Friday, January 26, 2007

If you build it, they will come

Anonymous wrote, “I am going to be helping a youth director of 12-16 year olds who don't want to be there and the parents make them go but don't participate in anything except driving their kids to and from church. What can I do to make the youth group more lively? Any ideas will be GREATLY appreciated!” Thanks, Anon (for those of you keeping score at home, that’s our 1,738th different Anon on this site…no, but, it has been a lot).

The first question is what is the goal of the group? Is it to get together as a teen club or as a Church youth group? The former is more about getting together for just fun activities and recreation, and planning trips. The latter includes all of that, but also incorporates a spiritual dimension. I will assume that you mean the latter, that it will be a Church youth group. And, for our purposes here, I will go on the premise that it is a Catholic youth group.

One of the first things is to pray to almighty God for guidance and help. Go to Christ, and ask Him to send his Holy Spirit upon you and the director as you plan your activities. Implore the intercession of the Blessed Mother and all the saints and angels. In particular, pray to St. John Bosco and St. Maria Goretti for their intercession; they are the patron saints of Catholic youth. If it becomes a very dire situation, pray to St. Jude for his intercession; he is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Even if it’s just planning fun activities, you will want everything you do in this group to be for the glory of God (AMDG).

Next, you want to know what kind of kids you are dealing with. What is their family situation and background, ethnicity, race, school, etc.? Just like with public speaking, the first rule is to know your audience. It seems as though you have a good handle on this because you are aware that they really don’t want to be there. Btw, I wouldn't be too hard on the parents because at leats they are bringing them there.

Have you assembled a team of adults who serve as leaders? This is so important! If there are adults on the team who are good role models, fun people, and committed to the teens, the youth will respond. Probably the most important adult would be the parish priest. I would argue that youth groups that have an active and committed priest are the most fruitful. Also, when the timing is right, you will want to add solid teens who will serve as leaders on the core team.

So, what activities can you do to make the group more lively? (The first thing might be to do a search on google for “youth group games, Christian”). Before we kicked off our new weekly youth group last Fall, we played flag football during the summer. Then, we began the group with “Fear Factor” which was very popular with the teens. Since then, we have had a couple of “games nights” (Trivial Pursuit, e.g.), “Improv” nights (like the TV show, ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’), Bingo (our most well attended night), and nights when we had parties with karaoke and DDR (Dance Dance Revolution). We had a “Lock In” where the youth came out on a Friday night and couldn’t leave until Saturday morning - we had bingo, movies, and games.

Also, we’ve done some serious stuff geared toward youth. Just before Halloween, we had “Walk with the dead” where we constructed a make-shift cemetery on our grounds, and had characters (angels, demons, saints) discuss life after death. During Advent, we discussed what Advent and Christmas are all about in our “Reason for the season” night. Finally, we have had a few nights of Eucharistic Adoration in the Church to which the teens have responded very well. The more you present Christ as he really is, the more intrigued the youth (and all of us) are with Him!

One last idea to help get the teens “in the door”: gift cards to local restaurants and shops. Every other week, we raffle off (it’s a free raffle where the kids sign their names on pieces of paper, and we pull the names out of a hat) about three of these gift cards which the teens really enjoy! Starbucks cards have been the most popular. It takes time, obviously, to go around to local vendors to amass these “prizes”, but well worth it.

If the teens see that you are trying to meet them where they are, and are committed to them, they will come regularly. The biggest challenge in our youth group has been the competition with all of the activities that our teens have in their lives. Many of them make coming to youth group a priority, but many also just come when they don’t have anything else going on. We have gone out of our way to make them feel welcome whenever they come. If you build an open, warm, fun, and loving community, they will come!

19 Comments:

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for responding to this because we feel we are losing our youth!

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Oh, I forgot one very important thing: FREE FOOD!! Kids love free food - especially pizza. Ledo's is an enormous hit with our kids.

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger ktmaltese1982 said...

I totally agree with you Fr. Greg

 
At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

One of the first things is to pray to almighty God for guidance and help. Go to Christ, and ask Him to send his Holy Spirit upon you and the director as you plan your activities. Implore the intercession of the Blessed Mother and all the saints and angels. In particular, pray to St. John Bosco and St. Maria Goretti for their intercession; they are the patron saints of Catholic youth. If it becomes a very dire situation, pray to St. Jude for his intercession; he is the patron saint of hopeless causes.........

To the "new," youth directors, please take heed of the above words. I have three teenagers and have learned the hard way. Trying to solve/create solutions by relying on our selves is a losing battle.

