Catholic Influencers Podcast with Fr. Rob Galea

EP#02- Youth Ministry (feat. James Camden)

February 25, 2019 Season 1 Episode 2
Catholic Influencers Podcast with Fr. Rob Galea
EP#02- Youth Ministry (feat. James Camden)
Chapters
Catholic Influencers Podcast with Fr. Rob Galea
EP#02- Youth Ministry (feat. James Camden)
Feb 25, 2019 Season 1 Episode 2
FRG Ministry
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Fr. Rob Galea and Danii Sullivan talk about youth ministry. Fr Rob and Danii have both had a lot of experience in youth ministry and share a little bit about their own personal experience and also the role that youth ministry has in the future of the church and the different types of youth minister roles there are.
Fr. Rob interviews James Camden, Director of Catholic Youth Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia. James shares how he ‘fell’ into youth ministry and why he stayed involved. He also shares the personal boundaries he has created to create a balance between his role as a youth minister and his vocation as a husband and father. 

Speaker 1:
0:07
Yeah.
Speaker 2:
0:07
Hey everybody. Welcome to the Catholic influences podcast, a compensation to help Catholic influences like you and me to go deeper and further in influencing our world for Jesus. I'm your host father up Galyon. I'm your cohost Danny Sullivan, and we look forward to talking to you today about working in youth ministry,
Speaker 3:
0:40
Youth Ministry. I think this is one of the most challenging ministries that exists in the church. Youth Ministry can be working in a youth group, but it also can be working at home with your young people that, well, I have my cohost with me. Hey Danny. Hey, father up. How's your week? My week's been good. A bit challenging. I just dropped my iPad. Can you believe it?
Speaker 4:
1:02
I can believe it, but it's annoying for you.
Speaker 3:
1:04
It is annoying. I don't know. I have to look for somewhere to fix it. But anyway, back to use ministry. It's a ministry I think is, as I said, it's one of the most rewarding things that we can work in. But one of the most challenging to see young people coming to the heart of God is incredible. But it's amazing that my cohost here with me, Danny worked in youth ministry for how many years?
Speaker 4:
1:26
For quite a while. I think we met when I was working in youth ministry by started in Youth Ministry at our high school. And then I also have been the diocese and coordinator for a couple of years as well.
Speaker 3:
1:35
Yeah. So we uh, both from the same diocese off Santos, which is in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia and Dan. He served in that I'm head role of youth ministry and I was sort of, I was the kind of boss, wasn't di na naturally maybe sort of, but we know firsthand how difficult youth ministry can be. It has its challenges, moments where we put in so much you put in hundred percent all the time, but sometimes it feels like you're reaping 5% and sometimes 100% but sometimes nothing. And so the it is at moments like this that we need to be encouraged even as parents, as teachers to influence the hearts of people to stick together to find people who are in the same kind of ministry.
Speaker 4:
2:20
I think my mom got pretty confused when I was working in youth ministry because I'd come home on weekends and she'd ask me, how's your week? And that'd be some weeks where I'd be like, oh mom, what was great like this happened and I had this amazing encounter with the young person or Jesus did this in the ministry and then the next week I'll be like, mom, it's awful. Everything's the worst. I want to leave my job. It's too hard. And I guess that is youth ministry. It's not something that's consistent or constant. It has its ups and downs and it's just kind of consistently saying yes to whatever God has planned for that ministry and building up a support system. I mean, I said you at my boss' father, but you would definitely there in a very lack of mentoring role for me from you know, 2012 up until you know through uni and when I worked for the diocese as well. And it's kind of getting that support system in place that can make youth ministry achievable and bearable even on the
Speaker 3:
3:10
worst times. And it's, it is about finding that support system but also I'm looking for putting your heart into it. You see anything, this is why it is one of the most heartbreaking ministries because if you, first of all you, no one would do it if their heart wasn't in it. But the thing is once your heart is in it, then you are vulnerable. You see young people are amazing to work with, but that's also the minds and their hearts and their emotions are all over the place and working with these young people sometimes can be heartbreaking but also so rewarding. So rewarding. Seeing people is so young and impressionable coming to the love of Jesus, seeing their hearts changed forever. And I working with Youth Ministry of course is not only working with young people, but it's also working within their structures, their schools, their parents, and working with those, seeing other people emotionally involved in youth ministry.
