I recently was asked to participate in a research study on young adult experiences of leadership in the Catholic Church in our diocese. It got me reflecting on those experiences.
One of the questions asked me to reflect on a bad experience I had. I'll never forget when I proposed an idea for have a parish service day and the idea was just taken and ran with. No one bothered to ask if I would take the lead or assess if I could lead it.
So here's a girl who manages a slew of corporate programs, has a track record of results, is pretty competent, and she wasn't asked to take a bigger role on an idea she proposed. No one bothered to figure out how she could use her talents and gifts to serve the church and that particular committee. I could have easily run that thing. I've run bigger things before.
Clearly hurt, I eventually ended up leaving that committee, not just because of that, but because most every other meaningful idea I had couldn't be done for some reason, and I was never given any opportunities to use my gifts.
Fast forward to now, I have left most roles in parish ministry and just stick with writing and spiritual direction, which I just love. I do lead a marketing/communications/outreach committee for a ministry led by a religious sister. While I'm grateful that they did see potential and leadership, it's not terribly engaging or supportive.
During the study, I was asked to compare my experience volunteering in a secular non-profit vs. parish ministry. Three things stuck out: 1) They take the opportunity to learn my diverse scope of talents. 2) They constantly affirm my gifts and talents and give me opportunities to use them. 3) They offer support and mentorship, helping me grow and develop.
It's a very different experience to say the least.
At the end of the study, I learned that unfortunately, I have a similar experience to many other young adults, and many have sought to serve outside of the church as a result.
How sad. I hope this serves as a wake up call that we aren't engaging young people the right way. We are the Church's future leaders. It's time to give us opportunities to serve and lead, and teach older generations how to let go and let others step up and use their gifts.