Friday, December 18, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Major addition to the "Things Not To Do In Youth Ministry" list:
All illness aside, it was a fantastic experience. Were you there? I have to brag a moment about one of my kids. Remember during Thursday night's session when they did the song with the parables? Remember the kid with the terribly deep voice singing the dad's part in the prodigal son parable? Yup, that kid is one of my youth groupers. If you heard about 5 girls screaming "Go Deh-Deh!" those were my kids too, just showing their support. Insanely proud of him for all he accomplished.
It was a different experience for me as I spent surprisingly little time, usually just the night sessions, with my teens. I was at a booth for the afternoons and therefore missed all the workshops. However, I loved the experience of speaking with more people from all over due to the booth.
I'm looking forward to the NCCYM conference in New Orleans in a year. Hope to see you all there too!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
And cold medicine. The frantic pace and the joy of having the school right next to my office has hit in the form a nasty cold.
Cold medicine and throat drops will get me through the rough spots. Overall though, I can't wait for NCYC. It is always an incredible experience. Plus I am so excited to see the teen from my youth group perform as an animator! I'll be the super proud youth minister with a box of kleenex near by during the opening session. Here's hoping I don't give him the cold tomorrow on our flights!
For those going to NCYC, I hope to see you there. For those not, sleep a little extra for me, please!
Friday, November 13, 2009
While I could use a bit more sleep between now and then, I am very much looking forward to NCYC. It is always fascinating to find out that as bizarre as my teens are, they are very much normal. Of course, our parish group will be attempting to get the best seats possible each day during the general sessions since we want to cheer on and get quality photos of our youth who is an animator.
In addition, this week has been all social justice, all the time. On Wednesday we had the informational meeting on our service trip to Bolivia. Last night was the Ohio service trip meeting. I am terribly excited for both those...now if only my Rosetta Stone software would show up, Spanish please, not the Italian that was incorrectly delivered. Last I checked, the national language of Bolivia was not Italian.
With all the major things brewing, I've had the important reminders to pay attention to the individuals too -
The teen who is in the school musical.
Two youth struggling with a huge family issue.
A young adult with a new job.
A young woman overwhelmed by new responsibilities...
Sunday, November 1, 2009
It is a bit after 7. I'm eating my pumpkin oatmeal in my office posting the Sunday reflections and getting ready to leave in a few minutes.
This year Jamboree is a prelude to NCYC. There is a workshop for all those going to NCYC and another one just for the adult leaders. As a tip to NCYC (actually NFCYM) for the sake of all youth ministers, could you put a low price coffee shop in the expo hall, open only to adults? The kids don't need more energy, but us 'grown-ups' sure could.
The Jamboree should be excellent. Bob Rice is our keynote. Really, how cool is that? (As said by one of my teens.) Well, I'm going to finish inhaling my breakfast and sally forth to the front parking lot to meet the teens.
Friday, October 30, 2009
As of this afternoon I will travel to service project A in Ohio for a week in July. I return on a Friday. The very next Friday I will travel with another service project to Bolivia for 11 days.
I cannot wait for either of these experiences.
Remind me I said that on August 11 when I'm comatose from exhaustion, hit with laryngitis, and have been bitten by the Guatemalan ninja caterpillar's Bolivian cousin.
In all seriousness, as I sit here with a mild headache, stiff shoulders & neck from working at the computer all day, and slightly overheated from the fact they were 'clearing out the steam vents', I recognized something today. The need for joyfulness. I'm not slap-happy. But to be joyful about my work. Even when I spend hours changing websites, calendars, newsletters, bulletin articles, announcements...there needs to be joy.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I was reading this article from CNN on Getting Your Way when you travel. It started me thinking.
Do you know that look of absolute fear that crosses the face of just about everyone at a gate when you walk up to the counter with your teens in tow? Or even more amusing, the look of guilty (or not so) guilty relief of those where you didn't stop?
I have now taken teens out of the country three times. This doesn't make me an expert, but there are a few things I hold to.