I have been joking lately about my 17 year old daughter's hair colors. She is our precious, wonderful child, but she began to embrace different secular philosophies around 18 months ago. She proclaims Jesus as God but she does not feel she belongs in the Catholic Church. We have brought her up receiving all the sacraments, taking her to every Sunday Mass, and teaching her by word and example. Of course I am not claiming that we raised her perfectly in the faith...we certainly made our share of mistakes. Yet my husband and I try to live our faith and try to pass it on to our children. My daughter has chosen to reject much of this. This has given me a tiny bit of the tremendous sorrow Jesus must feel when we reject Him or sin againts Him.
It is a terrible heartache.

I am sharing this very personal heartache because we should not underestimate the importance of our youth leaders. If a teen attends a Catholic church youth group, this may be the only time he/she hears any thing about Christ. Please pray for the new youth leaders and all Christian youth leaders. You are all in my prayers.

 
At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelly,

"she does not feel she belongs in the Catholic Church."

Your daughter is not the only one that feels that way.

I was reading different Catholic blogs the other night. There was a conversation going on between three people (in their thirties and forties) about why they didn't attend Mass and why they stopped after a while. Although it was a sad conversation I felt a sense of relief thinking that I wasn't the only one. Actually Jesus never said to go to church or a place of worship. He said that the 'kingdom of heaven is within you" and that each journey to Him is an independent one. The last part I read somewhere else in different scriptures. That is why I am confused as to whether we are supposed to go to church when Jesus Himself didn't tell us to.

 
At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"for those of you keeping score at home, that’s our 1,738th different Anon on this site…no, but, it has been a lot)."

Can we make it to 2,000? Yes we can! Yes we can!!

 
At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" am sharing this very personal heartache because we should not underestimate the importance of our youth leaders. If a teen attends a Catholic church youth group, this may be the only time he/she hears any thing about Christ. Please pray for the new youth leaders and all Christian youth leaders. You are all in my prayers."

"I will definately pray for the new youth leaders."

Have you tried talking to the youth leader to meet your daughter and talk to her? All the activities that FG mentioned sounds like a lot of fun and teenagers love fun!

 
At 11:10 PM, Anonymous MCW said...

You only know what you know, and then you know what you don't know. Amd still... there is a whole bunch that you don't even know that you don't know. You can only do the best that you can, and then pray it was enough.

 
At 2:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Please pray for the new youth leaders."

Um, I am not a youth leader just someone who was trying to help out a friend (youth minister) who is losing her youth in another religion. I guess kids no matter what the religion aren't interested in their faith these days.


Sunshine

 
At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelly, you are not alone!

It's the job of adolescents to become autonomous and reasoning, rational adults. They question everything, and they should. Only be challenging the beliefs you and your husband have carefully instilled in them since childhood can they really come to "own" them as their own. I know that knowing that does not make the journey any easier for us as their parents. As nurturers, we want to make the journey as painless and easy for them as possible and sometimes we just can't.

We are so incredibly blessed to have priests such as Father Greg and the many other caring and dedicated adults at St. Andrew's that take on the mission of providing a "home" for our teens and young adults as they struggle with their questioning. It is so important that they know that the Catholic Church cares deeply and specifically for them. Even if are not ready to fully embrace it now, they desperately need to know they will be welcomed when they are ready. Maintaining this connection throughout adolescence and into young adulthood may help to be a beacon to help them eventually find their way back when they finish their explorations.

Hang in there, Kelly! I expect you are doing just fine.

 
At 6:45 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

That is why I am confused as to whether we are supposed to go to church when Jesus Himself didn't tell us to.

Well, of course there weren't any churches before Jesus' ascension, so you're not going to find the words, "Go to church," in any of the Gospels.

But you will find Jesus Himself going to synagogues on the Sabbath, and telling others to obey the Commandments (which include "Keep holy the Sabbath"), and telling the Apostles, "He who hears you, hears Me." And from the time of the Apostles, they and their successors the bishops have told the faithful to gather together and worship on the Lord's Day, offering the sacrifice He told them to at the Last Supper.

 
At 7:33 PM, Anonymous kelly said...

Thank you, anon, with your encouraging words about raising teens!

Sunshine, hope that you are passing along all of this great advice to your friend. Like FG said "FREE FOOD," is a good tip. We have some of the best times (with our teens & their friends) because they love to share a pizza(or 2 or 3), hang out, laugh and talk. It all starts with a pizza :).

 
At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kelly,

Yes I did pass along the information and he found it helpful.

How is life treating you? Will you be watching the Superbowl this weekend? We are having a Superbowl get together here. We will definately be having pizza because the secret to a good party is pizza.

