Every youth minister would like to think that they have the most original, incredible, committed, and creative Core Team on planet earth and to some extent they do. I have seen Life Nights skits so creative and funny that Saturday Night Live would hire the Core as writers and possibly actors. I have witnessed relational ministry that would rival our Holy Father and Blessed Mother Teresa in compassion, intentionality, and prayer.
When I arrive at a parish, I often find Core Members long before I find the youth minister, which shows me the extraordinary commitment Core has made to the teens and ministry. But I would like to argue that Core Teams are 100% original.
You see, at every single parish I visit I can always identify the Core Member I call “Jo.” “Jo” can be short for Joe, Joseph, Josephine or Josaphat; the name really doesn’t matter, the person, however, definitely does.
“Jo” is the Core Member that remains constant for the teens, parents and Core through every youth minister transition. “Jo” is amazing at relational ministry and knows more about the teens than the youth minister due to the fact that he or she has been present through thick and thin. For some reason “Jo” knows how to set up and tear down all the audiovisual equipment the parish has including speakers, projectors, screens and laptops and if the parish doesn’t own the equipment, for some unforeseen reason “Jo” does. “Jo” is fluent in Mac and PC and has every adaptor known to man. He or she can run lyrics for Mass, never skipping a transition while being the main actor in the skit for the Life Night. “Jo” shows up on time (well most of the time), is the first to volunteer to be on the set up team for retreat and is basically willing to do anything you ask of him or her. “Jo” is your go-to Core Member and you feel lost when he or she takes a Sunday off (which never happens).
Face it; you can name your parish “Jo” already, can’t you? If you can’t you’re on your knees praying for him or her to magically appear. For a new youth minister, “Jo” is invaluable and the greatest fear is that he or she will burn out or leave ministry.
So how do you avoid your greatest fear? It’s simple: you praise God for “Jo”, you affirm him or her in very subtle ways, and you make “Jo” take a Sunday off from time to time (possible even a break here and there).
You see “Jo” doesn’t want any attention; he or she is the most humble Core Member you will ever have. “Jo” will also attend every Youth Mass, Bible Study, Life Night and retreat you offer. “Jo” might even offer to start a “Going Deeper” ministry if you ask, but “Jo” needs a break from time to time and the only way he or she will take it is if you offer it. A simple Sunday off or a 2-3 week break is something “Jo” needs more than he or she even knows.
All Core can run the risk of going through the motions of doing and not remember why or who they are doing it for. “Jo’s” can get so involved in leading teens closer to Christ that they don’t make time for their own relationship with Christ. Inviting “Jo” to go on a personal retreat or suggesting a good spiritual book to read instead of planning a Life Night is just what the Doctors of the Church ordered.
As youth ministers, we must encourage this balance and invite all our “Jo’s” to a deeper discernment of their relationship with Christ.
As much as your “Jo” is unique and original in personality and appearance, he or she is the one unoriginal Core Member I can count on finding at every Life Teen parish I attend. Once I meet him or her, a big smile comes to my face. I hope that reading this puts an even bigger smile on your face as well as an immense sense of gratitude.
Take a few minutes today to call your “Jo” and share with them how thankful you are for their years of service to the teens and if you can, write about your “Jo” in the comments below so this Thanksgiving, as a Life Teen family, we can give thanks for the many Core Members who are making a difference in leading teens closer to Christ.