Missionary Blogs/St. Louis CALLING ALL BALLERS AND PIZZA LOVERS by St. Louis Missions Last Monday was President’s Day. Schools are closed on President’s Day. Whenever there is a day off of school, the youth minister in me does a little happy dance. A day off of school?! A whole day on the calendar in our teens’ lives that isn’t filled from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed? Seven whole hours in our teens lives’ that are now unscheduled? It’s like hitting the youth ministry jackpot! So what to do? Host a Bible Study? Meet teens for Mass? Host an hour of Eucharistic Adoration? Nope. We hosted an open gym at the parish. 4 hours. 8 pizzas. 3 dodgeball games. 25 teens. I’m going to be honest, I used to think events like open gyms were kind of lame, and outdated in the youth ministry world. Why spend hours with teens without going deep, taking time to talk about the faith, have small groups, or get them into the church? Isn’t that a missed opportunity? NO! Easy, informal events like open gyms attract teens we don’t usually see: boyfriends, brothers, and friends of teens that normally don’t show up to EDGE or Life Teen or even Mass on Sunday. Breaks from volleyball games turn into conversations about family, school, music, dating: conversations about things that matter to them.This welcoming of their friends and excitement for things they are excited about builds trust. It shows that we as missionaries are interested in all of their life, not just their faith. Pope Francis recently said “all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity,” especially the ones that don’t come to Church. So maybe our teens didn’t leave for the afternoon with a desire to follow Christ forever. That’s okay. My hope is that the next time these teens think about coming to Church, they come because people at this church know them and love them.