First impressions are important. They can sometimes determine exactly what a person thinks about you before you have a chance to reveal any other aspect of yourself to them. So opening my first post on Projectym with a post on my mistakes seems like a great idea! The reality is that knowing what your mistakes are is a great strength to have, and we all ought to take time to reflect on where we didn’t do quite as well as we wanted to. After all, each time we go to mass that is the very first thing we do, is reflect on where we did not do as well as we wanted to. So yes, sharing my mistakes could quite possibly be the best opening idea ever!
Mistake One: I Thought I Was In Charge!
In my first ministry job, in a small church in the middle of farmland PA (meaning there was lots of farmland, not the town of farmland.) I found myself receiving some very prestigious things (or so I thought at the time.) things like a large office, with new furniture in it, and a fancy title (Director of Youth Ministry), keys to the church, and all sorts of people coming to me after mass to tell me how excited they were about my new position.
So naturally not knowing these things were common to pretty much every ministry job in the world, I thought I was someone important, that my program had privileges over other programs, and it showed in my attitude.
- I got upset anytime someone put something “non-youth ministry related” in MY youth room.
- I expected people to favor my programs over others
- I saw myself as higher up the food chain than parish volunteers.
Thankfully this burst of pride did not last, but it certainly did bad for my first few months of ministry, where I could have been doing a lot more good.
Mistake Two: I Thought Adult Helpers Were Baby Sitters
I had adult help as we all do when I first started, but I made the mistake of assuming they were not able or willing to do any of the prep for meetings. Rather I thought they were there first to help satisfy the Youth Protection laws, and secondly to help make meals, clean up meals, and tell me what a good job I did at the end of the night. The reality is that once I had those adults start running some of the nights, my ministry got significantly better because now the kids heard not just my take of Catholic spirituality, (Mostly charismatic) but that of other people as well.
Mistake Three: I Was Too Focused On Fun
In that first job I was convinced that the key to success was fun! That if only my games were good enough, or my jokes funny enough, or activities messy enough, then the kids would naturally love Jesus more. The reality is that I have found most youth need some fun but will reach as high as you set the bar for them. Currently I have managed to sit with my current youth group and pray the Litany of Saints, Chaplets of Divine Mercy, Liturgy of the Hours, and have them spend time praying with each other! All because after we had a little fun, I challenged them to do these things and they rose right to the occasion.
Well there we go, three of my mistakes in my first ministry job. Don’t worry I did make a lot more than three mistakes in that job, just like everyone else. The good news for us, is that just as in the mass we can receive forgiveness for messing up in life, and the grace to be better Christians, so we learn from our mistakes and receive the knowledge and grace to be better ministers. Thank God for that!
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