Summer is almost over. For the field of youth ministry, summer is a hiring season. I know of a number of parishes that are hiring here in my diocese. This process can seem difficult and intimidating. Submitting a resume and preparing for an interview can give you butterflies that remind you of asking someone on the first date. The fear of rejection is sky high. Nevertheless, you feel that God has called you to youth ministry, so with the help of the Holy Spirit, and the tips in this post, you move forward.
See the Big Picture
The goal of an interview, in this context, is not to secure a job offer, but rather to discern God’s will. Members of the community will ask you questions and you should come prepared to ask them questions too. Remember, both sides of the interview will have to be confident that this is what God desires before moving forward. Knowing this should disarm some of the nerves. You and the interviewer are actually on the same team, seeking God’s will together.
Educate Them During the Interview
A major component of most youth ministry jobs involves catechesis, forming others in the faith. If they knew everything about youth ministry, they would not need to hire you. They are looking for some expertise, and showcasing that will set you apart from other applicants. One way to do this is to learn a few documents on youth ministry and quote them.
The best is Renewing the Vision, the document on youth ministry commissioned by the United States’ Bishops in 1997 that sets forth the vision, goals, components, and framework of youth ministry in the United States. There are some amazing soundbites from this document that you should have on the tip of your tongue when interviewing. It’s impressive and informative, and it makes other applicants, who did not show some ownership of this vital document, to be inadequate compared to you (even if the interview team never knew of the document until they met you).
You and the interviewer are actually on the same team, seeking God’s will together.
Showcase Yourself as One Who Empowers and Models
Oftentimes, a parish is looking for a person who will be invested in the lives of their teens. Exceed those expectations and expand their dream by letting the parish know that you plan to be that person, as well as the person to empower others to dive into the lives of the teens of the parish and community. The church exists to evangelize. So dreaming beyond the registered parishioners should be natural. Furthermore, good ministry multiplies itself. So assure them that you will not only model quality ministry, but empower others to do the same.
Be Passionate, Professional, and Genuine
Let them know a bit about who you are and why you feel called to this type of ministry. Let them know about your aspirations as a potential professional in youth ministry. Be genuine by expressing your competencies, but also your desire to continue to learn more in the field of ministry. This will set the stage for a time where you can ask them some questions.
Do not move into a parish that will let you die on the vine. Be sure they intend to pour into you.
Whether they offer or not, take a moment to ask a few questions. You are not the only one being interviewed. They should be interviewed as well. Below is a list of great questions to ask.
What is the mission statement of the parish and where does youth ministry fit into it?
This is a great question for the pastor. But if he is not in the interview, you should ask why and what type of relationship you will have with the pastor. After all, an important part of your job is to be an extension of the pastor’s vision for the youth.
What is your vision of balance for office hours and off-site ministry, such as meeting with teens or attending school events to support the teens?
Here you will get a brief snapshot of the expected ministry style. If off-site, or non-gathered ministry is not being considered, then you will likely have a more catechetical role with less of a focus on outreach evangelization. For some this is a deal-breaker. If you can, politely advocate for a balance of both (and use the referenced previously Renewing the Vision passage on Evangelization).
What type of ongoing formation opportunities do staff members have?
This question touches on a philosophical core. Is youth ministry an expense or an investment? If they ask what you are looking for, ongoing education is good, conferences are good, but if it is your first time in full-time ministry, having a youth ministry coach is essential. Next Level Ministry does this very well, but some dioceses offer programs as well. Do not move into a parish that will let you die on the vine. Be sure they intend to pour into you.
What did the last youth minister do well, and where is the program’s greatest room for improvement?
This sets you up for success in your first year. You can continue the program, or at least the pieces they were pleased with, and put more elbow grease into the area they desire improvement.
If after it is all said and done, you feel that the parish would be a good fit for your skill set, write a thank you note to the pastor or interview team and express that. If for some reason you’re certain that God is calling you elsewhere, contact them and withdraw your application. It is amazing how little things like this help move discernment along especially when decisions are made by a committee. Regardless, know that God desires dynamic ministry for every Catholic at every parish in the world. If you are not called to be that person, God has someone or some way to care for His children, and He desires you to serve dynamically elsewhere.