I have some friends who particularly notice if there are wrinkles in an altar cloth. I have always found their obsession with wrinkle free altar material a bit much, but the other day, I found myself looking at an altar and thinking—wow, that could use some ironing. In the scheme of the glory of Mass, the wrinkles are pretty insignificant.
There are a lot of small things in our Life Nights and Edge Nights that, like wrinkles, don’t particularly matter in the bigger scheme. Taking time to get the iron and smooth these things out, though, will make for a better experience for our youth. I admit, I’m not a fan of ironing, but I recognize that taking time to do it—whether for altar cloths for the small pieces of a youth night can make a big difference.
Games and Activities
It is great to get everyone up, moving, and interacting. There are a lot of great games that can make the nights more fun. The wrinkle is that sometimes we add an activity simply for the sake of activity, with no tie in to the theme or goal of the night.
One year I had a group whose energy level demanded that we do something active before they would sit for a proclaim. The challenge was to find an activity that we could directly tie to the message of the night. A Core Member from an area parish shared with me that after a youth asked about the seemingly pointless activities, the teams were making sure that they always had a relevant connection.
Explanations and Assumptions
You know how when you read something over and over that you’ve written (like an important email or letter), you miss your own typos? I am convinced it is because we know what we were supposed to write and so we just read it that way anyway. This can be the same way with different components of a youth night. Sometimes the Core Team or Youth Minister who plans a certain part might be so familiar with it that when they start to explain it to the youth, details are left out. We assume that everyone knows what’s happening or what to do because we know.
This can cause quite a wrinkle because people end up confused about what’s going on – simply because we didn’t give complete directions or explanations. Don’t assume. Don’t leave people in the dark. Give clear and complete explanations and directions to different activities.
Audio and Visual
I think we all learn this ironing technique in public speaking class, but we still forget it when we’re rushed setting up for a Life Night or Edge Night. Before the night begins – not just right before, but significantly before, check the A/V equipment and make sure it works.
When there is a delay because the video doesn’t start or that laptop doesn’t read that file type or the sound doesn’t come on at the right time, it causes a distracting wrinkle in the night. When I have checked on these things beforehand we have been able to come up with solutions. Sure, sometimes things don’t work even after you’ve done a run through prior, but don’t ask for problems by not doing the prep work.
None of things should make or break a youth night, but they certainly can take away or enhance your ability to lead teens to Christ. Maybe these three things aren’t your particular wrinkles, but take some time at your next planning meeting to talk about what yours are. Then, get out the iron and see what you can do better to make your nights go smoother.