Monday, November 29, 2010

Top Ten Reason I Enjoy Youth Ministry

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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!!"
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.  
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Diaconate Dropout

I've been holding something back from many people for the last several weeks.   Very few people knew about it but I'm finally throwing it out there----I'm a diaconate drop-out.   Yes, I've discerned that the diaconate isn't for me--at least not at this point in my life. 

I'd been contemplating the diaconate for over two years.  For the longest time I seemed like something I could be really good at--and I do think I would be a good deacon.  

But every since the first get together dinner back in February I have had uneasy feelings about it.  I had decided to stick it out throught the aspirancy because I didn't want to be running away from God. And then some sort of diaconate function would come up.  I would get incredibly uneasy.  I wanted to be ANYWHERE but there.  I think if I'm doing something that I am passionate about and that would be life changing like ordination I should be excited about it.  I was anything but excited about it.

It seemed to have turned my faith into a job or a chore.  I want to pray because I want (or need) to pray, not because I'm directed to.  I want to volunteer how I want to volunteer.  I want to worship when and where I want to worship not where someone else tells me.  I want to dress how I want to not the way someone else tells me.  I want to blog how I want without the fear of being second guessed.   I realize that doesn't say a lot about my obedience but it's how I feel.  
Interestingly enough, I made my decision at my Cursillo weekend back in September.  I realized that the formation process just doesn't fit into my life right now.  The week-end prior to my Cursillo, I had to be up for over 24 hours for a formation event.  Then, I had to move days off for this Cursillo weekend  (that I was doing as a retreat for the diaconate) and ended up missing a ton of time with my family and was just overworked.  I just couldn't do that for four years.
When I would think of the diaconate I would be stressed.  When I would imagine myself out of the diaconate I would be at peace.  I think that was Gods way of telling me that it isn't my calling.  I don't think its the devils doing.  

Interestingly enough, my Cursillio weekend had another impact on my discernment.  I was able to see and experience these incredible Holy lay people.  I realized that there are other ways that I can win souls for God.  I don't have to be ordained to further my spiritual journey or to become a saint myself.  I have a passion for youth ministry.  I have touched many people with my blog. I don't need the diaconate to become more holy.  There are pleanty of pious lay people.

I will say that I'm glad I went through the process.   I met plenty of great people.  It is a great aspirant class.  The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is very fortunate.   I would definately encourage anyone who feels that ping from God to check it out and discern if it's for them or not. 

I won't say that the diaconate is totally out of the picture.  God may have planted the seed in my head for a reason but right now just isn't the time for me.  Maybe in five years.  Maybe in ten years.  My family will all be older.  I may be in a position where I have a Monday-Friday position on the police department.  Who knows.   I do think I would be a really good deacon.  Now is just not the time.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Bucket List

I was thinking about a what would be on my bucket list tonight---don't ask me why---and I came to the conclusion that I am very much a simpleton.  Well,  I already knew I was a simpleton but this conclusion was reinforced.   I just could not come up with many ideas for my bucket list.  For those who don't know, a "bucket list" is a list of things you would like to do before dying.   Some people have great romantic ideas what they want to do such as run a marathon, climb Mt. Everest or go skydiving.  Perhaps, I just don't have a great imagination or maybe I can't get over the money restriction (heck, I can't even imagine what I'd want to do if I had an unlimited financial source)  So I came up with ten ideas for my bucket list and some of my rational.

  1. Be the best husband and father I can be.  This doesn't seem like something that would be #1 on a bucket list perhaps but I do think it's the most important thing in my life that I could do.  Maybe I'm doing that now--sometimes it seems like I'm doing a great job, other times it seems like I'm failing miseraby.  The thing is, I can't say I've completed this goal until I'm dead.  Only then will I know that I've done my best to raise my children and have been a good husband.
  2. Visit Rome-Live in Rome-I could spin several other ideas for my list off of this one---visit all of the major cathedrals, meet the pope,  climb the scala santa.  I have so many things I want to do in Rome that I could spend a month there and still not see everything that I want.  Maybe I should change it to, "Live in Rome."
  3. Visit all major league baseball parks.  I've been to a total of two, count them, ONE, TWO--2 major league baseball parks.  I wish I would have made it to New York to go to Yankee Stadium before it closed but I missed out so I want to see all of the others--from Boston to Minnesota to Texas to Seattle.
  4. Go to all 162 Royals games in one year.  I figured Abby and I could travel the country for six months, living in an RV.  I'm not sure she's ever really bought into the idea.  Maybe I'd settle on flying to all of the different cities.
  5. Be fluent in Spanish.  I went to a Spanish Immersion course for ten weeks last spring and have retained none of it.  To be honest, ten weeks just was not long enough and I really wish I would have put in for the five week trip to Mexico to be truly immersed.
  6. Learn to fly a plane.  I've wanted to fly since I was a kid.  In fact, when I was younger, I wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force.  But then I learned how much better the Marine Corps is and gave up on my dream of flying to be a Marine.  A good trade off in my opinion.
  7. CrossFit goals.  I have several of them.  I want to learn how to kip so I can do pull ups.  I want to be able to do muscle ups.  I would love to be a CrossFit certified trainer and help others experience CrossFit.  For right now, I'd just be happy if my lungs cooperated and my exercise induced asthma didn't kick my butt on the majority of workouts so that I would perform better.
  8. Be a great youth speaker.  I love being a catechist.  The only problem is that I'm not a very good speaker.  I want to be like some of these guys with charisma who can have teens just mesmerized and fill the youth with the Holy Spirit.  I'd love to be a speaker traveling across the country to different parishes or youth conferences at Steubenville or NCYC.
  9. Have a few beers with some of my favorite Catholic speakers/bloggers.  I don't want to just meet them.  I want to spend time with them.    I was able to spend time at a St. Louis Cardinal's game with Fr. Jim Chern last summer and had a blast.  I'd love to spend some of my other favorites.  Can you imagine drinking with Mark Hart or Danielle Bean?  I think I'd have an incredible time!
  10. Be in-studio on The Catholic Guy Show.  I'd be happy just to sit in the background but how cool would it be to be interviewed for the show.  Alas, that's not going to happen because there is nothing about me that would make a good interview but how cool would it be just to sit there and watch all of the things going on behind the scenes.
  11. (A throw in)  Be the best friend I can be.  Kind of goes along with #1 so why not make the this the other book mark.  Being a good friend is important to me.  Obviously, it's not as important to me as #1---that's my vocation.  But being a good friend is important because like I've said before--family HAS to like you but friends can tell you to take a long walk off of a short pier.

Like I said, not real flashy.  Nothing on there that others will go, "OH!!  I want to do that too!"  No running with the bulls for me----getting my kids ready for school in the morning is scary enough.  What do you have on your bucket list?