Fruitfulness from Loss: Losing Someone in Ministry

“Hey, sorry to communicate like this, but I thought you’d want to know that Dick is going to be entering hospice.”

My stomach dropped as I read this Facebook message late one night from Bryan, one of the Core Members from when I was in high school. Dick died two days later, and two weeks later, I am still thinking about him.

Dick helped start Life Teen at the parish I grew up at, and he was on the Core Team for a long time. While I was in high school, we had a lot of youth minister turnover, but Dick and some of the other Core members were anchors in Life Teen. He was at Life Nights and fall retreats, he dyed his hair for Steubenville Atlanta because that’s what our group did, and one time he visited me when I was in college because he was in the area for a business trip. He did these kinds of things for years and years.

The priest who celebrated his funeral Mass (another Life Teen alum from our parish) said in his homily that he imagined Dick being welcomed into heaven as God’s “good and faithful servant.” I pictured that too and thought about Jesus showing Dick the fruit of his ministry. The seeds of faith cultivated in the teens he served and the faith being cultivated by those teens who grew into adults now serving in ministry. In myself alone, I have been a youth minister for ten years, and at least a few of my former teens are serving the Church in some way. Dick’s ministry to me is bearing fruit in the lives of teens he has never even met and in places he hasn’t been.

This year has me thinking a lot about my own fruitfulness. Sometimes I get caught up in the attendance numbers or what other youth ministers are doing and get discouraged wondering if I’m producing any fruit. In the Gospels, Jesus makes it pretty clear though, that fruitfulness is his business and faithfulness is ours. Dick showed up week after week even when things were difficult, and his perseverance continues to bear fruit. That witness is giving me encouragement in my own ministry.

How do we persevere and stay faithful though, especially when ministry (and life) gets difficult?

First, we have to stay close to the source of fruitfulness and faithfulness- Jesus. This week I’m rededicating myself to making it to Mass at least twice during the week. I used to go to daily Mass regularly but have fallen out of the practice. Where have you let your closeness with the Lord slip? Maybe you aren’t praying every day, or you used to pray the rosary and haven’t in a while. Make a resolution, be specific, and ask God for help.

Second, we have to be faithful in the small things. Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 16:10, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.” The first “little thing” that comes to mind is the two dehumidifiers in our youth room that I’m supposed to empty daily. I haven’t emptied them in weeks, and the youth room is starting to feel damp. What are the small tasks in your life that you are letting slip? Let’s complete these small things with great love so that our faithfulness will be strengthened.

Finally, we have to surrender to the fact that God’s ways are not our ways. How he sees fruitfulness is not how I see it, and I’m asking him, again and again, to give me his eyes to see. This Sunday, we had another night with low attendance, and while I was thinking about that, one of my Core Members said, “this is just the nicest group of teens.” She’s right. I tell them all the time that if there were a youth ministry draft, I wouldn’t trade any of them. Practically, this looks like me thanking God for the good I see. Whether that’s listing the teens by name or finding other things in ministry to thank God for, I want gratitude to be my new focus and fuel for faithfulness.

Maybe you have or had someone like Dick in your own life. I hope you do! I’m so grateful for his life, for the ways he loved me well, and how he is witnessing to me the fruit of faithfulness.

“This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” Mark 4:26-27

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

About the Author

Bethany Fischer

My aspirations include trying all of the sparkling water brands and running a faster mile. When not running the streets of Winston Salem, I get to be a Life Teen & Edge youth minister. You can follow along @stleoyouth where I am continually answering the question, "What do Youth Ministers do all day?"

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