Over the past few years, there are a number of questions people have regarding Life Teen. Many of these questions come from people receiving partial information about what Life Teen is and what we offer. In an effort to serve the greater Church, let’s take a quick peek at the 12 most common misconceptions regarding Life Teen.
01. You have to have a very large budget to operate Life Teen. The annual fee of $695 (or $13.36 per week!) covers all the resources you need for a successfully launching and maintaining Life Teen at your parish. We recommend a full-time youth minister to oversee the implementation of the program, but it is not required. Some parishes have full time paid youth ministers while others have a volunteer coordinator/team. We also highly recommend the leadership team to attend a Life Teen training conference. We offer a wide variety of training opportunities for you, your Core, parents, musicians, priests and teens.
02. Life Teen will only impact the young people at your parish. My own experience as a youth minister with Life Teen has been incredibly fruitful for my own family, as a youth minister, and as a mother of sons who went through the program. Life Teen offers full programming for parents as well as teens, and is always welcoming the family to events. Teens are encouraged to share, for example, personal spiritual testimonies with their parents as well as the entire community. But when parents begin to see the beautiful changes in their teens, there is a natural desire to experience some of the same! Whether the family has a teen in the program at the time, or if the family is younger, how refreshing to witness hope in the hearts and lives of the teens!
03. Teens and their families should not sit together during the teen Mass. Many parishes invite the teens to sit in community during teen Mass for several reasons; here are a couple: 1) it makes it easier for the priest to emphatically address them when they are all together, 2) a teen who is there for the first time feels more comfortable, typically, when they are invited to sit with a group as opposed to sitting alone. Typically, the Life Night follows the Sunday evening Mass. But in some parishes the teen Mass is in the morning, to better accommodate families. We encourage families (the domestic church!) to sit together.
04. There are certain requirements to be a “member” of Life Teen. First of all, we are not a “club”. We offer resources, and invite you to network and pray with us, as Catholics, not just as “Life Teen parishes” or “Life Teen youth ministers”. We pray that we can reach more parishes because numbers = souls, but that would be our only reason. God has placed in the hearts of our staff the desire to serve the greater Church. We are blessed with people who have enormous God-given talent, and we want to offer our humble gifts. The question is: how can we serve you?
05. Life Teen is not a catechetical program. Life Teen is a youth ministry program that blends both evangelization and catechesis. Through a curriculum of Life Nights we are able to teach the faith to young people in dynamic, engaging ways. We are not a publishing company and we do not have a textbook, therefore our materials are not eligible for review on the approved catechetical textbook list. Our Curriculum Guides follow the working guidelines of the USCCB to provide parishes with a solid curriculum, and rely on the catechetical advice from many authorities, including Bishops who review and approve our material.
06. Life Teen is the only Catholic youth ministry program available today. There are others great programs and we honor all who diligently work to bring about solid Catholic youth ministry! Life Teen is not the “end all” to youth ministry. We work diligently to offer cutting edge teen-friendly resources, special events and camping experiences. Our training conferences are highly acclaimed. Our website is fantastic. But our simple yet constant mission remains: to lead teens closer to Christ. Whatever it takes. Period.
07. Life Teen will not work in a)multi-ethnic, b)small, c) megachurch setting. Myth. Life Teen will work where the soil is fertile. Prayer is the foundation to Life Teen in your parish, regardless of ethnic, geographical, or population challenges. There are benefits to each of these settings. Life Nights are designed to meet the needs of all teens. A wise and dedicated youth minister knows and understands the needs of his/her teens at the parish, and can tweak and change a Life night, to meet the needs of his/her teens. Creativity and flexibility is encouraged!
08. Only young, cool youth ministers can launch Life Teen successfully. God calls a variety of people to serve the young church! Authenticity is a most attractive component of a youth minister or Core member. Teens are looking for someone who can be “real” with them, someone who will minister from who they are, not as someone who they think they should be. I am not young and do not consider myself cool (well sometimes, sort of…) but I do know that God has firmly placed a passion in my heart to love teens and to share the Good News with them. Young cool youth ministers bring fresh vitality and energy that older youth ministers might not have, and older youth ministers have something that their young counterparts do not: wisdom and experience. God calls all ages, to serve all varieties of teens!
09. The Core team should be made up of young adults ages 19 – 35, and preferably single. The truth is that God calls all ages, all backgrounds. The teens are diverse and so are their needs. Some need the nurturing love of a grandma, others the understanding of someone who more recently faced challenges of living a chaste life. Husbands and wives that are on Core team offer a great example of what domestic church is; single parent Core members bring hope to others. The old saying of God doesn’t call the qualified; rather He qualifies the called is very true for a Core team!
10. Teens who are involved in Life Teen will not attend “regular” Mass after high school. Once teens truly experience the beauty of the Mass, a greater understanding of the Eucharist and the richness of our Catholic traditions, they receive tremendous blessings. We offer a teen Mass because we believe that teens are in and of themselves a culture. They will enter into worship more quickly when they understand what it means to fully, actively and consciously participate. Pope Benedict recently reminded us (in his most recent apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis) that the faithful are to take part in Eucharistic liturgy not as “strangers or spectators” but as participants “in sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, actively and devoutly.” We pray that our teens take the invitation to fruitfully participate in Mass quite seriously, all throughout their lives.
11. Life Teen discourages participation of parents. Life Teen recognizes the parents as the primary educators. Contrary to what some of us may think, no one knows the teens better than their parents! We welcome the advice, guidance and involvement of our parents.
12. It only takes one person to run Life Teen. It takes an army and the teens are worth the effort! A supportive pastor and a key person to coordinate are vital. The coordinator can recruit and train a Core team. A qualified music minister or worship leader can train a group of musicians for teen Mass. Dedicated teens who desire to go deeper in their faith are the evangelists to the greater community!