Tell the Truth: Marriage Equality and Your Teens

This is the holiest time of the year. Yet, the headline of Christ’s death and resurrection has been usurped by the two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court related to the definition of marriage. The conversation about homosexuality and same-sex marriage has reached a sort of frenzy as people have waited in line to get a seat at the Supreme Court, as reporters have tried to guess what the justices are thinking, and as everyone’s comments and opinions have taken over social media. Despite how common this issue is right now, it can be a difficult one to address with our teens because it is such a polarized topic. We do our youth an injustice if we never talk about it, though. They need to know what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality and marriage, and why the two don’t go together.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #35: The Finale “YM’s vs. Food”

Any good series must eventually come to an end. Lord of the Rings, Rocky, and Seinfeld all eventually had to conclude, which means, yes, one day we will all face the depressing reality that the same fate will plague Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. (I’ll give you second to let the sink in.) Okay. Hopefully […]

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #34: Corny Jokes

As corny as the jokes may be, I learned several years ago that they can be an effective way of breaking the ice in an otherwise awkward group of middle school and high school teenagers. After all, nothing says, “I’m way more goofy than you are,” than a really bad joke with a cheesy punch line. So this one is for all of you comedians turned youth ministers, keep up with the bad jokes. Trust me, one day you are going to overhear that teen who stared at you blankly telling one of his friends, “Okay, so two fish were in a tank . . . ” And if they can remember a cheesy joke like that, just think about what they'll remember about Jesus.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #33: Plaid Shirts

So when it came to looking fashionable as a youth minister, I had no hope. I had no desire to grow a goatee, wouldn’t let skinny jeans within a mile of my closet, and wouldn’t wear plaid if I were paid to play on the PGA Tour. As a youth minister, this evidently put me in the minority. I even used to get stared at during training conference by groups of youth ministers who appeared to be thinking, “What’s wrong with you? You’re not one of us.”

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #32: Using Their Car as an Office

Praise God for my car! And even though it was held together with a couple clothespins and some paperclips, it served as a great mobile storage unit. Where else was I supposed to keep those buckets of Red Vines before the big Fall Kickoff? And while towing around ten boxes of Bibles for Confirmation Candidates in my trunk for two months didn’t do much for my miles per gallon, it was just more convenient.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #31: Unique Christmas Parties

So as adults we find another way to celebrate the season: Christmas parties. Unfortunately, most Christmas parties are best described as a bunch of adults standing around and talking to each other while eating cheese and crackers and trying to avoid that one crazy friend who drove up in a mini van decorated with “antlers” and a “Rudolph” nose. And then of course, you also have to deal with the fact that you know twelve different people throwing a party, but there’s only four weekends in December before Christmas.It’s at this moment, when I praise God for Youth Ministry.The very best Christmas parties I’ve ever been to were at youth groups.

Snapchat: The Truth About This Popular App

The biggest problem with an app like this is that it allows teens, especially those that are tempted to engage in sexting, to perpetuate a false identity online while also giving them a false sense of security. Once a picture is taken and texted to another person it can’t just “disappear forever.” The receiver of the message could take a screenshot of their phone or take a picture of their phone with another device. Plus, there’s the reality of it going through Snapchat’s servers as well.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #30: Talking About Their Kids

So, how do these stories relate?Maybe it’s because we’re all God’s children. Perhaps it has to do with being obedient to our Father. Or maybe the love parents have for their kids is similar to the unconditional love God has for all of us.As a parent of a 7-month old now, I can definitely say that last one is true. I’ll do anything to bring my son closer to Christ, and I hope that one day, there is a youth minister with enough guts to do the same.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #29: Rule Skits

But for some reason it does, and all of us youth ministers are better off for it. After all, when teens know the rules and follow the rules, it allows them to enter into the most important rule of all: to keep an open heart for the weekend.And if it takes SpongeBob to get that across, well, so be it.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #28: A Parish Staff Meeting Survival Guide

Honestly, if I could do it all over again, I would have been more intentional about engaging in Parish Staff Meetings. Not only were they a great opportunity to be an advocate for the youth, but they were a chance to genuinely take an interest in the work of my fellow staff members. Maybe if I had done that, they would have taken a greater interest in my ministry.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #27: Teens.

