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Summit reflection video for Pentecost Sunday with Joel Stepanek.
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by Life Teen
As corny as the jokes may be, I learned several years ago that they can be an effective way of breaking the ice in an otherwise awkward group of middle school and high school teenagers. After all, nothing says, “I’m way more goofy than you are,” than a really bad joke with a cheesy punch line. So this one is for all of you comedians turned youth ministers, keep up with the bad jokes. Trust me, one day you are going to overhear that teen who stared at you blankly telling one of his friends, “Okay, so two fish were in a tank . . . ” And if they can remember a cheesy joke like that, just think about what they'll remember about Jesus.
So when it came to looking fashionable as a youth minister, I had no hope. I had no desire to grow a goatee, wouldn’t let skinny jeans within a mile of my closet, and wouldn’t wear plaid if I were paid to play on the PGA Tour. As a youth minister, this evidently put me in the minority. I even used to get stared at during training conference by groups of youth ministers who appeared to be thinking, “What’s wrong with you? You’re not one of us.”
Praise God for my car! And even though it was held together with a couple clothespins and some paperclips, it served as a great mobile storage unit. Where else was I supposed to keep those buckets of Red Vines before the big Fall Kickoff? And while towing around ten boxes of Bibles for Confirmation Candidates in my trunk for two months didn’t do much for my miles per gallon, it was just more convenient.
So as adults we find another way to celebrate the season: Christmas parties. Unfortunately, most Christmas parties are best described as a bunch of adults standing around and talking to each other while eating cheese and crackers and trying to avoid that one crazy friend who drove up in a mini van decorated with “antlers” and a “Rudolph” nose. And then of course, you also have to deal with the fact that you know twelve different people throwing a party, but there’s only four weekends in December before Christmas.It’s at this moment, when I praise God for Youth Ministry.The very best Christmas parties I’ve ever been to were at youth groups.
The biggest problem with an app like this is that it allows teens, especially those that are tempted to engage in sexting, to perpetuate a false identity online while also giving them a false sense of security. Once a picture is taken and texted to another person it can’t just “disappear forever.” The receiver of the message could take a screenshot of their phone or take a picture of their phone with another device. Plus, there’s the reality of it going through Snapchat’s servers as well.
So, how do these stories relate?Maybe it’s because we’re all God’s children. Perhaps it has to do with being obedient to our Father. Or maybe the love parents have for their kids is similar to the unconditional love God has for all of us.As a parent of a 7-month old now, I can definitely say that last one is true. I’ll do anything to bring my son closer to Christ, and I hope that one day, there is a youth minister with enough guts to do the same.
But for some reason it does, and all of us youth ministers are better off for it. After all, when teens know the rules and follow the rules, it allows them to enter into the most important rule of all: to keep an open heart for the weekend.And if it takes SpongeBob to get that across, well, so be it.
Honestly, if I could do it all over again, I would have been more intentional about engaging in Parish Staff Meetings. Not only were they a great opportunity to be an advocate for the youth, but they were a chance to genuinely take an interest in the work of my fellow staff members. Maybe if I had done that, they would have taken a greater interest in my ministry.
For any youth minister, there is nothing like watching a teen come to understand God’s unconditional love for them. There is nothing like seeing a group of teens in line for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And there is nothing like knowing that a teen who just went off to college knows that the God of the universe is truly present in the Eucharist in any Catholic Church they attend.
I miss those bus rides. As terrifying as it was to be in charge of 64 people, it was so humbling that God had put me there to keep them safe so He could do His work. And on some of those bus rides people did get sick, and the A/C once went out, and we did get a flat tire that forced us to play a solid three hours of cheesy youth ministry games. But through it all there was great relational ministry, lots of laughs, and conversion.