It was Monday and walking back into my office I found the loving reward for a night filled with good relational ministry. My office was covered in tape as if teens where trying to make a special hammock just for me. The tape came from every wall – hanging from my desk, my bookshelves, my door and even my window- and had everything from candy to notes saying how much they loved me. After a good laugh and a good workout to free my office I noticed our maintenance man staring with a puzzled look. “Did you put a beach in the parish hall?” he asked. After finding out that we did in fact did put a beach in the church hall he smiled and left in disbelief.
By the end of the day I found myself wondering if others experienced the same thing. After years of working with youth (and other youth ministers) I found that many of us have found ourselves in similar situations. I also found that many of us wonder about how normal our programs are and more importantly how effective they are.
After some careful consideration I compiled a six signs of a healthy youth program:
- Teens “hang out” at the church, even when there are not Life Teen activities scheduled. Teens feeling “at home” shows a comfort level that reflects a personal relationship with Christ and His Church. Feel confident when they are going to daily Mass, Adoration, or are just hanging out at the youth office.
- Teens are noisy and all over the place, even during Mass. By nature teens are both energetic and somewhat loud. Utilized, this energy brings vibrancy to all areas of ministry – put these teens everywhere and show off the impressive gift your youth are!
- Teens (and Core) miss Life Nights and events to spend time with their families. Although sometimes family is used as the “catch-all” excuse we can’t ignore it. Teens and Core who put their family first are really putting their primary vocation first.
- The Youth Minister and Core team are always behind in their work. If it seems like there is more to do than there are hours in the day that is a good thing because it is true. This being said, a team that understands the importance of being with teens will always have more work than they could ever finish.
- The program is full of losers. A healthy youth ministry program is filled with people who have lost their way. People who have lost their loved ones. People who have lost their perspective. People who know that they can’t make it on their own. People who are also finding their lives in receiving and giving a lot of love – in Christ.
- The Youth Minister and Core members are being rejected. Rejection only comes when we are putting ourselves out there and inviting teens to be part of the ministry. If we are not being rejected, we are probably not asking enough! A healthy youth ministry program reaches out past the “easy” teens to the ones who are least likely to be part of youth ministry.
In short, a healthy program is growing and lively (alive) just like the other parts of the Body of Christ!
There are many ways to evaluate-specific areas of your parish program and I wouldn’t recommend this being your only evaluation. But if you can identify with this description, the basics are probably pretty well covered.