I was at the mall the other day and saw a lady the same age as me with "pink" mixed in her black hair. It looked so cool!! Maybe its a sign! JK! :0)

Kelly, I was going back and forth of whether I should attend Mass or not. Earlier I thought I would take a break for a couple of months but then thought it could be harder to get back into the swing of things. So I will try one last time and see how it goes. Wish me luck for this Sunday!


Sunshine

 
At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Start asking the youth and their parents to do help in small ways and thank them. Help them have a sense of investment.

Taize prayer with Eucharistic adoration

Do a service project that they select. Maybe put together a talent show and it could be put on at local nursing homes? We did this as youth and it engaged our imaginations. We loved doing it.

Arrange a pilgrimage trip.

Hiking trip with praying and sharing times.

Listen to good Catholic and Christian music in your meetings. Maybe once a month have a praise and prayer meeting. Maybe sponsor or attend a Catholic Pop concert (say Fr. Stan Fortuna) Get the youth to start listening to the Catholic music stations on line and rating/sharing the music.

 
At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous who said Jesus did not tell us to go to Church or anything like that...


Why was he ALWAYS travelling with a bunch of people. Why were they always together in COMMUNITY after he rose from the dead AND after Pentecost? Read acts.

"Where two are gathered in my name..."

His last and most fervent prayer was that we remain ONE in HIM as he is ONE in the Father. A bunch of isolated Christians who don't want anything to do with the rest of the Christians are are not ONE and certainly not IN CHRIST.

 
At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

Sunshine, Hope that you get to Mass! I have had the flu and had to miss it last weekend. We are so blessed to have the Mass, and it feels awful to miss it! Super bowl party sounds fun! No plans yet for us - I am still pretty much down and out with the flu. NO FUN! BTW, my daughter just mixed a little pink in her hair. :)!

 
At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kelly,

Sorry to hear you have been ill. Drink lots of liquids and get "plenty" of rest. About a week ago or so I got yelled at by my doctor for being so careless with my diet and lack of exercise. He went on to say I DESERVED feeling under the weather. *Sigh* Kelly its so hard eating a healthy diet ALL the time. Okay enough feeling sorry for myself.

Yep, I will be going to Mass probably the 1 pm one. I am both excited but also a bit nervous. You are right we are so lucky to have the Mass. Incidentally I picked up a book at our church library called "10 More Good Reasons to Be a Catholic". Its a thin book for teenagers and answers questions like "Mass is so boring. Why do we have to go?" As soon as I catalogue the book I will put in the cart in the gathering space. Maybe your daughter will want to read it. I can even reserve it in your name so no one else picks it up.

Hope you feel better!


Sunshine

 
At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Kelly said...

Sunshine,

This thread is getting dated so hope you check it! Since I don't attend St. AA, I won't be able to borrow the book. I will see if I can get it online. Sounds like a good one!

Take care of your body! Your health is so important. My family has been sick for over 6 weeks. We have passed around the flu, viruses, stomache virus, and colds. It is awful! I finally went to the dr. and he put me on antibiotics. I am WELL! It feels so good! Now my hubby has the flu :(. My son just finished the stomache virus :(, Dr. said this often happens within a family in the winter!

Anyway, eat well & exercise. Trust me, once you get run down, tis the season for virus/flus and all of this junk.

 
At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Girl!

Glad to hear that you are well! Your husband will need a lot of TLC! I know that when my hubby gets sick (he looks so cute-he always looks cute :0)) TLC is WAY more important than the meds!

Went to Mass at St. Francis (that's my parish too!) yesterday and looked around for pink hair but didn't see any. I guess you go at a different time. I will keep the book I was telling you about on the library bookcart for you so on Sunday you can pick it up. No need to spend money when you can get the book for free!

Kelly, I didn't tell you this but about 4 years ago I had joined the Mormon Church because I wanted to join something different from my faith (long story) anyways I have come back to the Catholic Church. Well today around 9 am I got a call from a Mormon friend who told me she had exciting news. I thought her daughter was going to get married. Nope that wasn't the exciting news. She told me there was going to be a new bishop in the ward (something like new pastor in the church). The new Bishop was an ex-Catholic (who has in the past talked to Catholics who are looking into the Mormon faith). She told me, that I said I would go back to the Mormon church if he ever became bishop. Did I? Don't remember that. She went on to say that he would be "thrilled" to see me there and that I should surprise him. She also said that their church service begins at 11 am. I find it interesting that whenever I want to seriously recommit myself to the Catholic Church a sort of test comes up. Well this test is easy. I am NOT going back to the Mormon church ever!

Well I must have talked your ear off! Let's continue our conversation on a new thread as this is getting dated.

Take care,

Sunshine

 

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