As the youngest child in my family, I have found tremendous joy learning from my mistakes of my brother and sisters. If you are the youngest in your family you know what I’m talking about. Your older siblings make massive mistakes, and you just sit back thankful you’re not the one with the bar of soap in your mouth and enjoy the show. Many life lessons have been learned as the youngest.
- Mistake #1: Buying a prom dress because it was a good deal. A good deal isn’t always good looking.
- Mistake #2: Having a party at a hotel the night before Senior Breakfast at the very hotel where Senior Breakfast is being held (good one Tim).
- Mistake #3: Walking up to the credit card tables at freshman orientation. It looks enticing but leads to serious debt.
Just as I learned from my brother and sisters adventures, there is much to learn from parishes that have started Life Teen before you. Starting a youth ministry program in general can be challenging. Maybe not as challenging as getting out of credit card debt but still challenging. Here are a few mistakes to avoid when starting a Life Teen program at your parish.
Mistake #1: Rushing to Start Life Teen
Life Teen created a six-month plan for one reason; it takes time to build a solid youth ministry program. Most parishes will rush the process of starting Life Teen and then wonder why it didn’t work. Mass was poorly planned, music unrehearsed, and the Core team inadequately trained. This leads to a youth ministry program burnt out before it even gets started.
How to Avoid the Mistake: Take your time promoting the ministry, recruiting and training your Core, developing relationships with teens, planning your youth Mass, rehearsing your musicians and other liturgical ministers. It all pays off in the end when a dynamic Life Teen program is unveiled to your parish.
Mistake # 2: Not Finding a Youth Ministry Mentor
I was blessed when I started Life Teen to have an army of youth ministers, Life Teen staff and diocesan directors to lift me up when I was down. Listening to experienced youth ministers share their victories and mistakes allowed me to accept my imperfections and listen to the promptings of the Spirit.
How to Avoid the Mistake: Find someone you can lean on and learn from. Look to your diocesan directors, Life Teen area contacts and staff when you have questions or concerns. I discovered that I was never alone on the journey. That fact has kept me on the road for over 17 years.
Mistake #3: Not Celebrating Small and Large Victories
In youth ministry we don’t celebrate our victories enough. We just go from one event to another often times forgetting the past event before we download the photos in our computers.
How to Avoid the Mistake: Celebrate when God gives you a new Core member, when your youth lectors have been trained or when you have your first Life Night. A wise friend once said to me to celebrate in a small way the event you planned for as long as it took you to plan it. Have a blessing jar in your office and write down your blessings daily, post photos or make them your screen saver so you don’t forget the faces you are serving or simply enter the closest chapel and pray to God in gratitude. How you celebrate is up to you; just celebrate!
Mistake #4: Comparing Your ministry to other Ministry Programs
When I was a first time youth minister I compared my program to ones that had been established for years. This was a huge mistake. I was too hard on myself, I didn’t trust my gut instinct and I ended up creating an imitation youth ministry program that was less than what God called me to create.
How to Avoid the Mistake: As a new youth minister or even one that has been around for a while it is important not to compare your ministry to another parish. Just as I encouraged you to take your time starting your program realize that it takes time to build a strong ministry for your teens. You will see highs and lows in attendance and interest from year-to-year, even month-to-month. Adaptability and perseverance is central in youth ministry. Listen to the teens and Core to hear what they enjoy, how they need to be challenged and where God is calling the ministry. Rely on those serving alongside you and trust where God is directing your ministry.
Summary: Learn Now, Not Later
Sometimes it is a huge blessing to be the toddler in the family. You can often blame things on others, say that you just didn’t know and give yourself time to learn. Hey, I didn’t have the least number of groundings in my family for nothing. But in the real world of youth ministry, it’s important to be attentive to those who’ve gone before you. Learn from those in ministry with you and your program will flourish.
Note:If you will be attending the 2009 Life Teen Training Convention and you are new to Life Teen, be sure to attend the “Step-by-Step: Starting Life Teen” breakout session. I will help you take the next step to starting this amazing ministry there or call me with any questions.