Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the Kansas City Catholic Youth Conference (KCYC.) It was an amazing time with key-note speakers Sean Dalton and comedian Judy McDonalds. By Sunday afternoon I was spiritually exhausted (from great mind blowing ideas by said speakers and an incredible time of adoration) and physically exhausted (I felt like I had wrangled cats all weekend) I have been involved in youth ministry for nearly a decade in some form or another. I first started out helping out in senior high youth group as a way to offer my time and talent since I didn't have a whole lot of treasure to offer. What has developed is a real passion for sharing my faith with teens. Why?? Some of you may say, "Because you are crazy! That's why!" So here are my top ten reasons why I love youth ministry:
- It keeps you young--I love my faith and I enjoy reading spiritual books or listening to lectures about Catholicism. You can't teach a group of teen agers thinking like an old curmudgeon unless you want to see a bunch of blank stares and drool. You have to think like a teen in order to teach them effectively
- It gives you a chance to be goofy--It goes along with #1, but in order to effectively teach teens you need to allow yourself to be a little goofy and odd. (while keeping a certain decorum) If they see you cut loose a little bit you are more likely to keep their attention.
- It keeps you real--You can act young. You can act goofy. But that had better be your real personality because if you are faking it they will see right through you and you'll just look dumb. It's better to act like a middle aged guy if that's what you are than come is using some lingo from 1995, "Hey! Whatzz up, homedogs!!"
- It helps you think in a simple way--Let's face it. Some of these kids don't know their faith very well and in order to explain things to them you have to simplify things. You have to describe your faith in the simplist way possible. You can't assume ANYTHING.
- It makes you think in a complex way--Teens have this desire to want to know, "why." Why this and why that. You need to know your faith well enough to explain it. You have to know the answers to those why questions.
- It keeps you humble. You simply cannot fake your knowledge. They will simply catch you in one of those "why" questions and if you've faked it they won't trust what you have to say. It's much better to say, "I don't know." The secret is to add on, "but I will find out and get back to you." And then do it. You also have to be able to humble yourself enough to know when to let go. You have to realize you can only do so much and at some point you have to be able to let God take over and trust in him.
- You don't have to worry about your appearance! You can normally dress how you please. It's okay to dress casual. Cargo shorts and t-shirts are acceptable. There are a couple caveats here. The first one is, "don't try to dress LIKE a teenager." A middle aged guy dressing up like he is 18 just looks dumb. The second one is, "Be aware that there are times when you SHOULD dress up." Let the teens see you dressed up at mass so they are aware that mass is a special time.
- It makes you be creative. You cannot just simply stand at a podium and lecture if you are trying to teach your faith. You have to come up with different creative ways to keeps the kids attention. This doesn't mean doing games or crafts for the sake of doing arts and crafts. You have to be more creative than that. Those arts and crafts have to be done in a way that helps your lesson plan and makes the kids learn.
- It makes you become engaging. The tendency of an adult leader is to hang around with other adult leaders. You make your own cliques. Here is an idea. Get there early, get everything set up and as the kids are coming in and finding their seats, sit among them. Get to know them. Teens are more willing to pay attention to the guy who has paid attention to them and showed that he care for them.
- It gives me a chance to return the gifts that God has given me. I've been blessed and have an incredible faith. By being involved in youth ministry, I have to opportunity to teach others about my Catholic faith. I think this is my favorite reason of all of them
There are many types of ways in the church that you are able to serve. Maybe your thing is going to nursing homes to tend to the elderly. Perhaps you have a passion being involved in prison ministries or the homeless. None of those sound appealing to me in the least. Perhaps, I should try one of these ministries that aren't appealing to me. Perhaps being taken outside of my comfort level would be good for me spiritually. Perhaps. For now, I'll stick with youth ministry and enjoy it.