Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lent and a Youth Minister

As odd as it may sound, I love Lent.  Particularly as the years I have been in ministry lengthen, it continues to grow as my favorite time in the Church calendar.

The reason is simple, it drives me to spend more time focusing on where my relationship with God is.  Through the focus on the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving I come to more closely examine my faith and spirituality and to spend more time with God.

There is also the added benefit that many of the programs in all the ministries I oversee have a more reflective tone to them.  The youth group focuses on reviewing the pillars of Lent, temptation, God's love, and the Triduum.  The young adult group spends time focusing on new ways to live Lent, usually by utilizing a text (this year it is Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton: Lent and Holy Week).  Add to those experiences Taize prayer, the Living Way of the Cross (writing it and directing it), the communal penance service, the youth retreat, etc. and this time of year becomes a time of spiritual renewal for me and the ministris.

Without much fear, I can hazard the assumption that this time of year is busy for all in parish ministry.  Despite that, I challenge you to ensure this is also a time for you to enter into Lent and find the renewed right relationship with God that can sometimes be pushed aside in the chaos of day to day ministry.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Say When

After only 8 years, I can say I've learned the important lesson of "when to say when."

"Saying when" for those not familiar with the term, is best understood in an example.  When I was a bit too little to scoop my own mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, whatever relative with the advantage of full adult height would take the serving bowl of potatoes and say, "Say when."  I would then let them pile an astronomical amount of mashed potatoes on my bowl before I finally said the magic word, "When," and they passed the now severely diminished bowl along.  Now if that bowl had been stuffing or rum cake, the "when" would likely have been after the first very small spoonful.

In ministry it is hard to say when.  Say when it is time to go home despite a lengthy, ever increasing to-do list.  Say when you need to take a few days away even if it means missing the regional young adult picnic or your seniors' play.  Say when you cannot add another program to your ministries because you want at least one night at home.  All those demands are worthy and we want to fulfill them.

But one thing I learned from all those mashed potatoes, if you don't say when soon enough, and you plow through them all, then at some point, you reach a point where you're so stuffed you just can't move.  Same with ministry - you become so full of stress and exhaustion that it hits you full force.  For me, I tend to get physically ill (my doctor now knows how to tell when I've had a major, international event - I end up needing antibiotics or such).

So today, with a sinus headache raging due to a headcold, I am going to say enough for this week.  I am going to head home and do nothing for the rest of today and tomorrow.  Then I will be ready for youth leadership on Sunday and the Parish Mission.


Thursday, February 16, 2012


I would guess I am not the only one to face this problem.  Our young adult group meets on Tuesdays.  It has done so for longer than my tenure here at the parish.  It has met on Tuesdays for well over 10 years.  During particular liturgical seasons our parish offers small groups.  When is the young adult small group being offered?  Tuesdays at 7 pm.  Arghhhh!

First this is a great moment to remind me of a few things.  It makes me remember that I need to always keep conversations rolling between all of my coworkers.  None of us are islands in ministry.  It also reminds me that I need to keep advocating for our young adult ministry to be respected as an estabished and crucial aspect of our parish life.

Second, it is offering me a chance to think outside of the box.  I may need to bow to the fact that the small groups are already beginning registration and may not be able to be rescheduled.  If this is true, then I will move our young adult group during the Lenten season.  Likely I will need to change my day off to another day or shift several meetings to an alternate depending on which day we choose.  I also have the chance to look at some resources.  Particularly if we shift the day to Mondays, my normal day off, I want an option that will not require me to completely create the night's discussion and content which the current calendar has me doing.

Have you ever had this problem or something similar?  How did you handle it?

Do you have any great Lenten resources you enjoy using?  If not, why not look at Young Adult Ministry in a Box?  They have a whole series of options for you!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To Texas and Back

Hello all!

