A Proper Sending

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Saying goodbye is a spiritual practice.

So often when a youth minister is leaving, voluntarily or not, we forget the importance of transitioning well. Whenever possible, demonstrate to the whole community (especially teens, parents, and their families) that genuine discernment has happened and the person is called to move on. 

Meanwhile, the parish community, especially but not limited to the teens, need to - in a sense - grieve the loss of the outgoing youth minister (or any ministry team member). Similar to a funeral, we need to ritualize the transition so that we name the loss, lay our feelings at Christ's feet, and entrust the outgoing youth minister and the future of our youth ministry to the Lord.

Here are four areas in which to ensure a prayerful transition:

REJOICE:

  • Name and celebrate the gifts the outgoing youth minister has shared with the community. 

  • Name the fruits of their ministry, and empower others (teens, parents, other parishioners, staff) to express the way God has used the person in their lives.

  • The Pastor should publicly and genuinely thank the youth minister at all Masses for their service to the parish.

  • Allow opportunity for parishioners/teens to show their thanks

RECONCILE:

  • Reconciliation is at the center of all human relationships before Christ. When needed, be courageous and facilitate conciliatory discussions between staff members so that forgiveness is asked for and accepted where needed.

  • Encourage your outgoing youth minister to set right any broken relationships or any situations they still feel need closure.

  • Remind parishioners that, while no one is perfect and surely this person hurt someone's feelings along the way, they have tried to be faithful to God's call in their lives to serve this parish.

 

RESPECT:

  • Honor the good work the person has done, and respect the sense of "loss" felt by teens and families, by bringing the transition to prayer.

  • Pray for them using symbolic gesture:

    • Pray collectively as a parish at Mass​

    • Have people extend their hands over the person at Mass

    • Bless them with holy water as a "sending off"

    • At a youth night, invite teens to lay hands on the person

    • Invite others to pray in their own words for the person

  • Be sure to pray for the future ministry of the outgoing youth minister, and "send" them from this local parish to their new ministry. The youth minister will bring part of this community with her/him to their new ministry.

  • Remind the community that, while we send this youth minister off, God will provide a new youth minister to serve the young people of our parish. We have to let this person go, entrusting them and also our parish to God's care.

REMEMBER:

  • God is good - all the time! As you look to the past and how God has moved in the youth ministry of the parish, do so with an eye to the future.

  • God will have new ventures ahead, new visions of service and deepening of faith, new opportunities that will come with your new youth minister.

  • Help teens and families look for the hand of God at work in your faith community’s past, so that you can more easily see the Spirit in your future.