How to Take Negative Feedback from a Parent

“Hi Kenn, I need to talk to you about last night’s teen life event. Can you call me?” Ever get that phone message in your voicemail? I love working with parents, but that voicemail always sends a chill down my spine and immediately gets me asking “what could they possibly want? And what if it’s bad feed back?”

Life is More Than Plants vs. Zombies

iPhone games are the best. Angry Birds, Plants Versus Zombies, Infinity Blade, Fruit Ninja, Temple Run – the list of our favorite games to play on our phones could go on and on. It’s really convenient to pull out my phone and be entertained while waiting in line somewhere, or for a few minutes at home before we’ve got to saddle up to head out somewhere.

4 Times And I’ll Never Bother You Again

What about those hard to reach teens who you have asked multiple times to attend events. Have you ever reached that point where it just didn’t seem worth it and you felt like you needed to do something more direct to try and draw them in? Last night while talking to one of our amazing […]

Why You Need to Read the Book “Rebuilt”

My pastor recently got me hooked on a book called “Rebuilt” by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran. The book chronicles their attempts to “re-build” their parish located in Timonium, Maryland. And, they’ve had a lot of quantifiable success. In their years since launching their efforts, they’ve rebuild their parish from a weekend attendance of 1,400 people to over 4,000 people. White and Corcoran are very upfront in saying their problems and solutions are not applicable in every parish. But, it certainly got my wheels turning about how I can be doing better ministry. These are the things that stood out to me as I read “Rebuilt.”

Do These 3 Things For a Week, and Double Your Confidence in Youth Ministry

Let’s face it, there can be no less thankful role in parish ministry than the youth leader or coordinator. With comments from parents asking you to do more and preach less to parish staff members wondering what you do all day, it can be a thankless role. I really don’t know of many youth leaders […]

Reaching Multi Screen Teens

On a recent visit to a local coffee shop to meet with a youth ministry friend, I was amazed to count that there were 52 people in the shop at 2 pm. Of the 52 people only my friend and I were having a face to face conversation. All 50 other people were sipping coffee […]

Making a Life Night Environment on a Budget

Making environments for retreats and life nights are some of my favorite parts of youth ministry. They really take a good life night to the next level and add some “wow!” factor when teens walk in the room. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend a lot of money to make a killer environment. However, times are changing and my Church is looking at greatly shrinking our budgets. How can youth ministry keep providing great environments for teens at a fraction of a cost? My solution is to build a few life night set-ups that I can reuse with elements I can swap in and out.

Always Step Outside Yourself

If there is one leadership skill that makes leaders stand out, it’s their ability to “work a room” or simply to step outside themselves and acknowledge most if not all people wherever they are. Recently while visiting a parish I asked a teen how he got involved in Life Teen? He simply looked at me […]

Thank God for Ministry Spouses!

Who are the men and woman who stay at home and eat dinner without his or her spouse every Sunday during Life Night? Who bathes the children and puts them to bed before the Life Night ends? Who prays as much, if not more, for the teens who are in the youth group? Who stands […]

The Young Church Needs More Sin… (So to Speak)

Teens – and adults – are being swallowed up and spit out by a secular humanist, morally relativist culture. People have forgotten a fundamental truth about sin: namely, that God did not give Adam and Eve the right to decide what was good and evil (subjective); in His mercy, He gave them the right to choose between good and evil (objective).

Is Your Ministry Fearless?

In fact, that’s why I became a youth minister. I knew it would be tough, but I was up for the challenge. (And, well, I wanted a gangsta job where I could use a handheld microphone regularly.)In reality, nine years of youth ministry taught me a lot about myself, but perhaps the biggest thing it showed me is that I’m not as brave as I thought. If I’m honest, there were a lot of times when…

Forgetting the 99

This is great motivation for outreach. We can never be satisfied with how many teens we have at our Life Nights or at our retreats, we always need to be reaching out to and sharing the Gospel with more. We always need to go after that one. But what happens if that one decides they aren’t interested? Or what happens if that one is a teen that was really involved, but suddenly disappears and you start hearing about all of their unholy exploits? What happens when that really involved senior goes to college and becomes an atheist?

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.