In my freshman year of college, I was unaware of the Catholic Newman Center at my university. I thought the only option for spiritual involvement was through Core Team. In high school, I was a peer minister after Confirmation and was being led spiritually while setting an example for the younger teens. When I got to college, I thought being on Core would continue to feed my spiritual needs while I minister to the teens. It was what I had known, so it is what I did. After three years, I realized I needed more.
I heard about the ministry at the Newman Center my junior year of college. I walked in and was immediately invited to a Bible study that challenged me and opened my eyes to new ideas. I finally felt moved beyond my scope of knowledge just by talking about God’s word with my peers. I started singing in the band for praise and worship until I was asked to sing Sunday nights a year later. I felt like God was calling me there and when I fully got involved, God moved through me to minister to my peers.
I wonder what would have happened if I would have known about the Newman Center my freshman year. Looking back, I am grateful I dedicated my first three years of college as a Core Member. The teens inspired me to share my heart and they shared theirs in return.
Every graduating teen has a different calling. Some are called to Core, some are called to young adult ministry, and some are called to the Newman Center. Wherever your teens are led, it is our job as Core Members and youth ministers to help them discern their next step. Helping teens pick a ministry after graduation is like helping them pick a college… their plans and intentions must be in place if you expect them to move. They need to know that there is more than Life Teen ministry. They need to know their options. Here are just a few:
- Connect recent graduates with the Newman Centers on their college campus or a local young adult ministry. Young adult ministries offer the structure necessary to develop strong Catholic friendships and fight daily struggles. If there is not active campus ministry at a school, at least give them the local Mass schedule. If possible, connect the graduates with the parish’s young adult minister and/or campus ministers
- Service programs are another way teens can grow in faith beyond high school and college. I served on summer staff at Life Teen Camp Tepeyac in 2006 and those weeks of formation and service helped me dive deeper into my faith. It not only prepared me for the weeks with the teens, it taught me prayer and structure I took home with me. Other programs for young adults include Life Teen missionaries, NET, and Dominican or Franciscan volunteers.
- Encourage your teens to discern and pray about joining Core. We do not recommend that graduates join Core until they have been out of high school for a full year (or have reached the minimum age required by the diocese). Having former teens on Core is a great opportunity for leadership, public speaking and team building experience. A word of warning: make sure that Core is not the only ministry outlet. Young adults need ministry for them in addition to serving teens.
This is just the start. Be aware of ministry opportunities for young adults and be sure to let your graduates know them. Don’t let your teens fade into the distance of time. Like a college recruiter, make their options known. Stand up and encourage them to continue down God’s path, whether it’s with Life Teen or not. May high school be just the beginning of a lifetime of ministry and involvement for the class of 2010.