Monday, November 06, 2006

An apology

I've been trying to avoid writing this entry for a couple weeks now. Shortly before our diocesan convention I prepared a report on youth ministry. As I looked back over the year I saw that we'd had a good number of successful events. There had been a couple that didn't work, including Junior High camp (which we eventually cancelled due to low enrollment). As I thought about all my "jobs" I realized that I wasn't happy with my performance. I hadn't "dropped any balls" but several things had been finalized later than they should have, details were fixed on the fly and I had relied on my ability to "ad lib" an awful lot. The year wasn't a failure, but it certainly wasn't the kind of performance I expect from myself.

When I went to convention I found some folks pretty upset about canceling camp and not real happy with me. I worked hard not to just reject the criticism (come on, who likes being told they've messed up?)and listen. And it was an echo of what I'd heard when I was preparing the report. I may not agree with them about canceling camp, but I can hardly say I was happy that we had arrived at place where we had to face making that decision at all.

So I began to think about apologizing.

There's a good biblical/traditional basis for it. It allows me to acknowledge my shortcomings. It supports the kind of honesty and transparency I believe is vital in my ministry.

And I soooooo don't want to do it.

I hate falling short of my own expectations (For the record let me note that at the end of my first full year in this job I had a job performance review. I submitted a self review and other folks also submitted reviews. When I was brought in to discuss the results I was marked down seriously in only one area: "Sets goals too high". I am who I am). I REALLY hate having to admit failure publicly. I don't want other people to know what a loser I am (that's what I hear in my head). I want them to think that I'm wonderful, even when I know the truth. You see, I'm just trying to protect you from a unpleasant realization.

Yeah, right.

Of course I could plead that it was a tough year. It was. Over the last year my mom, my last surviving parent, died. My wife has had two major operations. My only child has gone off to college. We moved to a new house. A friend told me that other than divorce and bankruptcy I'd hit most of the major life stress events all in one year. But that's not really an excuse, and I don't like making excuses anyway.

I apologize to my youth because they deserved better. Same goes for my bishop, and the adults that work with me in this ministry. They deserve me on top of my game not just being average. I apologize to the kids who missed out on Junior High camp this year. It's always an amazing event, the kind you remember for the rest of your life. One chapter in that book will always be missing and I carry part of that responsibility. I'm sorry to you all. I'm sorry for the folks who have supported me because now they have to spend time defending themselves. Some of you went out on a limb fighting for this position and for me to fill it. I let you down and I'm sorry.

I finally decided to write this while reading Reverend Ref's blog. In one of the comments someone noted that "We're called to be faithful, not successful". It was one of those moments when it feels like God taps me on the shoulder to say "Excuse me, if you would just turn your attention over HERE I have something I need you to see". Even as I've struggled I think I've been faithful. I'd love to be successful too but that's a hit or miss proposition. A priest friend of mine told me yesterday about the trials and tribulations of getting through the service. The circuit breaker blew, they ran out of wine, etc. But they were faithful. I hope that I have been as well.

My pledge is that I will continue to be faithful. That I will work hard. That I will give my best everyday (though "my best" may vary from day to day). I will do everything in my power to be successful. That I'll try to be the youth minister I want to be and that all those folks above deserve.

In the meantime,

I'm sorry.



Anonymous said...

Well, I'm sorry. This apology is just not good enough. Your case will, therefore, be taken to The International Court of the Blogosphere in the Hague where I expect they will hand down the ultimate sentence. As you are no doubt aware, in respect of diocesan youth workers, this is to be made to wear long trousers, sensible shoes, a shirt AND A TIE for a full twelve months. And may god have mercy on your soul.

If it's any consolation, I promise you that there is not a parish priest on earth who works as hard as the laziest diocesan officer (and you are obviously not that).

Also, all those possible excuses you mention. Don't use them with the people you are apologising to, but do use them for yourself - accept them all. Enough people will try and beat on you in life without you helping them out by beating on yourself.

Oh, and finally, by the powers invested in me as priest of this parish, you're forgiven - now go and sin in more enjoyable ways.

Lamont said...

Youth Guy,

From one youth "person" to another, I understand what you're feeling. So many times the primary things our kids need and what people want us to give them are two diversly different things. I look at my groups - elementary thru college kids, and think Huh - What can I do with/for them next?
What do they really need? God what do you want me to give to them?
Learn what you can from the yearly review, make the changes you need to make - and know that the things most kids remember is when you took them out for a soda and a chat.. not the big trip.
Tara Lamont(Youth Girl)