Totally Catholic Youth Ministers Lounge

Are you in youth ministry and you've had it with crazed parents? Rollin' your eyes at the pastoral council? Tired of administration work? Love youth? Love the Church? Appalled at parish politics? Looking for some good games? For a creative ways to teach a lesson for Religious Ed? Just need a place to veg out and say "phew! Someone outside of the parish to talk to!"? Grab y'r Starbucks, turn the computer away from the staff's eyes, grab a seat on a donated dusty couch and let it all go.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Man ( Or Woman!) Overboard!

Class, write a paper about what you did for Memorial Day Weekend...

Have you ever been whitewater rafting?

Yeah, me neither. Which is why I decided to join up with 11 other friends on the class 5 rapids adventure of White Water Rafting, on the Cheat River, West Virginia. WWR goes from 1 (more like canoeing) to 6 (more like Niagra Falls).

Let me inform you that it is called "Cheat River" because it cheats so many people out of their life. And mine flashed before me.

I opted to climb into the boat where some of my more experienced friends were. I should have known I was in trouble when our guide informed us that we need to sit-not on the inside seat-like tubes-ON THE SIDE OF THE BOAT. Midsection down the middle of the outer tube.

He taught us commands which we easily mastered. I was sitting in the middle, with one person in front, one behind me, three across from me and our (cute but extremely talented) guide in the back. I fretted about falling out and the guide said "You are not afraid of the river, the river is afraid of you". Of course! I thought. My name means "White Wave", so I decided "I OWN this river! It answers to me!"

We cruise down the river, and our guide teaches us some cool tricks like surfin' (staying on top of the wave, duh), doing razberries (twirling over a rapid) or slipping between two massive rocks.

Imagine you are in this boat:

and you are sitting on the end that is in the water. Well, you are not really sitting so much as sliding. Well, not so much sliding as you are falling out. Well, not so much falling out as getting sucked under water in the class 5 rapids even though you have a life jacket on that is choking the heck out of you and your fanny is getting hit by big boulders because everyone keeps yelling "KEEP YOUR FEET UP! KEEP YOUR FEET UP!!!". (so that they don't get caught between boulders in the river) (and then you may drown).

I clung on to the front of the boat-which is useless because you can't pull someone over the front of the boat. One of my mates has me by the arms and he looks at me and shouts "I"m not sure I can keep holding on" I felt like I was in some sort of Indiana Jones movie. I somehow found a ring on the side of the boat and hauled myself to the side. The guide-this skinny little guide-grabs my arms and in a 1, 2, 3 yanks me over back into the boat. It's not a gracious move in front of the guide -who, did I mention, looks like Matthew McConaughey.

The front man, Pete had also fallen out and we had to pull ourselves together and start rowing because we weren't out of the rapids yet.

Finally we moved into calmer waters and I had to laugh otherwise I would have sat there and bawled my eyes out. Really, it was one of those exhilterating scary moments that are near life and death. Ok, so I wasn't that close to death, but close to gulping in large amounts of water and getting run over by the boat.

In the end, I decided it was great fun. I'll definately go again!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Comin' Clean

Ok, I have big news for all five of you who read this on a regular basis: I'm actually not in youth ministry at the present time.

At my last parish the boss was someone who I will never understand. I tried, God knows I tried. Missed minor details threw him into fits. I mean FITS. Mistakes that happened that were out of my control-that never happens in youth ministry, right?-I would get raked for.

One day I was called into a private conference office with the deacon, the former youth minister who worked part time doing rel ed and is a mother, and the head of Rel Ed:none of whom were my boss. They went over a litany of my failures. It was one of the worst experiences I have ever endured.

The rel ed woman clearly had been complaining to the head of RelEd and then they went to the deacon because the deacon would not have known any of the issues. What really blew my mind is that the day before I asked her what the meeting was about and she said "I'm not sure, just go in there and tell the deacon all the good things that you do" and then in the meeting pounded her fist on a table and demanded to know why I didn't do things a certain way.

I found my way to a counselor because I was so angry and so convinced that there was something wrong with me. They suggested ADD. So I went to my boss, let him know that I had received this diagnosis from a doctor and that I was actively seeking treatment:meds and behavior modification. Two weeks later he calls me into his office and fires me.

I started this blog because working in parish life can drive you insane. It can make you start drinking. It can possibly make you loose your faith. Many times the staff is not all on board theologically, but lets not even get into each others ' sinfulness. To be honest, if a parish staff were all down with Church teaching I could put up with the sin! Really! But to add in there an intolerant pastor- - - I'd had it with parish life (this was my 4th position).

