Your Desk… The Enemy

Every Spring I get several calls with the same question: “I don’t know what is happening but our numbers are dropping. We are planning great Life Nights, but the teens aren’t coming.” I then ask three very important questions: How often and in what ways is your Core Team praying together? What type of relational […]

Supporting the Mission of Youth Ministry

As youth ministers, we love serving teens — even when we don’t know them. But in a small, rural community, you know everyone — every family member, problem, and heartbreak. A rural community is my ministry reality. In the darkest times, I witness the most amazing blessings. This past year one of my favorite teens, […]

Hooked on a Feeling

I’ve never been good at the whole “showing emotion” thing.

Even at my own wedding, all I could really muster was some goofy expression halfway between a smile and a bout of painful gas. I’d love to blame it on a face-muscle issue or a bad burrito, but to tell the truth… I just don’t get it. I’ve always been uncomfortable with big emotional expression, and more comfortable with words as opposed to the wibbly-wobbly world of emotional display. To be honest it makes me love my poor wife more given the robot to whom she’s sacramentally bound.

The Ultimate Life Teen Snowman Building Contest

The east coast of the United States was getting a healthy dose of fluffy white snow when their latest Life Support shipment arrived with the perfect Life Support toy: A snowman kit. I’m sure many of you (especially parents) had flashbacks of a certain hit song from a certain animated film as soon as you […]

Life Teen 2015 Update

Our Vice President pulled out all of his best facial expressions to convey to you just how awesome this year is going to be. This year Life Teen turns the big three-zero. (That’s 30 for those of us who don’t want to do the math.) We thank God for these past 30 years and are […]

#WhyWeMarch

I began to think that maybe I’d keep quiet about the March for Life and be pro-life on a smaller scale. Have a holy hour to pray for an end to abortion. Show “October Baby.” Keep it simple and — most importantly — indoors. Then Blair joined our parish. A sophomore who had attended the March for Life with her Catholic school the year before she moved to Florida, she was glad to hear I had also attended.

An Open Letter to the Wives of Youth Ministers

You are invaluable to youth ministry. You are an example to the young women of the parish of what it is to be a catholic woman, wife, and perhaps mother. You are the strong heart to hold up your husband when he is troubled with the sad stories of his teens. You are the cheerleader encouraging him on when he wants to give up. You are the warm welcome at the end of a long night or weekend away.

Planning Beyond Routine

For seven years, our parish would gather together in celebration at the 5:00 pm Mass and the teens would retreat to the gym from 6 – 8:00 pm for our Life Night. It had been working, and it was familiar. Early last summer, I began praying through our fall schedule and I was immediately drawn […]

It’s Not Magic: Why You Should Expect Conversion

Recently I was hosting our first Confirmation retreat of the year. The retreat was a basic kergymatic retreat with talks on God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. We incorporated elements such as Mass, praise and worship, Reconciliation, and Eucharistic Adoration. It wasn’t an especially fancy retreat but it wasn’t without substance either. Since […]

When Jesus Becomes Your Job

Sometimes it’s hard to not let this exhaustion and “over it” mentality seep into our spiritual lives when our jobs are all about Jesus. There have been many a day for me that I could tell you every Catechism reference and Scripture passage about the institution of the Eucharist, but not the last time I truly felt moved by this loving sacrifice.

Do Over!

As a control freak, (and I know I’m the only youth minister who fits this description…) I love having another chance to improve on my past imperfections. Entering into the New Year is often when we get excited about hitting that Reset Button in certain areas of our lives so we can do better, improve ourselves, and be Christ to those who need it most. Particularly in ministry, this time of year can lend itself to reflection between semesters and provide some much-appreciated prayer time. Imagine Rob Schneider from the “Waterboy” cheering you on saying, “YOU CAN DO IT!”

Compartmentalized Catholicism

We live in a culture of compartmentalization. In the hustle and bustle of our schedules and our commitments, the ability to keep things in their proper place is sometimes all we can do to stay sane and keep all the plates spinning. However, this way of life has a way of casting a false sense of importance on the passing things of life while encouraging us to keep the things that really matter from crossing over into the other spheres of life.

Late but Welcome

No one likes to be late to church. In my 23 years of experience showing up late to church is just plain awkward. There are several reasons for this. You make a loud noise. No matter how hard you try, there seems to be a loud sound that accompanies you when you finally sit down. You can’t find a […]

The Teens in Front of You

Let us not forget that Life Teen is a relationship-centered ministry. As youth leaders, we should always be engaging in relationships with teens and encouraging them to a deeper relationship with Christ. Don’t miss out on the teens in front of you!

Be An Advent Companion

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” unless of course you live in the many parts of the world that don’t get snow, it still looks like fall, or summer. Nonetheless it is the time of the year to put on your slippers, whip out the hot cocoa, kick up your feet, blast the Christmas tunes, and have lots of Christmas Social Nights. Right?

The Courage to Keep Fishing

As we prayerfully consider how we should progress in the day-to-day and the year-to-year aspects of our programs, we have the freedom to call out in exhaustion and even frustration that we want to quit. We have the freedom to question and say to Our Lord that we’ve tried something over and over before to no avail. But, when He speaks back to us, we need to be open to the fact that He may send us back out there to rejoin the ranks.

