When Paul VI had to sign 1000s of letters authorizing priests to leave active ministry, he responded, “They don’t pray.” Fulton J. Sheen said he could identify the priests who would leave because they’d be excited about many other things but not when he spoke of Jesus.
Have you ever considered that this may also cause similar problems with youth ministers?
This week I’m on 8-day silent spiritual exercises and this post is scheduled. I pray 3 hours a day, every day. I’m a religious and I’ll be a priest in 4 days (pray for me, that’s why I’m on retreat) so that may seem a little exceptional. St. Thomas More, a layman, prayed about that much. I think what I’ll say applies to all types of ministers in the Church but since this blog is about youth ministry, that’s the focus.
That still may be more than many youth ministers need (or could find the time for). There are several different suggestions: Fulton Sheen speaks of 1 hour of adoration, The Soul of the Apostolate speaks of 30 minutes of meditation. I think either of these works. The key for youth ministers, or anyone who does ministry, is to pray. I don’t think one way or another is better to pray my point here is that each of you needs to pray.
You can’t give what you don’t have. I could teach English but not Japanese because I know one but not the other. Likewise if we want to transmit Christ we need to have him. Study only gives us knowledge about what Christ is; we need prayer to know who he is. We need to transmit Christ as a person, as an experience – pure intellectual knowledge about him is boring for catechism class and worse in youth group.
Prayer gives our work meaning. Victor Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi camp and saw that those who survived were those who had meaning, who had something to live for. He shows that men can live the most difficult life if it has meaning but quiver at the smallest thing without it. Youth ministry can be immensely meaningful. We do it for that meaning, not the pay (what pay?). We have to do it because we love Jesus, because we want to spread his message. Prayer constantly renews that motivation. Without prayer, the motivation dries up easily.
Prayer helps us through difficult times. We will all encounter those tough moments in youth ministry. They can break us. When I started they even broke me as my first youth group lasted 2 meetings. Maybe we have a weekend event that is a flop, maybe the new pastor wants to get rid of part that was our pet project, maybe a kid commits suicide, what do you do then? This is when you need that reserve of moral strength that prayer gives us. I personally notice that when I don’t put my effort and good time into prayer, it becomes much harder to continue with even daily difficulties.
Prayer makes us effective. Who can change these teens’ souls? Me? Ha, ha, ha. Only Jesus can. When I pray, I ask him to watch over these teens. He will make my ministry transformative
Remember to pray! If you aren’t dedicating a minimum 30 minutes a day to prayer as a youth minister (or as any other type of minister, I doubt you will last or be successful at transforming souls (you may succeed at cool events). Prayer gives us staying-power.