It’s like the real estate agents’ mantra: location, location, location. It’s repeated 3 times emphasizing how important location is for a real estate property. In Catholic youth ministry our mantra is: the teens, the teens, the teens! How often does the stress of parish politics, the mountains of safe environment paperwork or the unending stream of adult coaches from the sideline distract us from focusing on the teens? A friend of mine once said “Young people will come to us seeking Christ, how tragic if all they find is us.” Those words have never left me. They have strengthened my resolve to make sure that I am doing all I can be to be a reflection of Christ in our world. If we are not focused on the teens who come to us seeking, how will we be able to point them to Christ?
To remain focused on teens doesn’t require new eyes, it requires a servant heart. A servant heart sees things that the non-servant heart has yet to grasp. We are all called to serve by our Baptismal call. Who do you serve? I chose a long time ago to serve teens. Teens are amazing and after all these years I still enjoy hanging out with them and journeying with them toward Christ. Serving teens is what drives me everyday. It is what pops me out of bed in the morning and what motivates me to get on planes and fly around the globe advocating for them. Teens need people in their lives who are vibrantly living a Catholic faith and who are focused on leading them closer to Christ.
“Our church, indeed, has a triumphant face. But such triumph is but drama and theater if we do not embody, day in and day out, year in and year out, our witness to the poor and vulnerable in our midst: to the vulnerable unborn, to children and youth who turn to us for formation, to the hungry, to the homeless — the abused, the immigrant, the stranger and the powerless. So long as our witness to them is powerful and prophetic, our triumphant song and liturgy is pleasing to God…. If the preaching of the Gospel is my preeminent obligation, may it be most visible in our service, together, to the poor.” -Most Rev. William Francis Medley, Fourth Bishop of Owensboro (Concluding Remarks, Mass of Ordination 10 February 2009)
So take a minute and ask yourself this simple question.
Am I focused on the teens right now in my ministry?
If the answer is yes – then you are on track, If the answer is no, stop what you are doing and go hang out with some teens. One of the main reasons youth leaders burn out is because they stop spending time with teens. All the planning, skits, videos and amazing talks will all fade in a teens memory. What the teens will remember is you – someone who lived their faith and took the time to focus on them. If you have lost the art of focusing on teens, I pray you have the guts to admit it and renew your commitment to the Catholic youth ministry mantra: the teens, the teens, the teens!