Joy in Confirmation Preparation

When you think of Confirmation, does a checklist immediately come to mind? Instruct confirmation candidates about their Catholic identity and review Creed: check. Explore and define the gifts of the Holy Spirit: check. Teach the importance of choosing a proper saint and sponsor: check. The list of to-do’s can seem endless and overwhelming. Phaedrus said, […]

It Doesn’t Have to Be Awkward: Working With Priests in Youth Ministry

But, as rewarding as youth ministry is, it’s also challenging for all of us. Navigating that priest-youth minister relationship can be awkward. It is, after all, multi-faceted: shepherd-sheep, employer-employee, co-workers in the vineyard, etc. Keep in mind that it is a delicate dance for the priest as well, as he serves as spiritual father as well as administrator of all the people entrusted to his care, including you, your core, and your teens!

The 2 Most Important Lessons When Starting Edge

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:

Saturated in Prayer

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.”

The #4Liters Challenge

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.

Celebrating Persons

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.

Equipped: The Importance of Training Your Core Team

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.

An All-Star Core Team: The Value of College Students

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.

Why You Should See “When the Game Stands Tall” With Your Teens

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.”

It’s Not “Your” Ministry

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.

Back to Life Teen: 5 Kickoff Ideas for Your Youth Group

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?

Am I Speaking Your Language?

Lately I’ve been spending a lot more time on sharing etymology (the origin of words) with teens. The results have been fascinating. The middle school and high school teens I’ve been discipling and speaking with can’t seem to get enough of it. One teen at our Life Teen Leadership Conference came up after Bible Study […]

Ministry Secrets I learned from “The Karate Kid”

You could hear quotes like “Get him a body bag!” being tossed around the playground during impromptu martial arts competitions. I listened to the cassette tape with the song “You’re the Best Around” until it wore out… and then I made another one. Some guys even started tying bandanas around their heads. Luckily, I dodged that fashion bullet.

Reflecting on that magical summer recently, it occurred to me how many important ministry lessons can be drawn from the film.

Feeling Like a Freshman: Tips for Adapting to a New Job

I felt like a freshman, but I there I was at prom on Friday night. I hadn’t been to prom since I was a senior in high school, but with a new job in the teaching field came the opportunity to chaperone prom. So, there I was watching high school seniors try to have the time of their lives. While the dance brought up a lot of thoughts and questions…

The Art of Losing

Let’s talk about something uncomfortable – total, humiliating defeat. Yesterday, Germany humiliated Brazil in the World-Cup semi-finals. I’m not much of a soccer fan, but I do know that generally the games have lower scores. It isn’t uncommon to see a final score of 1-0 or 2-1 – even a tie of 0-0 is possible.

Tongues on Fire

We see that, like the tongues of fire that divided and fell on all in the upper room, the tongues, the speech and language of the apostles, divided and fell on the ears and hearts of all present in the crowd.

Liturgy Planning Guide: Saints Peter and Paul

Recently, we published a Liturgy Planning Guide that included Sundays for March 9th to July 6th. Post-publication, we discovered an error within that Liturgy Planning Guide for June 29th, and we wanted to correct that for our subscribing parishes as they look forward to music, homily suggestions, and key words and themes for that Sunday.

Give ‘Em Heaven

Yesterday, it dawned on me how important it is to make sure that when the teens walk into our programs, they aren’t just meeting me or one of our Core Members, but that at EVERY event, they also have an encounter with our Lord. You see, one day they will graduate and move on. One day that Core Member will step out of ministry. One day I might not be their youth minister anymore.

“Don’t Walk Into Mass Out of Shape”: What is “Mass Fitness”?

“Don’t walk into mass out of shape,” proclaims the bridge of the song “Mass Fitness” performed by some, gangly, shaved-eyebrow dude. Well that Vanilla-Ice-looking dude is me. I love writing silly songs with catchy hooks and was asked to add a comedic spark to Life Teen’s semester on the Mass through song, dance, and video. […]

Being Lazarus

One of these silent yet powerful figures that I love to hear about is Lazarus, the man Jesus so famously raised from the dead four days after his death. Think about the story that this Lazarus must have had. We know that Jesus called him a friend and even wept because of his death. We know that he followed Jesus from that point and that his sisters were Saints Mary and Martha, but apart from these details we know very little and we don’t hear a single word leave his lips.

Yet, as we read later, Lazarus was seen as dangerous.

Destination Unknown: Why You Should Have a Mystery Youth Trip

Are you trying to plan that perfect trip during the summer? Are you looking for something new to do? Do you want teens to be fired up about going? Offer a Mystery Trip!

What? Where are we are going…???…???…??? That’s right. You have a bunch of teens sign up for a trip that they have no clue where they are going. Yes. That’s it. And, here’s why you need to go on a Mystery Trip with your group:

365: A Year on the Water

Too many of us are hanging out in the boat of our ministry and our discipleship. What would you do if you decided that, for the next year, you were going to ditch the boat and step out onto that water? What if you took the adventure of discipleship seriously, took off the water wings, and decided to make things happen?

