This Sunday (Divine Mercy Sunday) is the 25th Anniversary of the first Life Teen Mass at St. Timothy’s Catholic Community in Mesa, Arizona – where Life Teen began. Even for most of the parishoners at St. Tim’s the significance of this amazing day may not be fully realized. Imagine if your parish had strong youth ministry for 25 years? What the Catholic community of St. Timothy’s in Mesa, Arizona did is nothing short of phenomenal.
Here are 7 key things St. Timothy’s does to transform the lives of many people young and old.
1. An Investment is Continually Made in Parish Youth Ministry -
The teens attending St. Tim’s know that they are loved. Not only are there people there that tell them that – they sense it by the parishes commitment to having a full time Life Teen youth minister, Edge coordinator, a great youth room and priority building space for Life nights, dances and prayer experiences. The teens at St. Tim’s know that they are an important part of the parish. Families still drive miles across town just to attend St. Timothy’s because of the youth ministry there.
2. The Focus of the Youth Ministry Stays on the Eucharist -
The Teen Liturgy is what St. Timothy’s Life Teen and music ministry staff spend most of their time and effort on. Each Mass on Sunday Nights is an experience that’s goal is nothing less than transformation. Teens are addressed specifically for at least a portion of the homily, helping the Gospel and Catholic Church come alive for young people. Teens have been and still are so in to Mass that they can’t help but pray, sing and fully participate. When teens go to St. Tim’s struggling from a long week of whatever life has thrown at them – they are not only listened to, they are led to the Eucharist as source and summit and the answer to the tough questions or situations they find themselves in.
3. A Commitment to Away Teen Retreats -
From the beginning St. Timothy’s started taking teens away for weekend retreats. The priests, youth minister, core team, musicians and even a parent led kitchen crew put on amazing retreats that have traditionally sold out with waiting lists to attend. The great thing about the retreats is that they are all backdrops for deep Sacramental experiences. Most teens come home saying the best part of the retreat was Mass, Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration. Taking teens away has also built strong community for Life Teen at St. Timothy’s.
4. Embracing the Fact – Teens Learn Experientially -
St. Timothy’s from the start of Life Teen there did away with the classroom setting of catechesis and never looked back. They sensed that teens had spent enough time in the classroom at school. St. Tim’s knows teens need to hear about and experience the fullness of the Catholic faith in small and large group settings where they play a key role. St. Tim’s still does Life nights the same way they did when they started. Teens still don’t know what to expect other than it is going to be something they won’t want to miss. Oh and by the way – the teens at St. Timothy’s not only are learning the Catholic faith, they are being transformed by their involvement.
5. Make a Commitment to Quality Music -
St. Timothy’s has been a launching pad for some of the top Catholic musicians in the Church today. Tom Booth, Matt Maher, Tim and Julie Smith, Ike Ndolo and Jenny Pixler are among the many Catholic musicians that have once called St. Timothy’s home. Teens listen to many hours of music a day and the music ministry at St. Tim’s knew that the quality of the music at Liturgies needed to be excellent if they wanted teens to participate. Not only do teens respond to quality music, but adults of all ages do as well. One thing you know when you attend Teen Mass at St. Timothy’s – the music is going to be great!
6. See Youth Ministry as a Team Approach
The priest, youth minister and music minister have always been a team planning liturgies, retreats and events for teens. St. Timothy’s changed the typical parish youth ministry organizational chart of a youth minister with a couple of volunteers or chaperones to a Core Team model. This Core team model has averaged over 20 dedicated Core team members each year responding to their Baptismal Call to serve. The youth minister spends time developing the Core team and together they can reach many teens more than a smaller group could ever hope to reach. St. Timothy’s also started the Parent Life ministry to team up with parents.
7. Live the the Call to Share Blessings!
Not only did St. Timothy’s take care of the teens there, they helped parishes all over the world to have better youth ministry. The parish still supports the National Life Teen Movement by providing host housing for Life Teen missionaries, hosting visiting priests and youth leaders during the year and for training conferences. One gets the sense that St. Timothy’s has been so blessed over that they can’t help but give back to others in need.
Keep in mind that St. Timothy’s is not perfect, over the years like many parishes they have had strong years and lean years in youth ministry. Like other parishes the community has experienced incredible moments of joy and intense moments of sadness. Good people have come and good people have left. The parish has been written about and held up as a model in magazines and the parish has had times of being humbled. Teens have made incredible transformations and teens have not connected and moved on. It has not always been easy at St. Tim’s – the one constant has been the parishes incredible commitment and advocacy for teens!
St. Timothy’s congratulations on 25 amazing years of setting the bar higher for all of us involved in Catholic youth ministry. On behalf of all of the Life Teen family – thank you St. Tim’s for your hospitality, hard work, fortitude and relentless pursuit of ministry excellence. May the teens and community at St. Timothy’s be richly blessed for many more years.