I just got off the phone with a youth minister who asked me for some last minute words of advice prior to her parish kickoff this weekend. In our conversation I told her that the most important thing to do on the big day is to pray and be present to the teens. As much as you are laboring over the environment, skits, talks, training, music and homily for Mass, what the teens will remember most is your presence to them. They will return the next week if they feel a connection to Christ through you and they will invite their friends because the love they feel in the community. You cannot plan how you will love the teens; you just need to love them.
The week or weeks prior to launching your Life Teen program can cause some youth ministers to become a ministry “bridezilla”. We all have a similar image in our head: a radiant bride processing down the isle, flowers in hand, when she notices a detail not quite perfect and she goes ballistic; screaming, striking her bouquet against the pew then throwing herself down on the floor wailing and pounding her fists.
Well, maybe that’s not your image of a bridezilla, but it’s mine. Regardless of my tangent, the point is simple: the details of her wedding day got the best of her. She is unable to see all the loving people gathered for her big day, her nervous groom awaiting her at the front of the Church or the priest vested to unite her in the Sacrament of Marriage. She is too annoyed that the organist just played the wrong key on “Here Comes the Bride.”
Maybe you feel like a bride on her wedding day who wishes she had a few more days to rearrange the seating chart, alter the dress to fit a little better (hopefully because you lost weight and not gained it) or just spend more time with family and friends. Trust me, this can be you if you allow the details of your Life Teen launch to get the best of you. Instead of making a teen you have never met feel a part of the Life Teen community you are straightening the banner hung a little low for your taste on the wall of the hall.
The other night I was telling a friend fretting over her wedding day that the details of the day will fade, what will last is the Sacrament. The flowers will die, the cake will be eaten, the friends will return home and what will remain is the grace God has given both her and her husband till death parts them. The same holds true for your Life Teen kickoff. The banners will come down, the skit will be over, the food will be eaten and the teens will return home. What remains is the grace and love God poured into the teens, your Core and your parish community. The same grace and love will have them coming back each week for the wedding feast celebrated at Mass in the Eucharist and in your Life Nights.