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 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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
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 […]
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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,” 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. […]
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 […]
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Not everyone is going to understand youth ministry, or why we do what we do even if we don’t have thousands of teens flooding the doors, but that’s okay. It shouldn’t deter us from the great mission we’ve been called to, and if you are feeling defeated, or undervalued, just remember that even Jesus experienced persecution.
Without doubt, the fruits of what God has allowed to happen at our parish have come from those seeds of prayer, planted by those original 13 “prayer warriors.” Now, that ministry has doubled in size (not counting all the nursing home residents, visited by some of those warriors, who are also praying for us). Anytime we face a need, an adversity… those “prayer warriors” are there to lift up the ministry and the teens.
In hopes to provide a way to facilitate a discussion about this film, we’ve created a resource for you to use with your youth. The goal of this resource is to break down the themes of suffering, brokenness, and hope, as well as, help the youth see that God is always present even in the worst of circumstances.
To keep it Catholic, let’s acknowledge we’re a bit ahead of the game on the New Year. Why? Because our new year started back in December (living liturgically folks!)! But, let’s jump on the bandwagon of January 1st in popular culture because who doesn’t need a reason to get goal oriented again?
As hot chocolate, pine trees and sale ads start to clutter the minds of many this Advent season, we as Catholics are reminded the reason for the season. If we’re to keep Christ in Christmas, we have got to remember to slow down, simplify, and sanctify (a message my pastor reiterates year round). Slow Down […]
The Edge Night itself ran flawlessly with a very empowering proclaim about the different between needs and wants in our lives. It even featured a PowerPoint of different pictures to help keep the youth engaged; it was spot on. When we got to the time for small groups I was really excited because it had been such a great talk I was sure they would have lots to say.
So after asking the question, “What do you remember most from the talk?” I was bombarded with a deafening silence only broken by a few less than inspiring answers.
Youth Ministry isn’t a one-man show, but don’t we act like it sometimes? As youth ministers I think we all have a tendency to buy into the lie that unless we have our hands in everything in someway then we’re not doing our job. You are human and you can only do so much. Do not be afraid to ask for help. What can you give to your Core team to take off your plate? Can you ask a few parent volunteers to come in and help you do some cleaning and organizing?
It is that time again. It seem like every year that you sit down with your Core team or adults in the parish and discuss how to afford taking your teens on an upcoming trip. Bake sale? Car wash? Please don’t say we are selling frozen pizzas again.
Fundraising can seem like a burden that you didn’t sign up for when you took the job. You are a youth minister, you want to spend your time with the teens and help build faith and community at your parish, right?
This time of year, I start meeting with my Core Team to find out their intentions for the upcoming year. It’s a time of stress and worry – wondering who will choose to stay, who wants to leave, and who is interested in coming aboard. Core Member recruitment and retention can be one of the most important aspects for a youth minister to consider. When Core Members choose to stay – it’s a testament to your program and provides continuity and stability as your teens go from year to year.
This week at Edge we did the Edge Night from the Social Justice semester entitled Life is Wonderful. It is a night all about the dignity of the human person addressing some specific topics such as abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. At first I was a little leery as to how this topic would […]
Here’s 5 things that every youth leader needs to say often to teens.
Warning! This is as shocking as a God who is willing to die for the same people who nailed Him to the cross, a.k.a. you and me. If you are not willing to die for your youth, either: A) Quit Youth Ministry B) Get on your knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament If your […]
It’s that time of year for me where I’m fiercely recruiting CORE members, planning life nights, retreats, events, oh my! There are so many to dos at this time of year. And, this blog is about none of those things. It’s about an equally important list of things we forget to do in the hustle […]
There are a few reasons why I really like being an Edge Core Member. One of them being, I have finally found a direct answer to my prayers for an increase in humility. Seriously, if you ever want a little dose of being grounded from your self proclaimed coolness, just try to talk to a […]
Community service is the giving of ourselves to help others rather than a “project completed” or “hours counted.” As Jesus said, “For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve”‚Ä® (Mark 10:45). Below is a list of simple ways youth can reach out, make a connection and help others in […]
Part of the reason I got into youth ministry is to play games. Games are a great chance to help you bond with teenagers and kill extra time at the end of a Life Night or while waiting somewhere with your teens on a summer trip. So, I present to you my top five favorite […]
In ministry, it can be hard to separate our worship from our work. We want to ensure that our teens have prayerful experiences, but sometimes that means we lose sight of the beauty of the worship right in front of us. We allow ourselves to be Marthas so our teens and core can have Mary […]