Ever wonder if you are losing your touch or if the teens you are reaching out to are finding the ministry irrelevant for the world they live in? Here are 5 creative ways to avoid your ministry becoming irrelevant to teens -
1.) Reinvent – Just because it worked in the past is no reason to duplicate it this year. We just planned our 2011 Life Teen and Edge Summer Camps. We totally blew up the model rather than small tweaks to the same camp experience and decided to give the EDGE kids a totally different camp than the Life Teen teens. After all our philosophy is that middle school and high school teens are different developmentally, so we should model this at camps as well. It not only excited our planning team -it helped us focus on staying relevant to both age groups of teens. We are pumped that we get to serve teens this way and that we get to model it for all the youth leaders attending.
2.) Stay Connected to Teens - If we as youth leaders lose touch with the teens we are serving we will inevitably become irrelevant. There is nothing more important to staying relevant as in spending time listening to teens. Find out what they do for fun, how they feel about their friends, family and the Church. They will let you into their world if you don’t force it. I make it a priority to talk to 5 teens every week and find out what is going on.
3.) Be Transparently Authentic - Authenticity is one of the most relevant things teens experience. Young people see so many people saying or doing something to get someone else to do something for them, that they are disarmed and drawn to people who are transparent and authentic. Admit it if you don’t have the answer to one of their questions, let them know you don’t have the word’s that are adequate to describe the real presence in the Eucharist or let them know that you need help planning an event that you want new teens to come to and their input is essential.
4.) Offer Choices - Serve french fries and salad. Huh? Your next Core team meeting ask your core team this question – What was the catalyst that got you to become serious about your relationship with Christ? I will bet that there will be several different answers, maybe even no two will be the same. The same is true for all the teens you are trying to reach. We need to offer them a variety of formation and experiences. Life Nights, Mission Trips, Retreats, Pilgrimages to World Youth Day, NCYC, Bible Studies, Steubenville Conferences, Life Teen Camps, XLT’s, Diocesan Youth Rallies, Inspiration Tours, Life Teen Leadership Conferences and many more gatherings can all act as catalysts to teens in their faith. Most of these events put teens in environments where there are other Catholic teens growing in their faith as well, helping reinforce the thought that the Church is relevant to them now.
5.) Childlike, Childlike, Childlike - When Pope John Paul II in his later years was with young people, he would glow and become more animated. He remained childlike his entire life. I will never forget his last words to the youth who had gathered outside his window just hours before he died – “I sought you and now you have come to me. … I thank you,” He remained relevant to young people his entire life. We must remain childlike as youth leaders not only in our faith, but with a life full of joy and enthusiasm. We can’t stop believing in miracles happening in the lives of even the most hard to reach teens or their families. We must have the courage every day to be all in for Christ – even if we look like a fool. Teens relate to the childlike in all of us.
You’ll notice that none of the 5 are about keeping up with the latest technologies or world ebbs and flows. They mostly are directed toward experiences, our posture of heart and our focus. Are you on track or is your ministry in danger of becoming irrelevant to the teens? Pray about it!