Speaker 3:
4:06
Youth Ministry obviously has different facets to it. Okay. As I said, like the mum and dad at home praying for their child, trying to influence their child. It's the parish influencing the lives of their young people. It's the teacher at school trying to bring and influence these young people with their hearts to grow as human beings and also to grow in love with Jesus, but also influencing young people and youth through other means. Indirect means social media through writing music. And this is one of the things that, for example I focus on so much right now is just influencing young people through what they listened through, what they watch we from within the curriculum to outside on the radio than Christian music and so on and so forth. So without us even knowing we are all in some way directly or indirectly involved in youth ministry.
Speaker 4:
5:01
I think what's something that always would shock me is that a young person would come up to me, let's say it's November and they'd come up to me and be like, oh this one thing you did Danny back in April. I remember you saying that. Oh you know you mentioned you watched this TV show. So I went and watched it too. And that was, you know, when I was working for the diocese and there was lots of young people that I would come into contact with and it shocked me at exactly what he said, father up how impressionable they are. And they're just looking for someone to guide them or someone to be like, and you know you can use that with the TV shows that you watch, but you can also be that with, you know, are you being an example? And young people look for role models, they look for examples and it's so important that youth ministers realize this and then they use that for good.
Speaker 3:
5:43
We have the power to influence. We have the power to affect the lives of people more than we would ever need and could ever know. But also we'd like to use this opportunity through this podcast to introduce you to another youth worker, another youth person who
Speaker 5:
5:58
works in one of them, the most influential, the most progressive youth ministries, I believe in Australia influencing the lives of thousands and thousands of young people. This guy's name is James Camden and lives and works in Paramatta, which is close to Sydney in Australia.
Speaker 4:
6:17
Yeah, I actually have a funny story about the first time I met James, it was at the Australian network of Dialysis and youth ministry coordinators convention. It's this big acronym and he had a lot of friends there that he'd been to this convention with for a few years and it's quite a small group of, you know, dialysis and coordinators. We only have 29 diocese here in Australia and everyone was calling him Andrew, but then his name tag said James. And I was a bit confused and it was my first year and I didn't want to say his name out loud. So I was like, hello you, how are you? And that was it for about three days. And on the final day I got enough courage and I said, what is your name? Cause I don't know if it's Andrew or James. And the whole room burst out laughing. So James was on a very popular Australian TV show home and away and his character's name was Andrew. So everyone was calling him Andrea and I didn't know what his name was and it took me five days or something like that to finally figure out that his name was James. But he's an incredible man and I'm so excited for this interview. That's great.
Speaker 5:
7:18
So here he is, James Camden. We interviewed him
Speaker 1:
7:21
while the impairment. So I'm in Parrameta at the moment. Speaking of, yeah,
Speaker 5:
7:32
it's an incredible event called lifted live, which is organized by the Paramatta Youth Ministry. And the person behind all of this, the person organizing this is, is a man called James Camden. Now, James, it works in Youth Ministry is the head of youth ministry within the Parramatta diocese and as a father, a father to three kids. And the interesting factor also as you were on home and the way as well, so a big television show in Australia and but he's passionate about youth ministry, about working with young people. Welcome James. It's just a pleasure to have you here. Good to be here. So James, I'm going to get straight into this. Um, just that I want to ask you, why youth mini, why youth ministry, there are so many easier things to do in life. Why did you choose to work in youth ministry and why do you choose to stay here working with young people?
Speaker 6:
8:23
Yeah, well I, I wasn't ever in this industry. I was doing journalism at university and I actually got an internship with channel nine and I worked for nine news for about six months and this was a really coveted position to get, um, you know, there's thousands of people wanting to be journalists, especially television journalists. And so I've got this Gig and I was, I'm super excited about because all I wanted to be my whole life was a journalist. So, um, it wasn't all I thought it was going to be. So my job sitting in newsroom every day, nine to five was listening to the police radio. And my job was just to listen out for the police mentioning that someone had either been killed in an accident or potentially had committed suicide, et cetera. And my job was to grab a cameraman and a sound man and get to the site of that place before family or friends or even the public got there.
