A LIFE Night is a weekly youth group meeting at a Life Teen Parish, usually held Sunday nights after Mass. LIFE Nights are structured by use the proven and successful “Gather, Proclaim, Break, Send” format. Just as the Mass has this liturgical flow – gather, proclaim, break, and send – LIFE Nights do the same.
Gather >> Proclaim >> Break >> Send
The Gather includes drawing teens into the LIFE Night’s environment. The beginning of the night includes welcoming new teens and introducing the actual topic of the night in a creative way. An example of Gather after an introduction might be this: In a non-threatening, non-consequential manner, ask the teens to raise their hands in response to the following series of questions, “How many of you have ever drank alcohol? How many of you have had a drink during the past month? How many of you drank during the past week? How many of you drank last night?” Below you will see how this example of Gather fits within the theme of a LIFE Night.
- When we refer to the environment, we are talking about decorations, transformation of the room into another scene, etc. The environment is a key element to a successful Gather of the LIFE Night. It makes it fun! Sell tickets to a Life Teen movie, close off the room to surprise teens with the theme of the night, or transform the room into a coffee shop, a boxing ring, or a spaceship. The Gather kicks off the night and is extremely important because it sets the tone for the evening. Will you be covering something serious, such as a reflection on Jesus’ crucifixion and the forgiveness of sins, or is it an “issue” night on peer pressure that deserves some humor?
- Creativity is essential. A solid Gather will immediately draw teens in and on the flip side; a weak Gather loses teens and makes it difficult to gain attention throughout the rest of the night.
- Greet, introduce, and welcome any new teens during the Gather.
- Deepen the sense of the Gather by way of a creative skit, a video, a song, or an activity. This is your chance to be Shakespeare or Spielberg. Write a skit. Direct a movie. Use the teens as actors. Ideas are endless.
- Use laughter! Starting LIFE Nights with humor will draw teens in.
“He who sits in the Heavens laughs…” Psalm 2:4
“Be on such simple, cordial terms with those under you that when you are all together, it would be impossible to say which is the superior.” – St. Vincent de Paul
The Proclaim is where the main message or lesson of the night is presented, including teachings, testimonials, and Catechesis. To carry out the example of a LIFE Night on alcohol, the Proclaim could be a video that includes sharing from a teenager who has been severely injured from a drunk-driving accident or who personally knows the pain of addiction. It would then be followed up with a short teaching on what the Church says about this topic.
- Like St. Paul, here is where you Proclaim the truth. This is where the main teaching of the night takes place. Use this time wisely. It is an opportunity to have teens present and open to your teaching.
- A CORE Member, a priest, youth minister, or guest speaker are options to present a strong Proclaim.
- Do not limit yourself. The teaching can be delivered in video, by more than one person (tag team), or by a character within a skit.
- Put time, prayer, and preparation into proclaiming the truth.
- The main teaching is usually between five and 20 minutes, depending on the topic.
- To keep the respect and attention is the teens, it is vital to have high quality in presentations. Use props, music, computer presentations, signs, and pictures that appeal to teens for your teachings.
- Learn to read and be sensitive to the attention level of the audience while you are giving a teaching. If the audience is not listening, alter how you are presenting immediately. Remember, you must keep regaining teens’ attention to reach them. The teaching is for their benefit, not yours.
- Do not bore teens in the way you deliver the Gospel or Church teaching. Speak to them on their level by giving examples and challenging them so that they relate to what you are saying and can apply it to their lives.
“Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7
The Break is where the topic of the night is discussed, reflected upon, and related to each teenager’s life. During the Break teens have the opportunity to recognize Jesus in their lives and digest the message they received in the Proclaim. Carrying forward the previous theme, example of Break is dividing into small groups to discuss how peer pressure affects a teen’s decision whether or not to drink when at a party.
- Strong ways to Break include small groups, personal reflection time, and one-on-one time for teens.
- Spend time developing and asking questions that will challenge teens to share deeply rather than on a surface level. Notice the answers that could be given for each of the following questions and compare. “How have you seen alcohol negatively affect lives and how does that affect your decision to drink?” and “If you drink, is it usually at parties or with friends?”
- This is usually the only specific sharing time for teens during a LIFE Night. It is important this time is not cut short.
- In small groups, make sure the size is manageable for sharing and keeping other teens involved. The most effective small group will not have more than eight teens.
- Please remember small groups are for the benefit of the teens. If your group grows above eight, send teens to another CORE Member.
Send teens forth after being empowered through the Proclaim to take the message out to their world. The Send includes prayer time, the closing of the night, and socializing. To continue our example of a LIFE Night on alcohol, the Send could be teens signing a contract committing to abstain from drinking for a two-month period of time. Of course, his is only a starting point for them to change their behavior completely. This all would be done in a spirit of prayer with song, dimmed lights, candles, or other activities and environments that reflect a call to conversion.
- The Send brings closure to the evening and gives teens an opportunity to commit to something and go forward being changed.
- * In conclusion of the LIFE Night, the Send is time to come before the Lord to embrace all that has been experienced. It is time to allow Him to mold our hearts and lives.
- Incorporate prayer as part of the Send for every LIFE Night.
- The goal is to have teens walk away from the night with something concrete for the Send. (e.g. a specific challenge, a pledge, a rosary, notes from the teaching.)
- Truly make this an experience of prayer and conversion. You could use things such as chastity commitment cards, adoration, incense, videos.)