- Prep the kids for travel. Whether it is the precaution of Dramamine for a youth who has never flown or directions on how to fill out the customs forms, prepare your youths for the trip as much as possible in advance. Also help them while traveling. Navegating an unknown airport is challenging enough for well-traveled adults (hello Frankfurt). Factor in the age, experience, and possible language issues and you could have several nervous youths.
- No pjs or 'scrubby' clothes on the plane. They don't have to dress for Christmas Mass, but I want the teens to be dressed nicely. Appearances are important in that infamous first impression.
- Keep the group reigned in at the gate. Yes, when we had a 10 hour layover at LAX, we were all over. However, it turned out almost all our flight (I think excepting about 10 people) were returning from WYD in Australia. Respecting the space of others help them to respect the youth.
- Watch the noise, food, Frisbee, and anything else that could intrude on others. Again, the kids have got to eat (especially as on the short domestic flights there often isn't a meal served). However, I try to get the kids to eat the food neatly in the gate. Noise level when playing games should be respectful. And really, Frisbee is not an appropriate airport game.
- As the group leader, make nice with the employees. I try to catch an employee before the flight to let them know if there is a problem that is brought to their attention that I am the group leader and happy to deal with whatever the issue might be. I also introduce myself to the flight attendants. Not only for the same reason as above, but it helps to explain why I may wander the aisles a bit more. One year I had a girl with diabetes whose numbers shot through the roof. Once the attendants understood I was her chaperone/leader and the young woman with me was a nurse, we had free reign on wandering so we could check on her. They were very helpful when they knew the situation.
- Respect and responsibility. I demand it from the kids and myself. (I obviously have wiggle room with the responsibility - they are teens.) Respect is a necessity. I make sure that people know I am the one to go to if there is a problem. I make sure they know that I will handle it.
- Last, but not least, communicate. Communicate expectations with your youth. Communicate with your leaders. Communicate with the people around you.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Several years ago I read an article that proposed that the influx of Hispanic Catholic would have as profound effect on American Catholicism and politics as the influx of Irish Catholics 150 or so years ago ultimately had. Thinking about all my American politics classes and the understanding of how the Irish Catholics changed American Catholicism, I nodded my head in agreement.
CNN.com has jumped on the bandwagon with the article "Latinos may be future of U.S. Catholic Church." In the immortal words of my generation, "Duh." The sheer quantity coupled with the decline of caucasian Catholic participation makes this equation simple to understand. Of course it is complicated by the fact that within a few generations Hispanic Catholic young adults mirror the general statistics (see Dean Hoge's book).
If you haven't thought through the impacts, then you may want to. Recognize the immeasurable gifts that Hispanic Catholic bring. There is a depth and color that is not necessarily found in American Catholic churches. There are perspectives on spirituality, ritual, and history that we can learn and grow from. We can learn a deeper appreciation of Mary, of Christ the pilgrim, and a sense of true mission.
And as someone who loves chile rellenos, I could handle a few changes at our northern fish fries.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Religion is increasingly crafted, not inherited; it is 'a seeking rather than a dwelling.'
Sunday, October 11, 2009
We often can get so caught up in playing the game according to how we think it should be played we miss things. We get frustrated when we seem to get absolutely nowhere. We consistently give it our all, only to get stuck in the mud within sight of the end zone.
I am beginning to realize that this often means we're playing the wrong game. We get so busy trying to win by our standards and our concept of what a win is.
All we need to do is move the goalpost.
Or, rather, perhaps we need to make sure that where we put the goalpost is where God wants it. Because as we learned, sometimes God put the goalposts in the most unusual places - on the top of a hill outside Jerusalem...in an empty tomb...
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I've found thus far that some of my most useful classes from college are:
- Communicative Disorders - this has helped me to understand various disabilities, how people hear and process aural stimuli, etc. As it also talked about normal communication there were tons of pointers.
- Psychology 201. Yup, of course I took psych. What college (liberal arts major) freshman doesn't? Though it is seriously helpful.
