Surviving your first year of ministry without burnout is a great feat, but how do we continue that thriving mentality? Burnout is real and in order to be good and faithful servants we need to keep a few things in mind:
Don’t forget about Relational Ministry:
Jesus, help us to be truly present to those we serve.
Build on the relationships that you’ve made over the past year. Being present in the lives of the young people that you work with (and their families) is important to your mission in bringing them closer to Christ. If you were involved in youth or young adult ministry, think back to what you loved most about it. When I think back to my time as a student in youth ministry, there are moments that are more meaningful than others. It was the relationships that I had built with the youth minister and leaders that were most important. The most meaningful moments were the conversations that we had in everyday settings; the car wash, barbecue, or on our way to a mission trip. The most important thing that we can do as youth ministers is to be present.
Your dream program may not be what the parish needs:
Jesus, help us to do what is necessary over what we want.
Many of us come into a parish knowing exactly what we would like to do. But, we need to slow down a bit. Every parish is different and every parish has different needs. You may want to do a heavily catechetical youth ministry program, but your teens may not be there yet. This was my issue. While your intentions may be great, you might end up deterring them. Ask your pastoral staff what has worked in the past and what the culture of the town is like. Service opportunities or social activities may be the better route for you depending on what you’re dealing with. After you build trusting relationships, you may be able to incorporate more. I have been able to incorporate a mix of themes from catechesis, experiential learning, social nights, and service. But it takes time, and my teens were not about my night on self-esteem and their God-given dignity when I first started. The night on caring for our neighbor paired with making comfort bags for our homebound parishioners was a much better fit.
Pray, pray, pray:
Jesus, help us to stay centered on you.
Your personal prayer life is of the utmost importance. How can you bring others to Christ if he is first not in your heart? Like the Visitation, we first must receive Christ in order to bring him to our neighbor. Being able to reflect on your relationship with God with a Spiritual Director is a good thing. Making time for retreat is important. Whether it’s an annual retreat or a monthly day of reflection, getting away from your ministry is vital to your sanity and to your prayer life. It’s important for us to go to the mountain to pray, to then come down and serve our neighbor.
Love them where they are:
Jesus, help us to truly love those we serve.
This relates back to doing what your parish needs rather than what you want. But it’s worth reiterating. Love your students where they are. Walk with them. Pray with them. Pray for them. The accompaniment model of youth ministry is popular because it works. Jesus walked with people. We need to walk with people. Everyone grows at his or her own pace, and we need to keep that in mind when ministering to them.
This is on God’s time, not ours:
Jesus, we trust in you.
Many times we expect results based on the effort that we put into an event. While often times this is true, we also need to remember that this ministry belongs to God and it will touch hearts in His time. A question I have come to hate is, “do you think kids are going to show up?” All we can do is put our program in God’s hands and invite others to join us. We provide a space for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of teenagers, and that is a beautiful thing. Sometimes we’re called to be patient and love those that are present, even if there are only two teens at your event.
Lord, help us to put our trust in you and remember that it is your love for us that calls us to serve the Church. Help us to pray. Help us to follow Christ’s example to bring those we serve to know and love you. Amen.