Despite my intentions to the contrary, I went dark last week while I headed to the NCYAMA Executive Board meeting that occurs along with the NFCYM membership meeting.  Between delayed flights, lack of internet connection in various places and then coming down with a mild-yet-annoyingly-lingering cold, I have been remiss in getting all but the essentials covered.

NCYAMA has many great things in the works that you should keep an eye out for if you are in the field of young audlt ministry or have young adults in your ministry (YAs who volunteer with youth ministry, YAs in marriage preparation classes, YAs in RCIA, etc.).

First, there is the national forum in November.  Watch the NCYAMA website for more information.  Or drop me a comment or email as I'm the one on the website's contact for it!

Second, we are proud to have the incredible resource: Young Adult Ministry in a Box to offer.  This is great for anyone in young adult ministry whether you are looking at how to start your ministry or how to sustain your current ministry or revitalize a flagging one.

Well, I need to get back to preparing tonight's trivia game on St. Valentine's Day, the saints in general, and movies related to 'saints' for our young adult group.

May you have a happy Valentine's day!  And may Sts. Cyril and Methodius not feel too left out today.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Great Little Tool

Confession: I own two Kindles.  In my own defense they were both gifts from my parents.  I am an avid reader - I have two book cases that are filled (completely wedged in every space are books), one more decorative one with special editions (heirlooms from my grandparents) and favorite books, then there are the inevitable stacks on my night stand, coffee table and end tables.  I also have a well used library card.

A few years ago my parents gave me the second generation Kindle.  I thought it would be nice for traveling if nothing else.  I love it.  It has been around the world several times.  It hangs out on my night stand so that I can read before I go to sleep.  It slips into my purse for days when I may find myself waiting somewhere.

This past birthday, I received the Kindle Fire.  While the iPad has many bells and whistles, for what I wanted, the Kindle Fire is genius.  I've got my books, web access, email, a ton of apps (including weather, Words with Friends, etc.).

The Kindle Fire was a huge help on our service trip so I could track weather on our cross country winter drive.  I could email updates to families of our teens.  I could email when I have various problems.  I could look up maps to locations and the times that restaurants were open.

The other great thing - you can get books from your library on Kindles now.  Huge bonus here!  As a youth minister I find myself trying to read a ton of things from psychology books to the latest YA novel.  With the library loan system, at least at my district library, you get two weeks with the book.

Also, you can email documents to your Kindle.  I just did that with a huge pdf file that would be over 100 pages.  As it is a great, colorful document too, I can appreciate all those great colors and layouts on the Fire.

You can also highlight, take notes, and leave bookmarks.

I find these great tools to help me stay on top of things in the ministry world and in the various tangentially related fields.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Here's a two for the price of one.

One: a great online magazine is here.  Church Life: A Journal for the New Evangelization.  You can access it for free from...

Two: ISSUU a publishing site.  Looks to be intreguing.  I  haven't snooped around it too much yet, but there could be things of interest.  I would hazard to say there will also be things that I will stay far away from, but I just wanted to put it on your radars.

One More

In what is either a sure sign this youth & young adult minister has gone round the bend or is just really a believer in youth service trips, I just booked what will be the third trip for our youth ministry for the year.

We survived New Orleans (though my stress level was through the roof at points).

Guatemala is humming along and we're looking forward to that trip later in the summer.

But there were kids that were not ready to travel abroad, couldn't afford Guatemala, were busy during winter break, or just couldn't do one of the other two.  Thus I thought we would try Young Neighbors in Action.  I have heard great things about them from other youth ministers I respect.  Given we do have two other trips, I am limiting us to one van load.  On the upside, my parents are already planning on buying lunch and frozen custard for our group when we drive through the Milwaukee area on our way home.  That could be a selling point for the kids! [For reasons of their own understanding, the teens think my mom is incredibly cool and they love when my parents come to visit and drop by youth ministry events like our Living Way of the Cross.]

So ready or not Green Bay, we are headed your way!  It will be great for this Wisconsin native to head to her favorite state, do some good work, and introduce teens to frozen custard and cheese curds.