- Philosophy of Moral Education - Hands down winner. This elective was cross listed with Educational Policy Studies, Philosophy, and (I think) Religious Studies. To Know As We Are Known is a book I continuously pick up to reflect on and apply. Stages of Faith is up there too. The other education philosophers we focused on helped me to figure out the impact of the physical set up of the space I minister in, the tone and words I use, etc.
- My 3 Astronomy classes - just because the bishop from Australia at one of our catechetical sessions studied with my prof and the kids thought it was cool to have that link. Plus it makes star gazing more fun when we've got bonfires and overnight events.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The annual survey of ideas and open discussion that follows fielded some good topics and activities. The suggestion to do a night on my personal life was not put on the board.
Today has been busy with the cleaning up of paperwork and the youth room. Plus I've been on the phone and email for some time working on WYD.
To further the recommendation previously posted - make sure that you read Souls in Transition. Excellent resource and I have a hunch we'll hear even more about it at all the national conferences in the coming year or two.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
With the major kick-off of just about everything this Sunday, things at the parish have been hectic to say the very least. Plus I'm heading out of town (again) for about 30 hours to give a workshop at a conference.
What I wanted to highlight for those in YA ministry, well it has implications for youth ministry too, is that Souls in Transition: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults is out. I hope that I can at least get through a significant portion before Saturday. I'll have two flights and some airport time to make that happen. It is the follow up to Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Today, though, I want to spend some time on that Washington Post article, Soul-Searching on Facebook.
How do you answer that question? Those who are, like me, employed by the Church (or any faith group) can likely put the one or two words for our denominations. But is that really it?
While their sample is small and we have a brief window into the minds of a few young adults active on the Internet. All gave the question some thought. All had very different answers. Pretty interesting.
Monday, August 31, 2009
It gives an interesting snapshot on a section of the young adult population and Facebook users as a whole. Of the 250 million users, approximately 150 million respond to the profile prompt Relgion:.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Just another typical day in youth ministry.
Glad that the chaos of this week follows after a glorious Michigan summer weekend where I could relax. There are quite a few things on the plate - a young adult picnic, movie night (teens off to see Transformers 2), a major youth ministry leadership meeting, a lock in over the weekend and then starting all over on Monday with WYD 2011 meeting, a young adult service project, a youth group, and some effort to retain my sanity.
While I know I will be fried by next Thursday when I end this 11 day stretch, I realized this morning that I love my job. I knew this already. However, as I was pulling out of my place to start the drive into work, I realized that while I loved the long weekend, I was genuinely looking forward to getting back to work. I take that as a good sign.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
It is a bit surreal though to already be working so much on this trip. We are still 40 days from the Honduras trip, but is as if it had already happened. Like I often note, given how much preparation is required in this job, you have to really fight to experience the moment. As it is, I have my WYD 2008 green bag with liturgy guides from the last four WYDs to share with one of our music directors.
Expect to hear much more on this. Likely some more of my Law's and Necessary Items will soon be listed. As it is - never venture forth without duct tape, band aids, and candy!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
The bad: According to separate reports from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the American Religious Identification Survey, fewer Americans now call themselves Catholic, and those who do aren’t attending church or praying as often as they used to.
The good news: The Catholics who remain, church leaders will tell you, are far more devoted and involved — particularly young adults.
For the rest, see Young Adults Lead Catholic Charge.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
What we'll be doing is trying to find ways to work this into all aspects of the ministry. I also hope to begin offering a mentoring program. We'll start first with our leadership team. Then once that has the major kinks ironed out, we'll move on to the broader teen group. Until we reach the point of implementation, I will be combing through everything I've got on discipleship, vocation, prayer, leadership...well, basically everything I can get my hands on. Ideas anyone?
First it was pulling my notes from Google Docs and neatening up the language, getting rid of my shorthand notes, and elaborating on things while they were still fresh in my mind. I emailed the whole revised version out to all the leaders so that they can add their two cents on what I may have forgotten or new thoughts they might have.
