On our Alaskan cruise last month, we went to get family portraits done in the ship’s photography studio. The 30-minute shoot went very quickly, and at its conclusion we booked an appointment to go back later in the week to look at the pictures (and perhaps buy some).
We decided that 4 of us would go: Gail, my brother Jason, my mom Joyce, and me. We felt that this particular combination of people would give us the best chance of making a good decision without paying too much.
We all had our particular roles too.
I was the “Schmoozer” (surprise surprise) and my job was to break the ice and create a comfortable atmosphere before we talked big bucks.
At my home parish of St. Paul’s, we are once again affected by the changes, as we will be getting our 3rd assistant pastor in 3 years. It’s not a bad thing, as our church is looked at as one of the most dynamic in our archdiocese and a great place for priests to gain valuable experience in a large parish and thus hone their ministry craft.
In reflecting on this upcoming transition, I started to relate it to youth ministry (surprise, surprise). In particular, it underscored for me the importance of having a good transition plan in place when a parish youth ministry coordinator or youth minister moves on…for whatever reason.
This evening, at the conclusion of our religious education classes at our church, one little boy was left waiting to be picked up. Five minutes passed, then ten. Ten became fifteen, fifteen became twenty, and twenty became twenty-five. Finally, his grandfather came to the door thirty minutes after classes had ended and all the other students had gone home. Sadly, there wasn’t an apology or thank you…only a nod of acknowledgement after I reminded him to be on time for pick-up.
Conversely, the student was very polite and appreciative of our patience. In between his phone calls home to see who was going to pick him up, we had a great conversation about school, shopping, and the importance of good hygiene. To his credit, the 10 year-old was not scared or worried, and he gave me a sincere “Thanks for waiting with me” when he was leaving…in stark contrast to his grandfather. While grateful for the time and chat, I felt sad that he had to wait (and not just because he had to talk to me…haha) – it felt like he was abandoned – even for a short time.
This past Sunday, our assistant pastor said goodbye to our parish after three years of faithful service to our parish community. As Father Swann Kim reflected on his time at St. Paul’s at the end of Mass (one year as a deacon and two years as a priest), he choked up in a touching and genuine display of emotion. On cue, many in the congregation (including this writer) had to wipe away tears as we listened to Fr. Swann speak about how we had all become his family and that he was sad to move on.
Fr. Swann won’t be too far as he takes up residence at Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Port Coquitlam. As with many of the priests who have lived with and learned from Monsignor Luterbach, Fr. Swann will likely become a pastor somewhere in the not-so-distant future. Life at St. Paul Parish will go on, in large part to the strong leadership of Msgr. Luterbach and countless others in the parish community. As well, we are all excited as to what our new assistant pastor Father Rodney Nootebos will bring to our parish.
When it comes to our youth ministry leaders, it’s a common tendency to fall into the mindset of “keeping them at all costs”. We fear losing them forever and we sometimes fail to see that it might be worth suffering some short-term pain for some long-term gain.
There are many reasons why leaders leave ministry, including (but not limited to) burnout, lack of support/guidance, lack of training, lack of opportunities for growth, conflicts within the team/ministry, change of heart/desire, feelings of inadequacy or insignificance, changes in life/family/job, moral failures and not feeling appreciated/affirmed.