Teen Ministry and jelousy

I’m 22 and just starting my teen minstry. I just went to an awsome retreat where I realized God was using me for the teens.
However, I do have one problem I run into. I’m basically adopted by the family I live with. I live with youth ministers, (hereon refered to as my parents) not the ones who originally helped me, but not so far away that I never see kids from my old parish, and it hasn’t been long enough that the youth from my parent’s parish forget that I’m not their natural daughter.

My problem is that kids tend to be extremely jelous of my situation (grass is greener). At least three teens have reveled this.
I want to be able to accomidate all these things when I say why they can’t just live at my house:

  1. I want to comfort them and help them in their situations without minimizing their pain, especally serious issues, such as divorse. And at the end of the day I know they love their families.

  2. I don’t want to reveal too much to the kids. Much of my life is unbelievable to adults. I don’t totally remove myself and my life, but I do guard against TMI.

  3. I don’t want to discredit my parents. They are wonderful and amazing people, but they are still PEOPLE. I argue, I disagree, they upset me and I upset them…its provinical but NOT perfect. Even without my past, even if I’d grown up here I wouldn’t have the perfect life.

I always seem to find a great place in youth ministry, although I’m not sure if I’m called to it. I have a feeling I’m called to minister to the marganalized, as many of the youth who come to church groups are…

there is a fine line, in working with kids, between sharing your faith and your story and witnessing to how Christ has worked in your life–and telling too much, revealing more than they need to know, telling to much detail, or requesting that they share too much detail about themselves. It takes some professional training in the YM field and guidance from older more experienced youth ministers to understand the difference.

Adults are adults, and teens are teens. The adult YM does not try to be pals or peers, he must remain the adult and keep appropriate boundaries at all times. If you have doubts about being able to do this, get help from those guiding you in formation in your YM vocation.

I am unable to understand from your description your living situation, or why some teens would be jealous of you, so I can’t offer any advice there. Generally the kids you work with should not know any more than the basics of how you live. It would be totally inappropriate for you to share details of conflicts or intimate family life in your home with outsiders, particularly with the kids you work with, and particularly if that invades the privacy of your family.

Hi Meggie. Reading your post, I’m confused. Do you think you could clarify things a bit? I am not sure which people are your parents, what kind of relationship you have with which youth ministers, why you are worried, why anybody would be jealous, or why the kids would want to stay at your house. So I’m not sure how or whether to offer advice… would you walk us through your situation?

I live with youth ministers in one town. I moved in two years ago after being helped out of a bad situation by my former youth group. (meaning kids from that youth group know me)

Both towns are not far away, and many teens know that these youth ministers are not my “real” parents. The youth ministers I live with are still active in youth ministry and well-known in their church.

Teens look up to the ministers, especally the married adults, as “perfect” or wonderful fanticizing about how life would be with them as their parents insted of their own. Sometimes fanticizing, but one girl (my own age, in music ministry) reaveled how deep her jelosy went even though she loved her family.

I know there is a fine line between telling things and encouraging them with your own life…I’ve had alot of great advice in talking to teens and my aproach is that I’m not a adult but I’ve reacently faced things they are facing when it comes many things and can offer practical advice (such as things in college life)…otherwise I listen, which is often what they most need. If a problem is too serious I always seek advice, usually from my “parents”…but as this is about them I can’t.

I am confused too. Your profile says you are Catholic. So are you serving as a youth ministry through a Catholic Church? Are the people who you live with Catholics as well and are they serving as youth ministers with a Catholic Church? In other words, I don’t understand whether you are independently serving as a “youth minister” or if you work for a larger organization such as a church or national youth movement.

I’m Catholic. Youth ministry for me is voulenteer, not full time, as it is for everyone I speak of.
I work (voulenteer) in youth ministry (mostly as an extra “hand” on retreats or as a small group leader).
The people I live with run the youth ministry for our church, (Catholic) through no particular orginzation.
The church I was at was a Lifeteen Parish.
The retreats I help at are often Lifeteen parishes…so large and vibrant youth groups, well guided by the Holy Spirit in correct Rubrics and fire for Adoration.

:thumbsup: As a parent of Catholic teens, I want to thank you and all those involved in Catholic youth ministry to Catholic teens.

Okay, let me see if I understand, Meggie,

Your had some dificulties, apparently some very serious difficulties, with your natural parents and can no longer live with them.

The Youth Minister lives in a neighboring town, but many people from your biological parents’ town know him or at least know of him and the parish.

You have moved in with the Youth Minister and his wife. They are old enough to be your parents. They may or may not have children living at home with them.

You have bonded with the YM and his family and in your own mind consider them your foster parents.

You help out with the Youth Ministry in various capacities.

So essentially, you left home then chose your own parents.

Have I got this right?

What is TMI?

Now let me see if I understand your question.

Many of the teens in the Youth Group are, well, teens, and have difficulties getting along with their parents. That is common with teens.

A couple of them look at your situation and feel “jealous” of you because you chose your parents while they are stuck with theirs. They envy you and want to choose their parents as well.

You would like to know what to do.

Is that your question?

You are right on all accounts. TMI is too much information. The youth ministers (both husband and wife are) They have boys my age who are not involved in ministry. I get more and more involved with Youth Ministry as time goes on, and its what I want to do. Not in my only own mind do I consider them my foster parents, my spiritual director does, as well as the ym’s.

Meggie, please remember as you read this that I do not know anything about your background or your past except what I have been able to glean from this thread. You have hinted that it was not so good, but I am not able to determine if it was something you did, something done to you or a combination.

Calling this jealousy, even if that is the word used by the other girl, is probably an exaggeration. But only a small one. The envy is completely understandable.