I Thank God for Teens… Because I Almost Quit My Job

And so, as I packed my bags and loaded the van to lead a multi-parish weekend retreat with 70 middle schoolers, I felt inadequate. Upon saying goodbye to my family, when my 5 and 2 year olds asked with eyes the size of dinner plates, “Mommy, why do you have to go?” I found I didn’t have an answer.

Powered By Passion

The inspired force behind all great art, all great music, all great writing, all great things, is passion. Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without passion. Nothing great is ever sustained in life without passion.

Passion makes businesses succeed. Passion is what energizes life. Passion makes the impossible possible. Passion gives you a reason to get up in the morning and say, “I’m going to do something with my life today.” Without passion life becomes boring. It becomes dull. God created you with the emotions to have passion in your life and He wants you to live a passionate life.

A Bird’s Eye View: Keeping Perspective within Ministry

Ministry is a challenge. A beautiful and sanctifying challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

This fact is emphasized, and may even be caused in part by the fact that instead of peddling widgets or reaching deadlines, we work for and serve people. Messy, sticky, often unpredictable human persons who are as unique and individualized as the snowflakes that covered my home and parish all winter long. We can state trends and patterns about teens in the most general and terms possible, but unlike a chair or a car that is an exact clone of the one made before, the next teen to walk through your door is completely different than the one that just walked out.

Free Youth Ministry Resources for the Canonization of Saint John Paul II

For many of us who work in youth ministry, Pope John Paul II was a shepherd and father like none other. His love and affection for young people led thousands to the faith. His devotion to the Eucharist and Mary showed us how to live in God’s love. His courage to stand for justice brought […]

Worn Out: The Cause and Cure for Fatigue in Youth Ministry

Think about all the obstacles we go through in our day-to-day ministry. We live in a world of late sign-ups, last minute changes, double bookings, paper jams, and did I forget to say #TechnologyProblems? Moreover, we venture into the teenage jungle of low self-esteem, depression, and even suicide. There’s an endless amount of things that can go wrong in our ministry to teens and the easiest thing we can do is give up. However, if we take the call of Jesus seriously, we must be immersed in the messiness of life.

It’s Not Over Yet!: 3 Tips for the Last Days of Lent

The days of Lent are quickly coming to an end, what has this Liturgical Season been like for you? Have you taken time to truly enter into your Lenten fasting and spiritual growth? Or has it just been another blur of a month in the midst of all your busy parish programming?

Don’t Forget.

That’s the story of my life. God proves His love for me, and by the next scene, I’m wondering who He is. Yet somehow my forgetfulness doesn’t deter Him, and He sets out again each day to win my heart.

Often in youth ministry, it feels like we’re trying to come up with catchy semester themes and culturally relevant tie-ins to repackage the same simple message. Our retreats and events keep revolving around the counter-cultural reality that God is a loving Father who wants to provide for us, His children.

Monotony in Ministry

To say the least, I was ecstatic. The Core Team was shocked and the kids beyond excited! Stuff like this just doesn’t happen every day.

The visit itself was grand. The youth decorated hand-made posters welcoming him and escorted him to our gymnasium where he was greeted with applause. Our Bishop spent an entire hour answering every last question these young people had. He joked with them, shared his favorite sport (which is college football), how he discerned the vocation of Holy Orders, and his first meeting with Pope Francis.

Don’t Let Ministry Rule Your Marriage

I know that there are many spouses out there who may be less than interested in being your Core Member or your go to date to all the youth’s extracurricular events, but for Joe and I it is a little bit different. Since we both love and understand the importance of youth ministry we have experienced many blessings and many struggles. While I would not change our situations for the world, there are a few things that we do, and would suggest, so that ministry does not take over our marriage.

All Things New: Lessons I Learned on our High School Retreat

Teens who had never been to Eucharistic Adoration before and had run from the very notion of encountering Jesus now lined up to stand face to face, nose to nose, with Jesus in the monstrance and to be introduced to him and prayed with. Sins were renounced. Hearts were healed. Teens that had turned their back on the faith now clutched the humeral veil and kissed the monstrance with tears in their eyes. A brother and sister who had lost their dad now felt the love of the Father. Young men in the clutches of sexual sin resolved to step up and out of their lust. Young women who had been hiding from love finally opened their hearts perfect Love.

What Does Fonzie Have to do With Holiness?

Do you remember Fonzie? From Happy Days? He was my hero as a child. He had awesome hair and a strong personality that showed he was calm, yet always in charge.

I’ll always remember the way he carried himself, from his shiny leather jacket, to the way he turned on the juke box by pounding it just right with his fist. Fonzie was the poster child for what seemed to be a perfect life. Any fears or insecurities he had were safely masked beneath the hard surface of his gelled hair and his Harley.

Does My Pastor Know I’m Catholic?

I was forced to ask myself, does my pastor know I’m Catholic? What about the rest the staff? If someone walked in off the street, knowing nothing about the Catholic faith or what all those crosses and stained glass stand for, would they think that this was anything but just another office?