Ministry can be lonely.
Especially youth ministry. My first two years of ministry did not prepare me well for the next ten years. I started youth ministry as an intern at a parish with 3 full time staff members, a college intern (me), and two high school interns. It was a large parish in North Dallas and we were able to do some amazing ministry to about 600 youth. We were a tight leadership group with tons of volunteer support, a large budget, and dedicated facilities.
It was also a total deception of what youth ministry looks like in most parishes.
Over the next three parishes, I learned the hard lesson that as a youth minister you will probably not be continually surrounded by 5-15 people who all bought into the same vision. More than likely you will spend most of your time alone in an office with other staff who may not get what you are trying to do. I have never really missed having a big budget or big facilities, but I have ached for being part of a team of ministers who were passionate about changing lives. So a few years ago I decided to do something about it. I had had enough of not connecting with the other ministers on staff, so I did something hard and stepped out of my silo.
I started going to other staff members and asking them to work together on events. I did youth/kids events with the children’s minister, parent/youth events with the adult formation team, and I jumped into parish school events that made sense, and it was great. My moral went up, numbers grew, staff was happier, and my pastor… well… he hated it. He accused me of doing other people’s jobs instead of my own. I advocated, pushed back, eventually quit.
I found a job at a parish where the pastor wanted staff to collaborate. I’m not the youth minister anymore, but I do plenty of youth ministry. I run a couple of youth series each year, lead our middle school mission trip, and form high school leaders. I may be the Director of Evangelization and Outreach, but I am doing better youth ministry than I have ever been able to do because I work with our youth minister, liturgist, faith formation director, and pastor to make sure all of our ministries are integrated and collaborative. We don’t have silos, we have a parish.
So, if you find yourself feeling isolated or lonely in your ministry, here are my three tips.
- Look for ways to work with others on staff.
- Build a team atmosphere in the office and celebrate each other’s wins.
- If you have a staff or pastor who does not like that vision, ask if you really belong there.
And with all of these things, ask The Spirit to fill you with wisdom and love.