Blog Youth Minister Follow Up After LEAD by Haley York As a fifteen-year-old girl, Jesus made His first appearance in my life (or more likely it was me who finally opened my eyes to Him) in adoration at my first Steubenville conference. This life-altering experience was the beginning of my lifelong commitment of faith to Christ. Since then, Jesus has been on fire in my soul. That doesn’t mean the fire hasn’t dimmed a few times, but grace keeps that flame growing. I was about to finish my senior year of high school and along with all the books about staying Catholic in college that had filled my Amazon cart, my youth minister told me about a retreat that would help me on this next chapter in my life: LEAD. I had always been one to say yes to retreats, so my answer to this invitation was no different. Little did I know that that week-long experience would be a much different one than I’ve had on previous retreats. It was on this retreat that God gave me a call to forgive someone that had been long gone from my life, break off a relationship that was not leading me to heaven, and be a missionary for my family. One can only imagine how scared I was to go back home. But the Lord never asks more of us than there is to give. He gave me the strength to do his will and by following that call, I was changed. I changed in a way that I never have by any retreat before. One thing to know about this LEAD is that teens do not come back the same. I say this with a grateful heart because it shows how much the Holy Spirit works in just one week, but I also say this as a warning. LEAD will change your teens. Because of the drastic conversion they will face, it is one hundred percent crucial to follow up with them afterwards. As a youth minister, there are many things you can do to help your teen keep the flame inside their soul burning bright: Have One-on-One Follow Up Meetings With Them Communication after an intense retreat should be a requirement. Your teen needs to be able to debrief and find the support they need to do what God has called them to do: lead. I recommend intentionally meeting with your teen at least once a month to talk about how life is going post LEAD and to give them advice on where to go from here. These meetings are also crucial because it keeps your teen accountable for going out and making disciples. If your teen is going off to college, keep in contact with them via email, phone, or Google Hangout. Depending on the type of experience your teen had on LEAD, it may be prudent to help them seek out a spiritual director, especially if they feel they received a call for a certain vocation. Get Them Connected To Other Ministries It is important for the teen (well, everyone for that matter) to use their God-given gifts to serve the church. If they like speaking in front of crowds, ask them if they would like to be a lector at mass. If they have a passion for music, ask if they would like to join the choir. If they are going off to college, help them get connected to the Catholic center (often called the Newman Center) on their campus. Allow Them To Give A Testimony At A Life Night Something I have heard is that the greatest story you could ever tell is the story of Jesus, but the second greatest is the story of how you found Him. A testimony is so valuable because it allows others to connect with the speaker and inspires them to also seek a relationship with Jesus. On LEAD, the teens are coached on how to write and give their personal testimony. Give your teen the chance to share that testimony! If your teen is returning to Life Teen next year, set aside five to ten minutes in a Life Night for them to speak. If your teen is going off to college, have them come back if they are nearby. If they are not able to come back for a night, allow them to type up a testimony to be shared with the rest of your teens. Keep Their Humility In Check One trap many teens who are leaders in the church can fall into is trying to lead so much that they become prideful of their gift. LEAD abundantly teaches teens about being part of the body of the church, apologetics, and evangelization, yet, it can be hard for them to discern when is a proper time to chime in truth. Some teens may take this newfound information and run with it, which makes them seem like know-it-alls to others back home. Make sure your teen is being genuinely charitable when teaching the faith to others in the Life Teen community. If you see them struggling with this, pull them aside or set up a time to meet with them to have a conversation about it. Help them know they should discern if the Holy Spirit is prompting them to talk before they decide to. Help Them Find A Supportive Community Even Christ sent his disciples out in pairs. It is important for you to keep your teen accountable, but it is even more important that they find a community of friends with that same objective. It is impossible for them to do this mission on their own. Accountability to keep up with prayer is so important, especially when it is coming from someone on the same “level” as them. Helping your teen find a community of friends to keep them accountable for this mission is the best thing you can do. LEAD will change your teen’s life, but in the best way possible. There are no words to justly describe the way the Holy Spirit works on that retreat. In my experience, it nourished my soul and gave me the strength as a high school graduate to go and spread the gospel to my new classmates in college. I did not do it alone though. Even a year later, I continue to meet with my youth minister once every month or two. She gave me resources to connect with the Newman Center at my school, and I am still striving to live as a leader in the church. LEAD did this for me and I will be praying for your teens as they come back from their LEAD retreats. I will also be praying for you! Let the Lord lead you in how he wants you to minister to your newly-changed teens. Help them on this mission to “go forth and make disciples of all nations”!