Monday, November 19, 2012

Continue the Conversation...

raise your hand if you're excited about NCCYM!  As much as we all love trips with the kiddos,  this conference is such a great couple days of just geeking out with fellow youth ministers.

Geeks that we are, we don't even stop for lunch.  I'm excited to be joining a panel discussion sponsored by eCatholicFlocknote and outsideDAbox (which I like to pronounce in a very self-aware hip-hop influenced accent) during lunch on Friday.  These guys have put together a great set up-- they'll pick you up from the hotel, you get to have lunch and chat it up with fellow youth ministers and pose some questions to this panel of fabulously good-looking people-- AND you're back in time for the next session.  The menu is distinctively not pizza and it's only $15.00 IF you use the discount code "GRIZ" (look, Mom.  I have a discount code!).

To learn more and sign up, visit this their registration site. 

(and, if you have questions about youth ministry that you'd like answered, post them below so I have time to google some answers before the panel!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

i wasn't aware there'd be math on this test...

If you’re in Youth Ministry—either as a Director, Coordinator, CORE, Volunteer, Parent, Pastor, you name it—maybe you’ve logged onto Facebook and have seen a status like, “loved having bible study with 356 of our High School Freshman Tonight!” or “can’t wait to bring our 476 high schoolers to camp this week!” and you may think, “ay yi yi yi yi…  What are they doing, iPad giveaways to get that many kids in the door?  Sheesh…”  (I mean mean, maybe.  I don’t know.)  However, keep this in mind when you’re reading “stats” from fellow laborers in the vineyard.

1.     How big is your parish?  This is a reality check I’m constantly taking right now, having recently transitioned from a parish of 2500 to a parish of about 450 families.  While I definitely hope to reach out to those not in our parish, it’s just not realistic to expect hundreds—or even dozens—of kids to attend at first.  So, when I get 12 kids to a youth night, I’m doing a jig, because that is realistic for where I am.  While it is important to keep numbers, be sure that you’re evaluating them in a realistic framework.
2.     Kids are not numbers—they’re souls.  We say it so often, but do we really take it to heart?  “Even if one person is reached, this is all worth it” but when it’s the awkward kid walks through the door with his friend—and you realize that might be your only attendees that night—do you take that message to heart and adapt your plans, or phone it in, running through the list of excuses for why the kiddos you expected are no-shows?  Be fully present to the kids who are present. 
3.     Be sure your pastor shares your vision.  This goes without saying, but especially in a smaller parish.  If your pastor thinks you’re going to form a group of 50 from a parish with 200 registered families, you need to have a serious heart to heart about numbers…  However, don’t be afraid to discuss reasonable, concrete goals  such as, “this summer, we are going to get seven kids to camp and this is how we’ll do it!
4.     Know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em.  Sometimes, there’s just not enough folks.  A lock-in with two kids would be awkward.  Reschedule.  A service project with two kids could provide some great time for relational ministry.  My favorite example of this was the feisty Dominican Sister at my previous parish who was undaunted at the thought of bringing almost as many adults as teens to the March for Life (I think we had something like six kids and five adults…)  The next year, we had a bus of 50.  Thank goodness she wasn’t afraid to just do something, rather than wait ‘til the next year “when there was more interest”. 

Thankfully, kids encounter Christ when He reaches out to them—not when enough of their peers show up.  Pray hard, dig in and stop stressing over your friend’s updates.  They live in like, New York City, and there’s 300 kids within walking distance of their Church.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

they grow up so fast...

This year has been interesting, because while I begin as a youth minister in a brand new parish—learning the ins and outs how to not make a lock-in conflict with volleyball and (this is a new one) trying to figure out a “pastoral” response to illegal spear fishing stories—I’m also watching some of my “first” kiddos experience their first year in the real world via the Twitter and Facebook.  The sixth graders who came to youth group when I was 23 and part-time at my first parish are now all grown up.  So, in the midst of the steady stream of humility that is life as a first year youth minister, I’m also rejoicing in these moments:

The text message that my blog on chaste dating was helpful.

The facebook status update about voting (pro-life) for the first time.

Finding out they’ve applied (and been accepted) to Franciscan University.

A beautiful instagram photo with the caption, “The Lord is everywhere”.

If you’re new to youth ministry and overwhelmed with just how…  young… the kiddos are and find yourself wondering if getting pelted with dodgeballs and shouting a lesson over the din of middle school giggles is EVER going to yield any fruit, know that one day these gangly sixth graders are going to be adults.  And while their parents are the most influential, you may be able to look at their facebook statuses and imagine that the retreats, conferences and conversations you dragged them through did something positive to form them into the Catholic adults they have become.  That is an awesome feeling.

So to all you 23 year olds who are surviving on cold pizza, entry level youth minister salaries and sheer grace, dig in.  The first couple years are tough, but you’re making a difference.  I wish you’d believe me when I say that, but I didn’t so you probably won’t.  However, put prayer first and don’t lose your soul, put yourself second so you don’t burn out—and you’ll be amazed that these kiddos who you once caught playing “lemonade pong” on retreat are now mature, Catholic, adults.  And once you see that first round grow up, the dodge balls don’t feel quite so hard.