For any youth minister, there is nothing like watching a teen come to understand God’s unconditional love for them. There is nothing like seeing a group of teens in line for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And there is nothing like knowing that a teen who just went off to college knows that the God of the universe is truly present in the Eucharist in any Catholic Church they attend.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #26: Bus Trips

I miss those bus rides. As terrifying as it was to be in charge of 64 people, it was so humbling that God had put me there to keep them safe so He could do His work. And on some of those bus rides people did get sick, and the A/C once went out, and we did get a flat tire that forced us to play a solid three hours of cheesy youth ministry games. But through it all there was great relational ministry, lots of laughs, and conversion.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #25: Handheld Microphones

There’s just something about a handheld microphone that gives you instant credibility as a youth minister. Maybe it’s because you can have the loudest voice in the room. Maybe it’s because it allows you to have better command of your youth group. Maybe it’s because it makes you look like some sort of youth ministry gangsta even when that battery cover is held together with 2 rolls of duck tape.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #24: School Lunches

There is nothing that evokes a wider ranger of emotions than walking into a high school lunchroom. You both feel simultaneously bold, apostolic, timid, and self-conscious: “Wow, I’m just like the Apostle Paul walking into the Areopagus about to preach Christ . . . wait, are those football players judging me? Oh boy, where am I supposed to sit? What if no one wants to sit with me? I gotta get out of here!”

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #22: Your Friendly Maintenance Man

Oh how thankful I was for our maintenance man. While the bookkeeper couldn’t understand how chocolate syrup, marshmallows, and a marshmallow shooter could lead teens closer to Christ, the maintenance man had no questions, only suggestions:“You know, Eric. If you take the marshmallow and dip it in butter first, you’d be surprised how far they go.”

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #21: Citing Scripture

I want to let you in on a youth ministry secret that took me years to realize – if you want to sound smarter, you need to cite passages from the Bible in your talks. Now, that may sound simple to you and perhaps you already do this, if so, you know where I am coming from.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #20: Over-the-Top Kickoffs

As youth ministers we love our over-the-top kickoffs. It’s our chance to show the teens that contrary to popular belief we do get outside our chapels and know how to have a good time. Hey, and maybe, just maybe if we do it well enough, they’ll come back the following week. One could only hope right? After all, what’s the point of a great Fall Kickoff if the teens don’t get to experience Jesus the other various times we meet throughout the year.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #19: Becoming a Catholic Speaker

So here is what I realized: We need great Catholic speakers, but we need great youth ministers, because those speakers aren’t coming home on the bus – you are. Those speakers won’t be at your local high school – you need to be. And ten years from now, a teen may remember a great talk, but they aren’t going to invite that speaker to their wedding – they are going to invite you.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #18: “I’m Poor” Conversations

If you’ve ever listened to a youth minister, you have probably heard him or her talk about a number of things, including but not limited to: Jesus, the Church, the best use of shaving cream in an opening icebreaker. Being pulled in so many different directions, youth ministers have an array of knowledge on many […]

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #17: Acronyms

Simply put, acronyms make our lives a little bit easier, allow us to seem a little bit cooler, and show teens that we can speak their language. This way teens know that when they tell us they will BRB or that they are JK, we can feel like we too FI (Fit In- Yeah, I made that up. Now try dropping it on your teens). So, much like the river, we just need to let the acronyms flow, unless any of you happen to know a Doctor Emmett Brown, and if so, I need to contact him ASAP.

The Key to Keeping Your Teens Coming Back

Then there were the times when I was really desperate and would make grand promises: “We’ve got a mystery guest tonight. You won’t want to miss this.”And how did the teens respond?“That Life Night was good, but it wasn’t the best ever.”“I thought you said there were going to be some surprises.”“I don’t know if you dressed as Batman really qualifies as a mystery guest.”

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #16: Donations

There is a phone conversation that every youth minister has had; and it generally happens the same way: Youth Minister: Hello, youth ministry office. Benevolent Parishioner: Hi there. I have a (insert name of random item here) that I would like to give to the teen life program. Would the teens like it? Youth Minister: […]

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #15: Exclamation Points

If you ask me, we’ve given in to punctuation discrimination! And that just isn’t right. In the world of youth ministry marketing, one, single exclamation point came in like David and destroyed the period like it was Goliath. In fact it seems that our mindset is that if you’re using periods instead of exclamation points, well, you’re just not passionate enough, and maybe it’s time to talk with your pastor about discerning another ministry for you.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #14: The 5 People You’ll See in Any Crazy Group Photo

Ahh yes. We do love our retreat weekends. In fact we love them so much that it’s not enough for us to capture this moment with a simple photo. Nope. Somewhere in the history of youth ministry, someone had the bright idea to add a crazy group photo to the mix. And, much like that “Banner Over Me” song, it just won’t go away.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #13: Marrying Up

I remember the day I knew I wanted to become a youth minister. It was at a Steubenville Catholic Youth Conference in St. Louis. I was going into my sophomore year of high school and was awkward, sunburnt, and commonly referred to by girls as “best friend material.” (For those of you who have never been “best friend material,” it’s a high school girl’s way of saying you will never go on a date.)