Speaker 6:
9:19
Part of the ethics of it was that, you know, in journalism it's okay to film that kind of stuff if it's a celebrity and it's in the interest of the public. However, that doesn't stop us from turning up and filming it. Just in case it was a celebrity and 99.9% of the time. In fact, actually I can say 100% of the time it wasn't a celebrity. So it was an awful experience to be that guy who, you know, needed to push their way to the front to record a terrible story of something that happened in someone's life. After six months of doing that, I realized something in my life needed to change and a phone call came and it was a really important person in my life. He taught me at school, it was a mentor, um, and was the dealer sell brother. And uh, he said, James, I'm, I'm thinking of this whole new way of doing youth ministry and I've got three people's names in my mind and yours and yours is one of them.
Speaker 6:
10:12
Um, will you join me on this team that's going to work across Australia in our schools? And I instantly said yes, even though I just done four years of study at a cost, me, me and my parents are fortune. I thought I've got to do something better with my life. And that's when I realized what was I doing anything good for people in what I was currently doing. And that it was that moment I realized, no, I'm not. I've got to do something that feels good and he's making a difference in the lives of others. And that's how I fell into youth ministry.
Speaker 5:
10:44
That's amazing. You fell it fell into youth ministry. And why haven't you runaways?
Speaker 6:
10:49
Because I have loved absolutely every minute of it and I can't say I'm in the immediate future. Anything else that I would rather be doing? Um, I went in and started teaching because I thought, well just in case this youth ministry thing falls apart or I lose interest or passion in it, I'll have my teaching degree up up my sleeve and then I could at least work with young people in a more formal setting. But it's been 10 years now and I don't see myself ending up in that formal setting when the vibrancy of Youth Ministry, um, drives me like it does. So still loving every minute and a hope that it's going to be a passion that lasts a long time.
Speaker 5:
11:28
Amazing. And this is what we need is people, leaders who want to be there and not adjust the signed. And if your heart is not in it, it's a really, really heavy burden. But, um, Eh, when working with young people, like what do you think? Like I work with young people all around the world, but I just see that there's so much in common what young people want, what young people need. What do you see is
Speaker 6:
11:54
the greatest thing that young people are looking for? Young people? I reckon. Uh, and I think I felt this way about it for that whole period of time. Young people want to feel like they belong somewhere. You know, I think in the past we all knew that we belonged to a family, but as the family in many ways is disintegrating as we know it. I'm in many parts of the world and definitely here in Australia. Um, I mean my mom's a school counselor and she sees, um, the effects that, um, culture is having on the family, um, in schools. But I think we can't just rely on the family, um, in it's true form to be the place where young people feel they belong anymore. So we need places like youth groups, youth ministries and bands, um, groups where people feel that they truly do feel welcome and a part of something special and unique as well and somewhere safe that they can invite friends to.
Speaker 6:
12:55
Um, and I think that's our mission is to create those spaces. Um, some of those spaces are going to cost money. Some of those faces are going to mean a lot of investment of our time and energy and some places, some of those spaces, um, I going to fail. But if we don't try, um, where will that young person go if they've got no place to go? Um, so that's an incredible challenge for anyone that's working with young people, I think. And yet, so this is what it is. It's about a sense of community event as you mentioned. Also a sense of purpose as well within the community, like the band something. It's not just having a community, but also being able to have a purpose and direction in life as well through the community. Um, and now just how do you see like the church as a whole providing that this sense of community, the sense of purpose and, um, and where do you think maybe when we're, we're lacking as a church in providing this, you'll, where are we heading?
Speaker 6:
13:54
Look, a youth ministry goes through peaks and troughs. Um, and I think I've experienced a couple of them now over that 10 years. Um, I feel like in some parts of youth ministry around Australia at the moment, we're in a peak in some parts, particularly in some rural places. Um, or, um, some other movements around the country. They're in a bit of a trough, but we know that it, it moves and peaks and troughs and sometimes, um, it comes in the form of the people, the teams, um, the inspiring bishop, whoever it might be. They're the people that really drive, um, a sense of continuity in those places, in those groups. So I think we're in a good place at the moment. Um, acy f and Sydney was a wonderful experience for a lot of our young people in our schools to experience how vibrant the church can be.