As one of the suggestions made was to create an interactive calendar, I set up a Google Calendar giving them admin rights. Now all our youth ministry events are posted to the calendar, adults can put notes in on whether or not they can be there, and we can have better communication. I also was able to post it to the website for the ministry so parents can merge it with their own Google Calendars or just have a nicely formatted version to print out.
With a resident expert on the web (she's in marketing and specializes in New Media), we're going to get some crash courses to better utilize things. In the meantime, I'm fiddling around with what I know and trying to learn on my own.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
As a youth minister, I also am incredibly conscious of the images we put before the youth. I watched Grease with the teens one night when we had to quick change plans for youth group and an adult leader happened to have it in their car. Even this film, seen on TV for years, has moments that I think aren't the greatest. I know kids see worse. I see worse. But it is what we show when they are consciously experiencing Church.
With a summer service trip coming that will take us to Honduras and an afternoon at the beach I face a particularly difficult situation. We obviously have dress codes. No speedos for the boys (most laugh at this) and only one-pieces for the girls (makes it easier than to deal with the gradations between a tankini and a bikini). Then there's me. I will freely admit that being a slightly chubby kid in middle school did not help my self esteem. I was never thin and to this day I am particularly self-conscious in a bathing suit. I'm working on getting over my issues and getting my weight to a healthy level (for health reasons - mom had a heart attack in her 40s and some family is morbidly obese). I will not, and I know this, though feel comfortable in a swim suit on this trip. My fear of fish won't help at the beach either. Likely I will spend the day in my suit and capris walking the sand and keeping the kids herded in a relatively small area. When girls come into my office with self-appearance issues, I completely empathize. I share my issues in all honesty and how I'm dealing with them. I also make a distinct effort to be comfortable with myself, particularly my appearance, at all times. I'm a work in progress. I know that. And I make sure to share that with the kids too.
On a similar note. I ran across this article on NPR's site. It is a letter to Pixar asking for a female lead that isn't a princess. I was always more into Minnie Mouse than the princesses from Disney. I agree that it would be great to see a female, non-princess lead. I agree with the author and the commentators that Pixar does have a great record of female characters. They can do more. I never wanted to be a princess - it was an astronaut, a Supreme Court Justice, doctor, or astronomer. I would have loved to see such a girl in a film.
Another quick note - see UP. It is a beautiful film that evokes laughter as well as tears (though I hid the dewy eyes from the guys in the young adult group). Plus the love story that is the underlying motivation for Mr. Fredrickson is absolutely wonderful. The ideas of family, love, friendship, adventure, and life in general are so well opened up in a terribly unique manner. Amazingly enough, the movie caught me enough to not start analyzing it immediately as a potential tool in youth & young adult ministry. I can't wait to see it again.
Monday, June 1, 2009
- How can the youth be shown, taught, experience, the incredible love of God?
- How do you do the catechesis on all the things the Church teaches about while always coming back to the relationships - between God and the youth and the community's relationships?
- How do you address the huge spectrum of faith, understanding, and interests within the youth as a group?
- How do you cope with your own struggles when you are also facing the struggles of the youth, the ministry, and the Church?
Friday, May 29, 2009
A great line from it: "Witnessing this interaction always makes me feel like I am a tourist in a country where I do not know the customs and cannot speak the language.”
Here's my day - as part of our writing the next 5 year pastoral plan for our parish, each ministry is going out to other churches (of various denominations) to look at their ministries and talk with the relevant staff. Today I met with a wonderful youth pastor from a vibrant Presbyterian community. As a veteran youth minister of over 30 years, it was wonderful hearing his words of wisdom, honesty, and very powerful words of where they are still struggling and growing. Obviously we covered the topics and issues related to the pastoral planning process. However, it was the give and take of the conversation that I found refreshing - hearing his narrative on what he views as indispensable to the youth ministry, the ideas on ministering to the volunteers, the unique perspective on faith and ministry that he brought to the table that all made me stretch my understanding and get me thinking and reflecting.