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #12: The Jesus Cheer

Regardless of the response, we all want the teens to get excited for any youth ministry event. Why? Because we want them to come to know the unconditional love of Christ that we know in our lives. I mean, after all, we love Jesus, yes we do. We love Jesus, and the teens should too.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #11: Pizza

So maybe it’s a little clichÈ. Maybe it’s a “cheesy” way to invite teens to Youth Group. But any upper “crust” Youth Minister will tell you that no matter how you “slice” it, free pizza just sounds more appealing than: “Hey teens, join us tonight for our Fall Kickoff as we play hopscotch while eating broccoli trunks wrapped in raw spinach leaves.”

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #10: Caffeine

A few years ago I stumbled out of bed at 5:30 AM during a leadership conference for teenagers. I had risen at such a ridiculous hour because I knew that the teens I had brought with me would all soundly be sleeping until 7:30 AM, which is when the female chaperone and I would wake […]

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #9: Apple Products

In addition to a Bible, Catechism, and well-placed highlights, recent trends suggest that successful youth ministry also includes the incorporation of as much Apple brand technology as possible.While the origin of this principle remains uncertain and is not directly cited in Renewing the Vision, many attribute the idea to Peter Pilaf’s groundbreaking seminar at St. Isidore University in the spring of 2004 where he dazzled undergraduates in attendance with slides from his MacBook. When asked about the content of the presentation, a sophomore theology major explained, “I don’t really remember, it was something about youth ministry or evangelization or whatever—I was just there for extra credit. But the graphics on Keynote were amazing.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #8: Rudy

One of the greatest dilemmas any Youth Minister faces is what to do during a long bus ride. “I Spy” gets old real quick, sing-a-longs died when the Brady Bunch was canceled, and a game of License Plate Bingo is just not as exciting as it sounds. With options dwindling, there’s always one choice that […]

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #7: Complaining

I knew a youth minister who literally worked inside of a closet. Sure, it had been “renovated,” but it didn’t alter the fact that his ministry was based out of a “former” closet. It was the kind of closet that makes a person long for a cubicle; it still smelled like toilet bowl cleaner and that stuff you use to clean up tile floor when a kid tosses his cookies post-dodgeball game.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #6: The Dramatic Pause

As a Youth Minister one of the biggest parts of your job description is to teach teens the faith. Now, if the previous statement came as a shock to you . . . umm . . . well . . . you may want to chat with your Pastor. If not, then you know the […]

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #5: Red Vines

You’ve only got a couple hours until youth group starts and you realize you forgot to buy food. With only $20 left in your budget and the need to feed 200 teens, as a youth minister, you know there’s only one item that can save you now: Red Vines.What is it about Red Vines that we as youth ministers love so much?

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #4: Gross Icebreakers

Maybe it’s because these games immediately evoke a reaction – be it laughter or gagging – from a sometimes apathetic and lethargic group of teenagers. Maybe it’s because we are able to relate the caramel onion to the reality of sin; it may look good but it’s actually disgusting. Or maybe it’s just because after a week of parent phone calls, late permission slips, and teens texting through an entire teaching . . . a disgusting icebreaker is our way of saying, “I win.”

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #3: Saying “Awesome”

Ok. Admit it. You’ve used it. You know you have, but perhaps you don’t know to what extent. Perhaps you don’t realize that it’s the one word you use to describe every youth ministry activity that you’ve planned. For some reason, the word “awesome” is always on the tip of your tongue. At some point […]

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #2: Retreat T-Shirts

I remember the day I really became a youth minister. It was a cool, fall morning in Wisconsin, and as I rolled out of bed at 11:45 AM and like a zombie walked toward my closet, my heavy eyes searched for some daily attire. I pulled out a t-shirt. “Come Alive – Retreat 2011.” And […]

Messy Game Ideas: Ketchup, Eggs, and Spam, Oh My!