Speaker 6:
14:44
So the acy F is like a big national youth festival, um, run by the Australian Bishops Bishops Conference that see it. And last year we had 23,000 young people. I mean it was unheard of in Australia for that many to be in the same space as each other. And there's still young people talking about that experience a year and a bit on now. So that's part of the peak we're on. And well do you stay, does that as well for us? And then hopefully events like we've been running today, lifted live, reaching out to young people that, you know, c church is just a building and an experience on the weekend at nine o'clock or 10:30 AM but that, it's so much more than that. And that's something that paramedic is really striving to, to achieve. And we have a really inspirational bishop that keeps reminding us that we have to be at church, that is inclusive, that is welcoming, that pushes boundaries and is always in dialogue with itself and with everyone around it. So I'm, I'm working in a really exciting place at the moment, which is great.
Speaker 5:
15:49
That's amazing. And actually the bishop of this diocese was a refugee himself and it's an incredible story. But yes, so it's about creating community through events, through big events but also through um, encouraging parishes on a local level to, to feed their own sheep as well. Because it's not about creating events in isolation. It's about discipleship and evangelization, mission and maintenance. That's it. It needs for both. Now I'm just going to talk to you like a little bit about your work as a youth minister. And I suppose this is the same with teachers or even anyone who works in some kind of youth ministries. That pressure maybe to put bums in seats, you know, we're employing you or giving you this money, which is probably not much at all. Like considering your youth ministry and considering what you could be getting. And the pressure is constantly is measured by people, even priests as bums on seats. So it, hold on. You've been in this job for five years, 10 years, but I haven't seen any more bums on my seats in my views. You know. How do you deal with that pressure?
Speaker 6:
16:53
This is the greatest challenge I think we face is the formation of our clergy, our parish staff, our diocesan staff, even some of our families out there in parish land is helping them come to terms with the fact that we're not about putting bums on seats. If bums end up on seats, that's great. And definitely that's our one of our goals in what we do. But um, we can't control that. We just had an interesting experience where we took 171 young people to World Youth Day. And the number one question always is, well, what are those young people do when they come back? So for the first time in five or six VOD youth days, we actually said to them, we do not expect anything of you when you returned from World Youth Day. We know and we trust that whatever the experience you had at World Youth Day is going to transpire into your personal life and into the circles and the lives of people that are around you.
Speaker 6:
17:54
And we finally trust that that actually is what occurs because of, you know, tens of years of, um, of seeing and speaking to people all these years on. That's the after effect of World Youth Day. It's not necessarily that you'd go back and start at youth group or that you suddenly become the head eucharistic minister at your parish. Many do and that's wonderful. That's an extra spin off. But it's not the true purpose of some of those big things we do in the young church. Um, it's sowing seeds, sowing seeds. Absolutely. And we won't know what those trees will look like or how big they will be for a very, very long time.
Speaker 5:
18:33
That's true. And I think that, and it's always juggling that as well. Not the pressure, not to feel like you have to save the world. And I think of Jesus often, you know, he surrounded himself with 12 people sort of, you could say technically one failed, you know, and he, in his lifetime, he wasn't out to change everyone's hearts and it was one soul at a time and this should be our focus. Otherwise we'll get disheartened and I think there's a high breakdown rates, a depression rates amongst our youth leaders, youth leaders who can't cope and they end up not being able and ended up leaving feeling like I'm never going to work in youth ministry again because there's a lot of unnecessary pressure put on them now another pressure, but also beautiful gift. Also his family, family, you know, it's not a nine to five job very often you're working nights and you were away on retreats and then you're away at world youth day and then the acy f and a running so many things. What about family three kids, a wife. How do you continue to minister to them and let them feel that they are loved?
Speaker 6:
19:40
Yeah, look, my life had to take a bit of a pivot when I was called to marriage and that was about five years ago now. Thankfully my wife had been in my life for a long time, so she knew what my passions were, I know what her passions are, and she knew that youth ministry was one of those things that was going to be a core element of my life for a long time, but now we have three beautiful children and it's hard work. It's hard work for her when I'm away. It's hard work for her when I work those long days or nights and were often a little bit on called as well because many of that grassroots youth ministry that we so badly want to be happening, they happen at nighttime and that's traditionally when I should be with my family, helping with dinner, barfing showers, crazy tantrums, fighting in between each other and then ultimately the long process of getting them to bed.
