Blog/Culture

Staying *Fresh* As a Youth Minister

I’ve been asked the same question through the years, how to stay “dope” or “fresh” as a Youth Minister.

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That’s what this article is about. We’ll use Luke 24: 13-35, the Road to Emmaus, to explain. In it, our Lord walks with and engages a couple of guys on their journey. Jesus doesn’t fully disclose who he is until the end, in the “breaking of the bread.” What does this have to do with remaining dope? Keep reading…

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Self

I grew up a military brat. Translation: I’ve lived and traveled to a lot of places. Growing up in an Afro-Latino and Nuyorican home really makes you look at things differently. For those unfamiliar with the term Nuyorican: it is a mix of Hip hop culture, city life, and Puerto-Rican culture.

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This is what a school year looked like for me: we would move to about three states during the school year, and summers were always spent “home” (New York City). Changing environments and cultures was a norm for me. Amid the chaos, my father would always tell me, “Yo Papo (my nickname) be you my man!” (This may sound weird to you, but this is VERY normal for a Nuyorican home). We weren’t religious at all, but I remember him telling me that so vividly….”Yo, be you!”

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St. John Paul II states, “God…is…a family….” I’m stating this because just as my earthly father would tell me, “Yo, be you!” I believe when we walk with Jesus on our journey, He tells us the same thing. “___________(fill in your name) be you.” Be who God has designed you to be; everyone else is taken.

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America is like a tapestry of different cultures and subcultures. We all come from various subcultures in America. The beauty is when we walk with Jesus, he purifies those parts that don’t really belong. He also makes you confident in who God has designed you to be. It’s beautiful when you sit with it.

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God has designed us all the same but different because He is the same in His nature but different in the persons of the Trinity. What’s funny is, we may think that teens won’t like us if we act like ourselves. This is so far from the truth. Teenagers are actually used to this authenticity because of the internet. They are more exposed to different ideas and subcultures than prior generations. We should be firm in our differences. So, for the anime person, do that! For the jock, do that! For the hip-hop dude, do that. Be authentically who God has designed you to be!
I’m sure you’re reading this expecting some anecdotes. But what if you already have it? It’s how God made you and me. When you do that, then the next part is easy.

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Others

Back to the Road to Emmaus. It’s simple; we are Jesus to our teens. When we are talking with them, we should take a page from our Lord’s book. He starts with what THEY were talking about. Translation-what’s important to them in their world. When you do this, the conversations and connections to being dope are organic because you find points of connection authentically. And, here’s a big tip, when you do this enough to different teens, you start to find common themes (shows, music, interests), even from teenagers who are different. Now, you have homework. Go, “you are being sent..”LOL. I’m joking, of course. But check it, do you know how many fire shows and music I’ve found through the years by doing this same exact thing? I grew up in a home where my father woke us up with Hip hop.

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So, when the suburban kid starts talking about hip hop, I automatically have a connection. My father was always into what is now called “urban fashion.” As a kid, I wanted to be just like him. Through the years of my faith life, I’ve realized that who I am is much like St. Augustine would say, the little kid who looked up to his father. When I’m open about these things, I realize that it opens doors. Will every teen or adult catch your vibe? No!

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No worries! You’re 100 percent who God has designed you to be. Because of the internet, most are used to differences. Sometimes they’re not. In the end, we all want to hear, “well done, my good and faithful servant.” Part of that is showing the beauty of who God is through us. When we do that, teens feel free to express who they are in God. It’s powerful…and then they’re ready for the “breaking of bread.:”

Photo by Julien Riedel on Unsplash

About the Author

Dr. Alex Gotay

Dr. Alex Gotay, “Dr. G,” is a dynamic, national teen and young adult speaker who uses his unique perspective and combines it with his passion, humor, creativity, and stories to communicate the good news in a way that connects with all. He is an author who has keynoted at several national diocesan and national youth conferences and events and continues to travel across the nation to speak at conferences, youth events, parishes, schools, retreats, etc. He is a Husband of 22 years, Father of three boys, convert, Retreat Leader, Evangelist, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black-belt, has many years in professional Youth Ministry (both Catholic and Protestant) and presently a Theology Teacher.

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