I've written before about finding games for your events. Today I want to give you another resource for new, exciting, easy, and trendy games...
I’ve done about 3,000 retreats in my time. I can plan a retreat in five minutes. Literally. I have one trick in particular that makes this process painless. I’m going to share that trick with you today...
I've worked on something like 2,112 retreats in my time. Over the years there are a few systems that I've developed that I use all the time. Today I want to show you one of those systems...
Last week I spoke to Prince of Peace's young adults group. Below is a video of that presentation.
If you like what you see, please keep in mind that I am available for your events. I hope to hear from you soon.
Last night I spoke with the young adult group at Prince of Peace parish on the topic of demonology. Thanks for the opportunity, guys! I hope to see you down the road sometime soon.
I got a kick out of this so I figured I'd throwback your Thursday here on the blog...
I have some sayings that are like, my maxims for youth ministry. Today I want to talk about one in particular...
This may not be the single most important thing you’ll learn about youth ministry. It certainly hasn’t been the thing I’ve hinged my successes and failures upon. But it’s something you probably haven’t heard and won’t hear from your typical training resources and it’s going to help you a lot.
Sometimes I worry that I peaked in high school. That could be a good or a bad thing depending on how you slice it. (Right? Please?)
During my time in youth ministry there were many great products I utilized from time to time, then there were the resources I would use ALL OF THE TIME... The Handbook of Catholic Apologetics is one such product.
Think about what your teens are learning in school. In their math classes they’re learning algebra, statistics, calculus. In English they’re reading Shakespeare and Chaucer. In the sciences they are learning real chemistry. With beakers and everything! Teenagers are given “the real deal” everywhere in their lives. Why should it be any different for religion?
The first thing you should know is that it is perfectly fine that you don’t know all the answers. Nobody does. Still, you are the person who is supposed to find those answers.
Last week I spoke to the Teen ACTS team at Saint Rose of Lima. We talked about leadership in relationship with the Body of Christ. I want to thank Daniel here for inviting me to speak and I want to wish the best to the Teen ACTS team as they get closer to their retreat!
Catholics have the best approach to sex. I believe that. I try to teach that. If you’re in Catholic youth ministry, you’ve probably heard of Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I first came across this revolutionary teaching when I was seventeen. It completely changed my life and I’ve spent the years since trying to give that gift to others.
Maybe you had a similar experience with ToB. Maybe you know people who can say the same. What is it that makes ToB so effective in teaching chastity? You could spend thousands of dollars on college courses that could properly unpack that question, but I have one, simple, important answer that I think you should have a grasp of if you’re working with young people.
Positivity and negativity
I want to talk about positivity and negativity. You’re going to have to put on your philosophy hats for this one, but don’t worry. It’s not THAT kind of philosophy. This is pretty simple. When I say “positive” or “negative” I’m not referring to “niceness” vs “discouragement.” These words aren’t referring to emotions or emotional responses. Let’s look at the dictionary definitions for the two.
Positive: Consisting in or characterized by the presence or possession of features or qualities rather than their absence.
Negative: Consisting in or characterized by the absence rather than the presence of distinguishing features.
Why is this important? When trying to sell someone on chastity, like anything else, if you're focusing on the negatives you will probably never convince them. And if you do convince them, it’ll be out of fear which means you haven’t effectively given them the gospel. The gospel is not about fear. It is about love. Love himself, even. When your chastity message revolves around the STDs you could get or the pains of raising a child, that message isn’t moving the hearts of your teens. It’s actually putting up walls for them. Nobody wants to hear about diseases on their genitals.
This is why I fell in love with the Theology of the Body and why I work so hard to help spread its message. When I discovered ToB, it radically changed my life because, for the first time, I was shown not the evils of sex (sex is a good thing given to us by The Lord, remember…), but the absolute beauty of sex as G-d planned it. For the first time I was given something to fall in love with rather than something to fear. For the first time, I WANTED to be chaste. Chastity sounded like something I wanted for myself rather than something I was supposed to do “or else…”
In youth ministry it is so important that we remember this distinction in all aspects of what we do, but especially in teaching chastity. The gospel is not a negative story. It is about the gifts of life and love that G-d has for us. Our approach should always come from a positive perspective. That’s how we get our teens to fall in love with it.