What do ketchup, spam, ho ho’s, peanut butter, eggs, soap, and pickles have in common? They make awesome games for youth ministry! Spring is fast approaching and for many in youth ministry that means (even more so now) teens will be away on vacation, involved in athletics, preparing for final exams and beginning their summer jobs. As always, families must coordinate schedules and get togethers. By the time it hits Sunday, most people are more likely to be found in bed rather than going to Mass. It is our job to get them there and to be excited about our faith. Why not spice up your life night with some wild and messy activities.

Stuff Youth Ministers Like #1: Shaving Your Head To Get Teens to Youth Group

Whether you’ve been in Youth Ministry since the revolutionary invention of the overhead projector or you’re fresh out of college with a guitar strapped to your back and a Frisbee in hand, there’s a good chance that you’ve asked yourself the question, “How do I get teens to come to youth group?” I remember asking […]

These 40 Days of Lenten Music

In just over a week we enter into the sacred season of Lent. Forty days of fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and a call in this “Year of Faith” proclaimed by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to strengthen our faith and to help strengthen the faith of others. So what will change? In our own lives, […]

Going Deeper, Part 3: Hand Motion Sickness

Don’t get me wrong, Catholics pray with their body. We lie prostrate, we kneel, we sit, and we fold our hands in a posture of prayer. Sometimes we even extend our hands over our head in an open posture of worship. All of these postures, even the hands over the head, are rooted in Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. They reflect the interior disposition of the soul and it’s receptivity to Christ. So what about hand motions? Why do I say it is not prayer?

Watching YouTube “Religiously”

By now, anyone who has, or who works closely with teens has undoubtedly heard about the “Why I hate religion but love Jesus” video that has gone viral on YouTube. Forgive me for not linking to it… my Mom taught me to keep gasoline away from matches (after my brothers and I almost launched our riding mower into outer space in 1982). Incidentally, my mother also taught me not to use the word “hate,” but that’s a different story for another day.

“Attitude Reflects Leadership”: What Kind of Leader Are You?

As a Youth Minister, you are the leader, the captain of your Core Team. They look to you for direction, guidance, and inspiration when it comes to leading teens closer to Christ. They want training and clear communication so that they can effectively fulfill their role, and yet, as I talk with Youth Ministers around the country, arguably their biggest frustration is with their Core Team. Perhaps the Core Team isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s the captain.

Are You Tebowing?

Other than illegal hits to the head and questionable calls by referees, the most controversial part of the NFL season is a phenomenon called “Tebowing”. Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow openly proclaims his faith in interviews, post game press conferences, in coffee shops or wherever he is. After touchdowns and during particularly tense moments of […]

Are You Planking?

The past few months people keep sending me planking photos. Planking†is an activity or game consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the internet is an integral part of the game.†Players […]

Bambi is a boy deer?!?

I’m not the smartest guy on the block. God, in His mercy, is constantly reminding me of how little I know. He does this through marriage, parenthood, ministry, and, well, just about every facet of my life. I do know movies, however – at least I thought I did. So imagine my surprise several years back when I plopped down on our sofa for our “Family Movie Night” and ten minutes into the Disney classic Bambi I come to find out that Bambi is male.

10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Youth Minister

I recently posed a question on my Twitter and Facebook pages to a variety of youth ministers asking, “What things do you wish someone told you before you became a youth minister?” After receiving a variety of responses, it was evident that there were many recurring themes. For those of you who are thinking of becoming youth ministers, and even for some of you grizzly veterans who have seen one too many high school productions of “Grease,” here are 10 things I wish someone told me before I became a youth minister (with a little help from my friends).

Responding to the Death of a Teen

I minister in a town of about 50,000 drawing on 3 different high schools. In the last 18 months, 8 high school teenagers have died unexpectedly from car accidents, illness, and suicide. In the midst of all of this tragedy, I have learned 4 important lessons about how we should respond to teen death within our communities.

Bringing Lent to Life: Resources for Lent

Each Lent, we have another great opportunity to immerse our teens into the heart of the Church. We have such a gift in the 40 days of Lent. We need to walk with our teens through the desert of Lent and help them meet our Lord there. Our ministry should be a reflection of the changes happening in the Liturgy and be an invitation to fully participate in the mystery of Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection. There are a lot of resources that Life Teen has for you to being Lent to Life in your program.

The Role of Music within the Liturgy

Fr. Robert Schreiner, priest for the Diocese of Crookston, shares the role of music within the Liturgy. If you have ever had a question about music, the Liturgy, and Life Teen, this is a must watch video. The video comes from the 2010 Life Teen Liturgy and Music Conference.