I realize your type of living arrangement is becoming more and more common, I do not think it is a good one. In fact, I think it is inherently bad.

What I will say is based on the fact that we should avoid doing two things to the best of our ability. We should avoid doing evil (sin). We should avoid doing anything that has the appearance of evil.

It would be very easy for someone to accuse your or some member of your “adoptive” family of inappropriate conduct involving you. It would not matter if it is true or false, such an accusation would be believeable and could not be easily disproved. Such an accusation would destroy the career of the Youth Minister.

Others may accuse you of taking advantage of the generousity of this kind family. That would also be very believable and difficult to defend.

Your continued presense may eventually cause other teens to line up the Youth Minister’s door, sleeping bag and suitcase in hand, just because their mom got upset because they did not do their homework. This would put the Youth Minister is a series of difficult positions and probably do great harm the Youth Minister personally, and his family.

Personally, I would encourage you to get some type of job and move into your own place. Yes it will not be as comfortable, but I do not think that what you are doing is ultimately a good thing.

The longer you remain, the more harm will be done the the reputation of a man who is trying to help kids, among other things, to not run away from home.

I know this is difficult. But getting your own place does not mean you do not love them. I love my parent but I have not lived with them for 25 years. I am sure what I am saying is not what you want to hear. But I think this girl’s comment to you is a wake up call.

I know that what I am suggesting is easier said than done. Believe me, I know. I will pray for you. Please pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary for guidence.

In Christ

  • RPP

I think rpp probably has wonderful intentions, but having remembered several of Meggie’s posts in the past…I think she’s posted about her bio parents being very abusive. From what I recall, she’s lived with her foster parents for at least a couple years and they’ve helped heal her from some of those wounds inflicted by the poor parenting she originally received. Also, keep in mind that Meggie is 22 years old now and no longer a minor. She did not move in with them, as far as I can recall, until she was legally an adult and over 18. Is that right, Meggie? I’m sure the foster parents are able to say ‘no’ to minor children or anyone else who come a’knocking and expect to move right in. :slight_smile:

Meggie, it sounds like you’re asking how to relate with the teens in a healthy way but without revealing too much information about your own situation personally. Maybe you could practice the difference between sympathy and empathy. When we sympathize with someone, it means we share and mirror how they have felt and/or feel, perhaps in a very similar situation. It sounds like you’re wanting to be sympathetic with some of these teens who find themselves struggling with their parents, perhaps to a lesser degree then you did. What you might do instead is try to actively listen and show empathy. Empathy means that while you do not have to directly experience (or do not share how you have directly experienced) how that other person’s pain might feel, you are able to show concern and understanding for their feelings about a situation.

For instance, a teen comes to you and complains about her mom grounding her without discussion, for being late, and now she has to miss out on a date next week. Instead of saying, “Oh, I remember my mom used to ground me every week, and I never got to go anywhere and I really despised her for treating me that way…etc,” you would say, “Wow, it sounds like you feel really frustrated with your mom and disappointed with having to cancel your date with Eric. What might be a way to approach her about this so the two of you can talk? I wonder if she’d be willing to listen after she’s cooled off about you missing curfew.” So, you’ve empathized by pointing out two emotions you’ve picked up (frustration and disappointment) and then redirected the conversation back to the teen and asked them a question to think about problem solving the situation. You aren’t revealing anything about yourself other then the basic human understanding that we all feel disappointed and frustrated sometimes.

Given that you’re talking specifically about jealousy a lot with these teens and young adults, you’d do best to redirect those conversations and shut them down. You aren’t obligated to explain why you’re living with your foster parents, or entertain these teens fantasies about escaping their own parents. Just be empathetic. “Yeah, you sound really frustrated. I would feel powerless too if my mom wouldn’t change her mind about a grounding.” Again, you’re empathizing and relating that IF you found yourself in her situation, you might experience similar feelings–but you’re not having to share a specific time in which you felt that way, too. This keeps your own life private but gives a voice to the teen.

Good luck, Meggie!

Thanks for the advice. As I gain confidence in God’s direction for my life I think I’ll know the time I’m ment to leave the guidance (and protection) of my foster parents.
Things do happen. Certian adults have tried to create rumors about all the youth ministers who work with me, but God has turned that around for good.

thank you princess Abby.

I’ve been over 18 since I first met a youth minister…I think God had it planned that way, as terrible as my life was.

I guess part of my own insecurities, it really made me nervous. I’ve grown alot, but I still have a long way to go.

Thank you so much for your advice, it’s helping me to figure out what something inside was saying…exept your post was very clear and elaborate…its what I needed, thanks

My hope is to reach the most marginalized and “different” kids, which wasn’t my choice, but Gods, as those kids have begun to come to me.

Honestly, even though youth ministry helped me, at one time I swore to myself I’d never work with youth. God has a way of changing ideas and oppurtunities…:rolleyes:…and giving the grace needed.

Wow! See. I am glad I wrote my first paragraph. A little information changes everything. Thank you princess_Abbey for providing a bit of background without disclosing details. That is helpful (the background) to me and kind to Meggie (no details).

And thank you Meggie for being patient with this presumptuous old man.

Okay, I retact all my previous statements.

Princess Abbey had some good suggestions. Empathy without personal disclosure. That is actually a good habit to develop. Often when young people have had terrible experiences, they tend to be on one of two extremes, completely closed or they wear their hearts on their sleeve. Neither is particularly good. Especially in someone who is trying to help others.

Based on what I know now, I would suggest, with regard to your original post, that you divert or redirect such questions. You can do it subltly like saying, “well, no family is perfect.” or more abruptly, chanllenging the motives that prompted the question like, “What is happening at your home?” Be cautious, however because you may suddenly have someone dumping the promplems of the world in you lap.

You are in my prayers, Meggie.