I'm curious to speak with the others who attended this meeting - a pastoral council member and two young adult leaders active in the youth ministry and young adult ministry.
This has made me decide to add something to my plate. I try to daily read things that will help my work in ministry. Magazines, online resources, books, and blogs are all part of that daily routine. Some are directly related while others are a bit more tangential. However, they all provide ideas and formation to help me grow as my calling to a minister. Now, I want to add that every month or two I'll call up another youth minister in the area, or one on the way to wherever I might be traveling (driving to my folks' place a couple states away is a great opportunity), to spend an hour or two taking them for coffee and chatting about ministry. Yes, our region's Catholic youth ministers get together monthly, but I would like to stretch myself further. We shall see how this all plays out now.
I'd like to sign off by challenging you, whether you are a minister or someone who got lost in the blogosphere and wandered across this post, to really listen. Wisdom is found all around you. Take the time to stop, put aside all the distractions, and really listen to what is being said.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
With the launch of Pope2you.net, there is a much more cohesive and useful foray into the tangle of young people and their web use.
I've only just started to play with it a bit, but there's good stuff on the site already and it obviously recognizes the major items in young people's use of the internet - iPhone, iTouch, Facebook, wiki, etc.
The WikiCath is a nice touch. Some Italian still shows up for the buttons to turn pages and such, though they are fairly intuitive so it doesn't make a huge difference. I am sure some of these hiccups will be repaired.
All in all, after a couple of minutes of playing with it, I like it. Can't wait to see what else they do with it.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Besides for the fact that these presentations allow me to play with the fun presentation software on my Mac, I truly love these opportunities to go to other places and talk with them about young adult ministry. I hear stories from the young adults in attendance about their journeys of life and faith. I hear the struggles of the parish as they face financial issues, consensus about priorities, and a bit of fear or confusion about they mysterious and slightly amorphous group: young adults. I know I don't have all the answers so I go in with the statistics, the documents, and the lived experiences of my parish and what I am aware of in our diocese. Then I try to start a dialogue that the group can continue on their own.
That dialogue is the crucial part. They need to look at all the general items and then look at the specifics of their parish and community. They need to look at their resources, their priorities, their dreams and make the decisions. I just try to help give them the tools to start that journey.
What is encouraging is that this Education Commission had several members that spoke up about wanting to look at issues beyond just the elementary school at the parish - they want to look at the issues relating to youth, young adult, and 'regular' adult faith education in their parish. This is fabulous!
So I will go in, wearing my grown-up clothes (no retreat T-shirts for me tomorrow) and shoes I will hopefully not trip in (still quite clumsy), with my Mac and enthusiasm in tow. I will leave with a few less handouts and with a heart full of prayers for their ministry.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
This summer is going to prove quite interesting.
- We'll start the WYD 2011 planning process (already have quotes from several agencies).
- We've got the trip to Honduras with International Samaritan ministries.
- We need to plan the September - November events prior to August (when I'm in Honduras).
- There is a lock-in July 11-12 which will focus on social justice issues and help prep those traveling on our service trip. It is also a joint retreat with the other local parishes.
- I'm heading to the north woods with a small, okay 15, flock of girlfriends. Since several are employed in or volunteer for the Church, this should be interesting. Particularly when we descend on the small Church up there for Mass
- Our young adult group challenged the youth group to see who could gather more items for us to take to Honduras (clothing, school supplies, books, toothpaste, etc). At stake is a homemade meal made by the loosing ministry for the winning ministry.
- In a moment of weakness I agreed to a water fight night at the youth group. Please pray for me.
Stay tuned to see if my sanity stays in place this summer...
Sunday, May 3, 2009
However, as I plug away here I am thinking of my brother and the rest of my family. One of the things I love about the Catholic Mass is that I know my parents in another state, my brother in another country, and I all celebrate the same Mass. We are spread through several time zones, in a war zone, in suburbia, yet we are bound by this common experience.
