The excitement, the anticipation, the preparation, the prayers, the laughter, the tears, the wonder, the awe of bringing middle school youth into a life-changing encounters with Jesus Christ. There’s nothing like it!
I am entering my 9th year of Edge and have just launched Edge at a second parish in my diocese. So, no matter where you are in your journey of all things Edge, I can probably relate to what you’re going through. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned — and often need to be reminded of — when starting Edge:
The bottom line is we have to put our own growth and striving in holiness foremost and let our work in youth ministry follow and flow from it. Prayer, together with receiving the sacraments, is central to successful ministry. Or, better yet, as St. Augustine said: “Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.”
What would happen if you turned on your kitchen tap and nothing came out? When you go to the bathroom, the same thing. You even try your garden hose before realizing that your neighbors don’t have water either. After waiting 12 hours, the water still hasn’t come on. Something is wrong.
Do we need to know every detail of the teens’ lives? No. Nor do we need to broadcast every little thing to the entire youth group. Everything has its time and place. We just need to be open, available, and aware of what is going on just below the surface so that we can better serve our teens and help build community. We need to be with them on in their successes and their failings. As youth ministers and as volunteers, we can ask questions about their lives and passions. We can get our hands dirty in the muck and mire of life in order to show they are not alone.
We train our Core Team so they are equipped with the knowledge of how to be youth ministers. We need to give these incredible volunteers the tools and skills and resources they need to lead teens to Christ.
In my time of youth ministry I have had the privilege to work alongside college students seeking to chaperone summer trips or just help out at a Life Night. I am always amazed by their passion and zeal for the Gospel message and spreading this message with others. I have found not only do the teens benefit from college students, but the Core Team, myself as a youth minister, and the entire parish gains an enormous amount of wisdom.
It’s a good movie. I’m a fan of things that are well made, creative and beautiful. Without getting into specifics, I know that I personally have a harder time when a movie with religious implications comes out heavy on the cheese and light on the art. I assure you that this movie is excellent in production and acting. It’s a good movie with a message, not a good message with a movie. You can feel confident that a diverse group of teens will enjoy this movie, not just the ones in your youth ministry program that are “all-in.”
Has anyone ever noticed the ways in which the desire to serve can so easily become prideful?
It sounds weird, but it sneaks so deftly into ministry. We want so badly to do good work and we desire so deeply to serve Jesus that suddenly we begin to look at ministry, the Church, and the structures therein either as obstacles stopping us from doing the service that we deem worthy of our time, or a warped professional ladder in which success is defined by how many people hear our voices, see our faces or read our words.
Launching Life Teen each fall was like a fresh start for our ministry. There would be a new class of freshmen and a new class of Core Members. I wanted our first night to have a strong start. What does strong look like, though? Does it mean relevant? Bigger and better? Free food or quality free food? What about shiny and attractive?
Early in the week our whole group quickly humbled ourselves and just let God do His thing! Our parish is located in an area that is not known for diversity, so visiting an Indian Reservation and learning about their culture was a first for my teens. The residents and family members would come out, help the teens on the houses, and talk to them about their life. It was amazing to see these teens be inspired by the residents’ culture and attitude.