Is Catholic Youth Ministry Worth It?

by gary-foote on October 30, 2010

As I was praying this morning, I spent some time reading Philippians. I came across a verse that I am certain we are all very familiar with, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). I am very grateful to St. Paul for his confidence, because sometimes I think it can be very easy to lose sight of what God is doing in us and through us on a daily basis. In other words, we might not always have the confidence and trust in God that we ought to.

Everyone that I know who works in Catholic Youth Ministry at one point or another asks the questions, “Is this worth it?” We can think about all of the sacrifices that we make (time, money, sanity, etc.) and wonder if what we are doing is making a difference in young people’s commitment to God and His Church. It can be very easy to be “blindsided” by so many of the challenges that accompany ministry that we forget that our lives, our ministries, and the young people we serve are all “works in progress.” Remember, “… the one who began a good work in you will continue…” St. Paul did not write, the “one who has begun a good work in you has completed …”

Frustration, over commitment, under commitment and lack of the bigger picture (or vision) can cause us to forget that we have not yet arrived. When we forget this truth, we can so easily give up. Often times, this giving up takes on the form of leaving ministry, becoming complacent in our ministry (and being okay with that), not investing in our own spiritual life, or resenting the fact that we work in ministry. Let’s be honest and label these things for what they are: DISTRACTIONS. By definition, a distraction “divides attention or prevents concentration.” When we have our attention divided and our concentration broken, we become ineffective at serving young people.

We need to ask our selves where these distractions are coming from. St. Ignatius of Loyola would point to three possible causes for anything that takes place in our lives: our spirit, evil spirit, or the Holy Spirit. Obliviously the Holy Spirit is not going to provide obstacles for us in leading teens into a deeper intimacy with the Trinity and the Church. So that leaves two options, but you will need to look at your life and discern which of those options are presently leading you to distraction.

In the end, we need to take comfort in knowing that God is not done working. He has a plan for everything, we just need to be attentive enough to allow His will to unfold and not our own. Don’t become discouraged when things are not the way that you hope they would be. Rather, commit even more to the Lord and allow Him to reveal to you what He is presently doing in your life and how He wants to lead you to somewhere even greater in the future. One last thing, the Sacred Scriptures are the “inspired Word of God,” so it’s not just St. Paul who has confidence in us. The Holy Trinity was leading St. Paul to write those words as part of God’s revelation to us. Be confident, because God is!

* For more information on St. Ignatius of Loyola’s discernment of spirits, I highly recommend fellow youth ministry veteran Jim Beckman’s book God Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer.

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