Does that make sense? Does that change the way you think of teaching chastity? I hope it does. As always, feel free to ask a question or leave a thought in the comments section.
Flux Capacitors ready? Let’s go back in time; back to when you were a teenager. I know. I’m embarrassed with you. We were all kind of the worst. But that’s not the point of this little exercise. The point of this exercise is to get you thinking from a new perspective about something you may be doing wrong without even knowing it.
What do you call the members of your youth ministry? “Kids?” “Youths?” “Punks?” Have you thought about it? I have. I started directing a youth program when I was young. I was REALLY young. I was 19. My age meant a ton of disadvantages but there were some perks. The biggest was I could speak to my teens effortlessly. They “got” me and I “got” them. Because of this I was able to see the disconnects that would occur when older volunteers interacted with the students.
So, back to our time travel experiment. When you were a teenager, what were some of the things you hated most? I’ll bet were are like me, and like all the kids in your youth program, in that you hated being talked down to. Right? Teenagers think they are fully developed humans. (If you are a teenager reading this, YOU TOTALLY ARE.) But we know that they aren’t. They don’t know how much being an adult sucks yet. But they like to think they do and few things bother a teenager more than being made to feel like they are not an adult. If you’re significantly (Let’s say…seven years) older than them, understanding this is a huge key to interacting with teens. When you refer to them as “kids,” all you mean is, “you lovely, young people.” But what most of them will probably hear is, “I am older and wiser than you and you are a dumb, little thing.” It’s demeaning. Even innocent terms like, “young people” may have this effect.
Now that I’m too old to speak with teenagers effortlessly, I have to remember this all the time. When I am with teenagers I refer to the as either “teens,” or “students.” Both of these terms are very neutral. They only describe true things about the subjects and they’re both kind of positive words. American media has always told us how cool the “teenager” is. “Student” reminds them how smart they are. You can’t lose!
What do you call your teens? I need more words for this in my vocabulary. Leave your suggestions in the comments.
Until next time, Internet!
It’s entirely possible that I’m overselling it in the title for this blog, but once I discovered this resource my approach to planning youth group meetings was made radically simpler.
Almost every youth group event requires games. For my first few months on the job planning games was the best part of planning youth group. However, soon I ran into a creativity wall. I had thought of all the games my brain was going to think of and I wasn’t happy with the youth group games I would find online. I thought that they were geared toward a younger crowd than I was working with. It was around that time that a new gameshow got my attention.
Do you remember NBC’s Minute to Win It? It was a fun game show in which contestants would have one minute to complete trivial games built, mostly, from household items. The games varied in difficulty and complexity and contestants would win more money the further along they got.
Whoever came up with this show concept probably got a huge bonus that year. The things that made it a great idea for NBC also make it a great idea for your youth group. The games are cheap to create, easy to scale, and addicting to play. Back in the day, when the show was still on air, NBC had a website where you could get instructions for all the games they played. I used to hit this thing up weekly for fresh ideas. The site doesn’t exist anymore (though it may come back in some form. In my research for this post I discovered that the show had been picked up by a new network.) but you can find thousands of videos on YouTube of people playing and explaining games from the show and games inspired by the show. This video is a good place to start.
Minute to Win it games are a great, easy way to mix things up in your youth program. Another great thing about this activity is you can spread the love among your volunteers. If you’re looking for a way to get them more involved directly with youth group activities, send someone home with a bunch of plastic cups and a game for next week’s youth group meeting. That way you aren’t doing everything every week and your volunteers are appreciated and useful.
That’s all for now. I hope you and your teens have a blast in the coming weeks with these great game ideas. Feel free to send me success stories or hilarious videos!
I spent a good amount of time scouring the web for a good youth ministry resource to point people toward. There are some good ones, but the best are behind a paywall and the rest aren’t exactly to my liking. It’s a problem and I’m a very “see a need, fill a need” kind of guy.
So here we are. Welcome to my blog. I’ll post as frequently as I can about youth ministry, evangelization, and catechetics. If you have questions you would like to submit, you’d be helping me out quite a bit by emailing them to me. If you’re lucky, I may just answer them on the blog. (I’ll answer them either personally or on the blog or both.)
See you later, Internet.