I remember driving as a 16 year old. I was one of the oldest students in my Sophomore class so driving was a big deal. It was even a bigger deal when my cousin would leave town and let me borrow his New Toyota Tacoma and then his New Chevy Tahoe. I’ll never forget his remarks about why he got a bigger truck. “Always go bigger or better when it comes to your car, house, or job.”
He didn’t know it at the time but that statement speaks truth to how we can work in ministry.
Living in Los Angeles I see tons of cars on the road, in driveways, and in large parking lots with cute, little, neon stickers and colorful balloons on them. It seems that every year the car manufacturers have come up with the latest style to woo and wow us into purchasing their make, model, and year. Although youth ministry is way more than getting teens to “buy into Church”, the process behind it is not. We should be constantly evaluating our ministries, seeking feedback, paying attention to the latest trends, and adapting ministry programs and events around our customers: the teens.
- Want to buy a new car with no engine? Keep the essentials.
You need an engine to run a car. You need Jesus to do ministry. If your youth ministry is no different than what people can get at their schools clubs or a non-Christian organization, what are you doing? There are essentials in ministry that should never be sacrificed: Prayer, Sacraments, Morality, and Vocations/Service. Find ways to incorporate them into yours.
- No one thought Hybrid cars would take off: Do something bold.
I’ll never forget the first time I told my teens we were not going to a Steubenville conference that summer but to a Life Teen Summer Camp instead. I was about to become St. Stephen with all of their disappointment and sadness. Steubenville conference was all they knew, how could they survive?!?
But I had prayed through it, talked it over with a few Core, and went with my gut. Camp came and went and they thrived! By the end of camp the teens specifically apologized for not trusting my decision to take them. They loved every second of it and more teens attended in the sequential summers to follow.
- Under the hood and in my face: Hidden and visible changes.
The average consumer doesn’t know about the new aluminum engine blocks but they could tell you that the headlights are more round and the car’s rims are more “chromier.” Is chromier even a word? It should be. . . There can be changes to the ministry that are done internally that teens and parents will never notice. Whether it’s how you process paperwork, how you file, or how your Core Team plans Life Nights. Change these processes to make you a better steward of God’s time.
Then there are the visible changes you can make that are eye catching: painting the youth room/office a new color, moving the couches around, adding a banner, or renting a hot air balloon for the kick-off. Tell me how the last one goes at your parish.
- Classic cars need minor refurbishing: Don’t abandon the ministry that works.
Like a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback, (car in Gone in 60 Seconds film) your ministry may look, sound, and run incredibly. Sometimes we’re blessed with great ministries that don’t need complete redesigns. Bible Studies, prayer nights, Life Nights, socials, Mass, and other parish ministries are filled to the brim with young people. But even that car needs an oil change and tire replacements. Make sure you and your team are doing what is necessary to maintain the longevity of the youth ministry.
Pray to God asking Him to reveal the desired changes and updates. Then be obedient to His requests. You just might make potential for amazing ministry. If not, your youth ministry could become like one of the worst cars of the modern era: The dreaded Ford Pinto or AMC Gremlin.