It gives me great comfort and no little strength. It is also something I experience when I travel alone or with the ministries. The Masses for World Youth Day that are in a multitude of languages. The Mass in our twin parish in New Orleans where the people gather despite the slow recovery from Katrina. The simultaneous sense that something is different, yet fundamentally the same. This is a gift. I always hope to help the youth and young adults to see it as such, too.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Today one of the articles had the following (emphasis mine):
During the synod on the Word of God, one of the memorable interventions was made by Salesian Father Pascual Chávez Villanueva, president of the Union of Superiors-General and Rector of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco. Father Pascual, whose Salesian Congregation has a special charism for working with young people, offered the Emmaus story as model of bringing the Word of God closer to the world of youth. He drew our attention to the fact that young people today share very few things with the two disciples on the road but perhaps nothing as much as the frustration of their dreams, the fatigue in their faith and the disenchantment in discipleship.
"Young people need a Church that meets them there where they are. Arriving to Emmaus, the disciples still did not recognize the person of Jesus. What Jesus was unable to do in accompanying them, conversing with them, interpreting the Word of God, he accomplished with the Eucharistic gesture. An education in faith which forgets or postpones the sacramental encounter of young people with Christ, is not a secure, efficient way to find him."
Though I'm already tired and scrambling to finish preparations for the young adult retreat this weekend and the youth retreat next weekend, these are priceless chances to meet the young people where they are.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Now, I look back to it from another perspective. We've seen horrific events at schools and colleges around the world. Now I look at it as one of those moments where I had to grow up a bit more. My world wasn't as safe as I thought it was.
What makes me pause, have every muscle tighten into a painful knot and a rock form in my stomach is the fear that something akin to it might happen at one of the many schools in the area here. We've had tragedies - near deaths, untimely deaths due to illness or crime. But they came one by one. They were often personal tragedies and rarely affected more than a small portion of our youth ministry as we have anywhere from 5-13 high schools feed into our ministry in any given year. In those smaller tragedies, I've gotten the early phone call telling me I am needed at the church, at the Catholic school, a public school counseling department. I go. I listen. I talk. I pray. Mostly, I feel inadequate. But we carry on with the ministry, with the pastoral care of those youth, with life.
I cannot fathom what it was like for the community at Columbine. I cannot fathom being the youth minister at one of those churches. Particularly the church that buried three youths that was mentioned in the Catholic Youth Ministry Blog. Should anyone who was a minister in the area ever read this, you have my utmost respect and most fervent prayers for your peace and those of the youth you ministered to and with during that time.
Maybe at some level the frustrations and fears of that time contributed to the matrix of experiences and decisions leading me into youth ministry. I don't know. I had not ever really thought about it before. I wish I would have had a youth ministry where I could share the concerns, find comfort in faith, and the pastoral care that I unknowingly craved.
For all the joy, all the statements I heartily agree to about how much fun my job is, the fact of the matter is that when push comes to shove, we have a difficult task. I would not have it any other way.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
- Launder the shroud cloth, the purple cloak, and the 'tear-away' robe of Jesus for our Living Way of the Cross
- Polish the script for the Way of the Cross (please don't scold, I know it should be done already)
- Do a few things for he National org I'm now on
- Write a letter of recommendation for a boy applying to be an animator at NCYC (this kid could be the next star at the Met - he's incredible)
- Pack for my weekend; pick up one or two more gifts to take with me
- Confirm costumes
- Send out the weekly parent email
- Remind people that a payment for our summer service trip is due next Wednesday
- Hunt down the kid who still owes me paperwork for the service trip
- Figure out suggestions on what our transitional deacon could do with the youth ministry and young adult ministry this summer
Monday, March 30, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
- Developing a parent newsletter to go out weekly via email (this year).
- Working on helping parents arrange carpools (likely shoot for next year).
- Email parents directly to see if they would like their children called by a teen with a personal invitation to a particular event or youth ministry in general (next year).
- Linking each leadership teen with a few new teens in a mentoring set up (next year).
- Looking at the possibility of an informal discussion group meeting at a coffee shop along the bus lines immediately after school between class and after school sports (next year).