Two jobs exist: the first one pays twice as much, requires basically the same skill-set, has more evenings and weekends off, is less stressful, and is more secure. Yet you pick the second one. Why? Are you mad?
If you are looking for fame, fortune, a good name, job security, time off, stress relief, or easy work don’t apply for a job in the Catholic Church. To the world that is pure madness.
I, a religious, and most of the paid youth ministers or volunteers I’m surrounded with could be making significantly more money at a secular job. I was set to become a computer engineer when I entered religious life. I know several who have teaching degrees yet work or worked as youth ministers – the example I began with. We have to ask ourselves why we do this. I hope we aren’t masochists.
I think when we boil it down, most of us do it because we sense a deeper meaning in our work. Bringing Jesus to teens is more important than salary.
A few years ago I was speaking with a friend from P&G. He had a really interesting job: he researched what the top 5% of college grads wanted and then suggested changes to management so they would attract them to work for P&G. He said Millennials care about meaning in their job. Monetary compensation is less important than it was for Gen-X and before. Companies will try to attract grads with things like free organic lunches and recycling. Working for the Church naturally has a deeper meaning – salvation vs. selling laundry detergent – and we need to be more explicit about this. We have the opportunity to hire top people who seek meaning before dollars.
My own personal experience was I was someone who was seeking meaning. (I’m technically a Gen-Xer by 2 months but I self-identified more as a millennial.) Even when I was studying computer engineering, I was looking to design something to make people’s lives better: I knew I’d get a 6-digit salary but that was secondary. I sought something that made a difference. I found Jesus makes all the difference.
We can get caught up in petty politics, in our own insecurities, or in failures of those we lead but that should return us to the meaning of why we do this in the first place.
We all know the reality: the average lifespan of a Catholic youth minister is under 2 years. Why? I think the number one reason is they get caught up in the day-to-day, the stress, the inability to do a good job right away, and forget why they are doing this. (If you are approaching this situation, send me an e-mail, FB message, or tweet – I will respond and attempt to help you.)
Everyone who wants to be a disciple, who wants to find meaning in being a working for the Church, must be rooted in prayer. Unless we personally encounter Jesus every day, we have nothing to give teens. The Soul of the Apostolate suggested 30 minutes of mental prayer and Fulton J. Sheen always said 1 hour of adoration.
We also need to meet with others and make a team. Parochialism is a grave curse to our Church. Working with others at our own level like parents or other youth ministers helps immensely to help us continue focused on the mission.
There are spiritual groups that help give us focus in prayer and give us that team. These are usually movements like Regnum Christi or Focolare or Third Orders affiliated with a religious community like the Franciscans or Carmelites. All of these give you prayer commitments and regular meetings; some also help you with the apostolate.
Two jobs exist: the first involves meeting friends, sharing your experience of Jesus, leading teens in serving, personal prayer and leading prayer, one-on-one mentoring, introducing teens to the liturgy, making disciples, helping them experience Jesus, and bringing them to salvation; while the second is simply Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus. Obviously, if you want meaning, you’ll choose the first.
Remember why you work for Christ’s Church!