship and mentorship of my employing pastor, his guidance and leadership. However, my brain appreciates having a boss over here, and a pastor over there. The roles don’t intermingle, and I’m not left in a weird position. His role as a shepherd and administrator can go hand-in-hand, but I imagine it’s difficult for him to switch hats and find the line when dealing with staff who are also parishioners. I also received some sage advice from a fellow youth minister when I first started in youth ministry: staff should not go to Confession/be spiritually directed by their “priest boss”. This makes so much sense to me, personally and professionally.
You have a spiritual home where you’re free to just be loved
We can easily forget that our primary task as disciples of Jesus is to be loved by God. Loving Him back is secondary, because we can’t love Him unless He has first placed that love in our hearts. Go to a parish where you can be edified, encouraged, and loved. Go to a parish where you can find community. For me, this is my small group of women who are all committed to following Jesus intentionally. Even if you are a parishioner at your employing parish, I strongly encourage you to find a small community that does this for you.
So, those are some of the benefits I have discovered. As with everything, there are positives and negatives. Check back here on Thursday to read about some of the drawbacks of being registered at a different parish!