This year has been interesting, because while I begin as a youth minister in a brand new parish—learning the ins and outs how to not make a lock-in conflict with volleyball and (this is a new one) trying to figure out a “pastoral” response to illegal spear fishing stories—I’m also watching some of my “first” kiddos experience their first year in the real world via the Twitter and Facebook. The sixth graders who came to youth group when I was 23 and part-time at my first parish are now all grown up. So, in the midst of the steady stream of humility that is life as a first year youth minister, I’m also rejoicing in these moments:
The text message that my blog on chaste dating was helpful.
The facebook status update about voting (pro-life) for the first time.
Finding out they’ve applied (and been accepted) to Franciscan University.
A beautiful instagram photo with the caption, “The Lord is everywhere”.
If you’re new to youth ministry and overwhelmed with just how… young… the kiddos are and find yourself wondering if getting pelted with dodgeballs and shouting a lesson over the din of middle school giggles is EVER going to yield any fruit, know that one day these gangly sixth graders are going to be adults. And while their parents are the most influential, you may be able to look at their facebook statuses and imagine that the retreats, conferences and conversations you dragged them through did something positive to form them into the Catholic adults they have become. That is an awesome feeling.
So to all you 23 year olds who are surviving on cold pizza, entry level youth minister salaries and sheer grace, dig in. The first couple years are tough, but you’re making a difference. I wish you’d believe me when I say that, but I didn’t so you probably won’t. However, put prayer first and don’t lose your soul, put yourself second so you don’t burn out—and you’ll be amazed that these kiddos who you once caught playing “lemonade pong” on retreat are now mature, Catholic, adults. And once you see that first round grow up, the dodge balls don’t feel quite so hard.