Years ago I was asking some teenagers who had stopped coming to Life Nights “why they had stopped?” (which is a dangerous question to ask – your self-esteem will take a hit). Their answer astonished me – they said, “Because we do the same thing over and over, Jason.” They then made fun of a typical Life Night at my parish. We would have a funny video or skit, then a teaching by one of five Core members, small group discussion, a large group discussion, and some prayer at the end of the night. They would grab their snack (bought in bulk from Costco) and off they would go.
While I could have defended our program, pointing out that we had more variety, the reality was that the teens were right. We had gotten stale. We had become predictable and many times predictability leads to boredom. So, we made a conscious decision to “shake” things up and become more unpredictable with our Life Nights. Here are five things we did to re-invigorate our program:
- We decided to do a Life Night on the topic of change. Basically, we flipped everything in the night. The stage that was normally the front became the back. Then we did everything backwards for a Life Night. We started with snacks and worked our way backwards until we ended with a typical gathering video. The Life Night I am referring to can be found in LNPG v.3, volume 4 with the title of “Spare Change”. This ended up being one of the most talked about Life Nights ever. Teens started asking throughout the week what was going to be new on Sunday. It was great to simply smile and tell them, “You’ll have to be there to see what is going to happen.”
- Take a Life Night off (for the Core). Maybe bring in a guest speaker for the night or let some of the senior teens plan and execute a Life Night with your supervision.
- Mix up the Core’s typical responsibilities at a Life Night. So many times when I travel, I realize that many Core teams are made up of the same dynamics. We have the funny Core members who lead the ice breakers and make fools of themselves in skits. We have the “smart” Core members who do the teachings. We have the introvert who stretches themselves to lead a small group and we have the hard worker who cleans up everything immaculately after the Life Night. The problem is that we fall into the trap of having the same people doing the same thing at every Life Night. Change it up: have the “smart” Core member do the funny skit, have the funny Core member give a serious personal testimony, etc.
- Change the location of the Life Night. Get out of the parish hall or youth room and do the Life Night outside (weather permitting).
- Make a concentrated effort to utilize different teens throughout the Life Night. Get a new teen or one who does not come all the time to be in the video or a skit. Have a younger teen do a personal sharing (help them rehearse so they feel comfortable sharing). Do not rely on “the same 7 teens” who always say yes to doing something at the Life Night.
Who says Catholics are afraid to change?
Try something new this week.
I hope one of these suggestions resonate with you. I would love to add to the list with suggestions from everyone, therefore please send any other ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.