Today the Vatican announced it’s acceptance of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst‘s resignation. You may have heard Tebartz-van Elst referred to as the Bishop of Bling. I won’t go into the full story but the Bishop spent a lot of money remodeling his residence. He spend around $40 million and one of the kickers seems to be the $20,000 bathtub that he had installed.
I work at an affluent parish. My budget isn’t huge, but it is better than a large number of ministries out there with no budget, or a budget where they have to fundraise 100%. I am well paid (for a youth minister), have a well equipped youth room, and even have a pretty large personal development line so I can attend national conferences. I like to splurge on my youth from time to time by taking them out to lunch, buying them books, or picking up a cool new board game for our after school ministry (Yeah, I am Nerdcore Youth Minister). It is a blessing. However, it is a blessing that I have had to do without at other parishes and something that I don’t take for granted. I view exceeding my budgeted income and reducing my cost as kind of a game, and I work to be a good steward of parish resources.
Yesterday I had two different conversations with people across the country about the way that God blesses us in our poverty as ministers and church employees. The fact that we are called to abandon the trappings of this world to fully embrace Christ. Neither of these people were advocating for low pay in youth ministry. They were just sharing frustration about how too often we focus on pay, budgets, cool youth rooms, slick resources, and the bling of ministry, and a shared a desire to focus instead on prayer, mission, and relationships with the King of Ministry. I am not always good about this. I may be good steward, but I often times splurge based on personal desire and not on discerning if it is the best way to spend a dollar. I am human after all.
This may sound a little crazy, but I sometimes feel like the amount of resources and tools available to us make us lazy youth ministers. We are the without a doubt the highest resourced generation of youth workers ever, but we are making a historically low impact. It may be that we are course correcting and we need that influx of cash and resources, but I don’t know if that is true. I think parishes need good curricula. I think youth ministers need solid formation. I don’t think adults should have to pay to go on trips or retreats. I don’t think youth workers should fund ministry out of their own pockets. I know that these things take financial support. I just think that we need to ask ourselves if the amount we are spending on the each resource, tool, game, trip, and training is really worth it. I want us to discern the way we are called to spend.
Three questions I would invite you to reflect and comment on:
1. If you received a donation of $10,000 for your ministry what would spend it on? How would it change your ministry?
2. In Luke Ch 9 the Apostles are sent out on the Journey with nothing but the clothes on their backs. If you could only choose do ministry with the clothes on your back how would you proceed?
3. If you could only spend money on three resources, tools, or events this year what would they be?
Share your responses in the comments below.