Speaker 6:
20:35
After a few stories, we have to manage the fact that I will take phone calls sometimes at then at night. I think my kids know that that's a part of my life. They understand that daddy's got to take this phone call cause that's important for somebody else out there that really needs me. But I also have to to put boundaries in place. Um, there was a classic example for, for a few weeks where a priest was calling the every night at 10:00 PM and that was just because that was finally the time of the night where he had a moment to make the calls that were really important to him that he couldn't make during the day about something. And unfortunately I was on that list of people who he wanted advice from about things, but I eventually had to say to him, I had to remind him that, look, I've got a family and, and you know, after seven 30 that's, that's the time where I just can't take, um, these sorts of calls.
Speaker 6:
21:26
But I promise I will speak to you at eight 30 tomorrow morning. It's about being really upfront about those boundaries because a lot of people in youth ministry are burning out because they're not putting those boundaries in place. And know for other members of my team, you know, they take a lot of calls from young people, um, in the evenings and they took it. They've got to, you know, conversations sometimes aren't as clear after eight o'clock at night. And I think they're the conversations that you want to say to someone, let's have these tomorrow after you've had asleep and you're ready for a new day. Let's not have these conversations when we're tired or upset or struggling with something. Um, let's, let's talk in the immediate, but then let's pause and say, let's, let's really get into the depths of it tomorrow when we can really give of ourselves wholeheartedly and, and hopefully give some really great advice or, or connect them to the right person. But I love my family and my family, um, are incredible what they let me do for so many other young people. And I can't wait for the day when my kids are old enough to understand that other young people need other men and women in their life, like youth ministers to be that person that they can have a chat to. Um, or to meet them somewhere for a coffee or a milkshake and, and just, you know, give them a bit of joy in a bit of love. And that's what we're, we're striving to do.
Speaker 5:
22:56
But this is a beautiful about setting boundaries and always putting family first. I suppose it's family work is work, but family is where the most important support comes from and where we are called to give so generously of their first. So look, um, we've reached the end of our time together with James James Camden, as I said, it's a youth minister, the head head of youth ministry in the paramedic diocese, which is the second largest diocese in Australia. Number six. Okay, there you go. But a very, very multicultural diocese and he had got, has to face a lot of different sort of scenarios, different people dealing with different cultures and things like that. So I just want to, well, as we finish off this interview, first of all, I really appreciate your time. Really appreciate you giving us insight of how to influence people and the reality and the struggles that come also with the youth ministry. So tell me, I'll just maybe leave us with a a little bit of advice for those families, maybe youth leaders, maybe even teachers or any other influencers who want to work in youth ministry.
Speaker 6:
24:04
If I look back on my time in youth ministry, I it it, it's taken me 10 or 15 years to acknowledge, recognize and identify who were the core people who were my mentor at different periods of the journey. I think at the time we don't realize that there's particular people playing a mentoring role with us or accompanying us along the journey and now I can look back, having had plenty of time to reflect on it and see where the pivot moments where in my life where I could've gone left or I could have gone right, but God gently led me in the direction of one or the other. I realized that was usually because of a person. Um, so I would say, um, yeah, I went for an interview for another job recently and um, some what they asked me, you know, what do you read or what have you studied?
Speaker 6:
24:56
And I said to them, look, I've read and I've studied, but it's the people that I've met along my journey and the things that I've learned from them that I actually value the most and it made me realize they're the people that we really have to look out for and make a really core part of our life journey. Hopefully they're the ones that are going to steer us in the right directions and pick us up when things don't go so well. So I'm so appreciative of those people in my life that have been there, whether they chose to be or not. I'm making it a thing now to approach those people years on and say, just wanted to let you know that you did this for me in this part of my life. And, and I'm so grateful for that. Wow.
Speaker 5:
25:43
So again, just something to realizing we are all in this together. It's a ministry that we have to work in together and we can't do it alone. I myself have spiritual directors. I have mentors, I have people who will help me, um, j B be able to, to love and serve others because sometimes it's hard. But anyway, James, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing this, the beautiful gift that you have as well in, in bringing Jesus to other people. And thank you for the advice you've given us. And we as listeners as well, we'll also be praying for you and your ministry.
Speaker 6:
26:17
God bless you. Thank you.
Speaker 7:
26:20
Thank you so much for joining us today on the Catholic influences podcasts. Remember that this is your podcast. So if you have any questions, comments, please get in touch with us. If RJ, ministry.com forward slash podcast or any of the Frg Ministry, social media, we'll be back again next week until then. Remember to subscribe on your favorite platform so that you get the episode as soon as we are bloated.