CYM Blog Why Your Teens Need a Steubenville Conference by Andrew Brown During my senior year of high school my mom told me about “Steubenville University.” I must admit, I immediately thought she said “Stupidville University.” Good. We said it. Now that that’s out of the way… I did not apply nor attend the university but I did look into it. A few years later, as a youth minister a parent approached and asked to send some of our teens to the Steubenville Youth Conference in our state. I told her I couldn’t make the dates, but she could promote the event and serve as its Group Leader for the conference. She brought three teens with her in a minivan that summer. For the next few years the numbers of our teens attending this summer weekend “jolt” of faith grew to the point of needing a bus and, of course, matching t-shirts to attend the conference. NOTE: Matching t-shirts are not needed to attend but are very helpful finding stray teens. It wasn’t easy for my Core Team and I to discern which summer events we would offer to our teens, but the Steubenville Conference was always one of them. It can be cumbersome having to pick and choose which events to attend, as it may require you asking the parents, parish, or pastor for more budget. It can be annoying giving up family weekends during the school year, much less being asked to offer one up during the summer. It’s hard enough getting teens to submit permission slips during the school year when they’re in town, let alone amidst summer vacations. As a former youth minister, I get all of that. But let me tell you something, it’s all worth it. What Makes it Worthwhile Teens encounter Jesus personally, in Word and Sacrament. At the Steubenville conferences there are two Masses, Reconciliation, adoration and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, praise and worship, workshops, and ministry booths. God’s grace works through all of them to inspire our teens. They’re free to encounter Him, without the pressure of schoolwork or sport commitments. This is often so overlooked, but teens can be totally present to the message without thinking about that assignment due on Monday. It creates a summer buzz within the youth ministry and keeps teens interested in the follow-up events. Bible studies, daily Masses, youth nights, socials, etc. that your parish offers continue what has been built upon over the weekend conference. It shows teens that God isn’t meant to be contained within an academic calendar, but rather is meant to be experienced throughout our entire lives. How do you show newly confirmed that their faith is continued after Confirmation programming? Continually offer them discipleship opportunities. It challenges teens to think or rethink about summer leisure activities that may be morally ambiguous or just wrong. Teens + boredom = creativity. Sometimes they need to be reminded there are healthy and holy creative ways of socializing under the summer sun. It can spur deep and lasting discipleship through LEAD trainings. All of my LEAD “alumni” teens are still involved in ministry in some capacity. Such a beautiful fruit! It provides incredible relational ministry memories. When reminiscing with former teens some of our best laughs and moments are the travels adventures we shared, the crazy game of spoons played in the hotel room, or the heart-wrenching conversations that were shared as we are present to the teens. It reinforces the Church’s teachings through dynamic speakers. Even if you’re the greatest youth minister and offer incredible catechesis, teens learn and encounter through various temperaments and styles. The speakers they’ll encounter on a Steubenville weekend are some of the best vessels of truth for today’s teens. Myths Debunked “Franciscan Youth conferences are for just Franciscan graduates and their youth group teens.” Totally not true. Though Franciscan puts forth incredible ministers in the youth ministry trenches it is not just for their alumni. As a church it takes a Catholic village to raise a Catholic teenager so let’s open our horizons and hearts to the wonderful Catholic opportunities for encounter that exist. “I’m already doing mission trips, camps, bible studies, I can’t possibly take more time away from my family.” Great for you and the family. Now, find a volunteer to serve as the group leader. I’ve found that this can be a pivotal time to influence new adults to join the ministry as they witness the impact of faith upon the teenagers. Many of them want to continue in service to the youth ministry or Confirmation programs. Great leaders empower and delegate. Be a great leader! “We don’t have a bus or matching t-shirts so we shouldn’t go.“ Our first year attending the Steubenville Conference had three teens (a boy and two girls), a mom, and the youth minister. We started small and, within a few years, we had the bus, matching t-shirts, scholarships from parishioners, etc. Be not afraid, Jesus only brought three with him to Mt. Tabor. Don’t Wait There is still time for you to register your teens for one of the Steubenville Conferences this summer. Click for more information on Steubenville Lone Star, Steubenville Atlanta, Steubenville West, Steubenville East, Steubenville NYC, and Steubenville NorCal.