One of my favorite blog writer’s is Seth Godin. Seth inspires me to always think out of the box. He recently wrote a blog entitled “What (People) Want”. I couldn’t help but notice how it applied not only to adults but to the teens we serve. So here is my reframing and tweaks to Seth’s list and how we could apply it to Catholic Youth Ministry. Here are five easy and not so easy things you want to make sure you are doing for the teens in your parish…
1. Notice Them
Make sure when you see a teen you acknowledge that they are there. They are used to going places and being ignored by adults, don’t let your parish be that kind of place. Greet them, have your priest acknowledge them at Mass and welcome them. Post pictures of your events in your youth room that let them know they are noticed. Eye contact is so overlooked today – make good eye contact, smile and greet every teen you can. Are the teens at your parish noticed?
2. Like Them
Yes, it’s totally possible to be serving others while not really liking them. The problem is, that teens can see and sense this. It’s so important that they know you like them. One of the best things we can do as youth leaders is to like teens unconditionally. They are looking for a place where they can be themselves. They need to know you are authentically glad they are there. Do the teens at your parish feel like they are liked?
3. Challenge Them
Teens have so many choices of places to go that they don’t have time for places in their life that are supposed to have meaning, but only give them shallow surface level experiences. Teens want the faith presented with depth and conviction. They are up to being challenged. I can’t remember the last time I heard about a teen leaving a parish because they felt too challenged by the ministry there. On the other hand, I can’t count the large number of teens I have talked to who stopped going to youth group because they gave it a chance and it didn’t stick. Is youth ministry at your parish challenging the teens to be holier?
4. Listen To Them
Teens will tell you that most of the adults in their life don’t really listen to them. Us adults are sometimes so eager to give advice to a young person, that we don’t even let them finish the question. In reality most teens are only seeking someone to listen, and may not even be looking for advice. Good rule of advice for working with teenagers – give advice only when they ask for it. Make sure you take time to listen to the teens at your parish. This one idea can transform relational ministry for you. Do the teens at your parish see it as a place where they are listened to?
5. Miss Them When They Are Gone
Teens need to know that it matters if they are there or not. If they miss a week of attendance we need to make sure we acknowledge their absence. This isn’t to say we make them feel guilty for not attending, just missed. We ca get so busy that we begin to lose track of teens as they come and go. Over the years I have been called out by a few teens, who felt like no one cared because they had stopped attending for a while and no one noticed. If a teen doesn’t show up for a couple of weeks at your parish, is it noticed?
What other things do teens want?