My dream then, is to start something of a "Catholic Youth Specialties" as it were. I think they have a great thing going, but I find much of their material not serving the needs of Catholic ministers. We should not be questioning what to do when our theology does not match up with the pastors, we wonder what the best age for Confirmation is, we try to find the balence between the fullness and richness of our traditions and heritage: And being cool, or at least making this richness into ways the youth can grab a hold of it and make it their own.

It is a special art form to be a Youth Minister. But I think it is even more of an art form to be a Catholic Youth Minister. I love that challenge. I love taking the teachings and exploring ways to make it learnable, make it applicable to a teenagers ' life, make it alive and worth investing in. I love the surly kid who thinks Religious Ed is a joke but is the first one to IM me when we're both online. I yearn for parents to be turned on to how great thier kids are and how great ALL of the teachings are and that their kids WANT it all. I love knowing my fellow ministers work endless hours to bring even one kid closer to Christ.

So, I will continue my blog to support you. It may transform a little more into Mike Yaconelli's style. I appreciated his editorials and topical monthly journals, whether I could relate or not. I love their motto: You love kids. We Love You.

With great respect and deference to Youth Specialties I say the same: You are the front lines. You are working long hours. You worry, fret, pray and labor.

You love Kids.
I Love You.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Charismatic Renewal

I'm going to just say it: The Charismatic Renewal is both the Heart of the Renewal in the Church and one of many renewal movements of the Church. It is sanctioned by the Church-3 popes, several bishops, hundreds of priests and one preacher to the papal household. Once thought of as a fringe movement, it needs to be recognized that it is not antithetical to the teachings of the Church, to high and excellent Liturgy, to scripture, to legitimate forms of prayer...It is NORMATIVE and should be a part of every parish and diocesan life.

I'm so tired of traditional types misunderstanding it and calling it Protestant or out side the norms of liturgical worship. Frankly, if it's good enough for the Apostles, it's good enough for me.

Pardon my crankiness. That certainly is not a gift of the Holy Spirit. Likewise the obvious fruit I'm bearing. But hear me: It is good, normal, and a necessary part of the life of the Church.

More later...

Friday, May 05, 2006

What Do Youth Ministers Do?

I am one of those who check their site meters to see how many people visit and what they search for to get to my blog. I admit it.

However, I loved this search: What do youth ministers to and what are the requirements?

Now, I'm not sure if it's a pastor searching because he is thinking of hiring a youth minister, it may be a mad parent who doesn't agree with the youth minister and is looking for ammunition, it might be a young student or second career person who is interested in pursuing the lofty (and underpaid, at least cash-wise) career of "youth minister".

Well, many of us seem to start off with what it is not: It is not a fun and games leader. That is part of it, but certainly not all of it. It is not a parent-at least in my opinion it shouldn't be. It is not a high school student-they can be leaders in the group but are not older enough than their peers to be a youth minister. Frankly, it's not even someone with good intentions.

Here is what I think a youth minister needs to have, and what pastors need to be looking for and what parents should make sure their parish is hiring some with:

1. Evidence of a close relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. (notice the use of the word "his".) While many are afraid to ask due to restricting laws, I would love it if the interviewing committee and pastor would ask about my faith life. It gives ME a clue as well, as to where the staff are coming from. If they don't care to ask, how important is it to them?

2. A degree. If not in theology, catechetics or the social sciences. Really, I think that a degree in Theology is paramount. You need to know the faith before you can teach it.

3. Graduation from a reputable Catholic University. Ok, some graduates from Franciscan, my beloved alam mater, are idiots. They come off like arrogant dufus' -they know more than the pope, apparently. However, they will learn in time that their pride doesn't pay off so I still think that they are a good hire. Besides now that FUS has the Catechetics program more graduate are going into ministry with a more humble and willing spirit. Praise God!

4. Experience in ministry, even if it's volunteer minister, as well as customer service. Look for people who have served in various ways. Having been a volunteer helps you to know how to treat and use volunteers. It also forms a more cooperative and willing spirit.

5. Can articulate the 8 Components of Youth Ministry and how to formulate a comprehensive youth program.

6. Have a down -to-earth personality that is easy to be around. Kids don't take kindly to demanding, hyper-sensitive, self-involved or pompous people. Neither do parents. You have to have a back bone, but you can't live for yourself.

Am I missing anything?

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Well for the first time in 4 years the parish I worked at finally has a bishop.

One year the current bishop had retired and we didn't have a bishop.
Next year, the new bishop died.
The next year we didn't yet have a new bishop.
This year we finally have a bishop!!

It got to the point where we thought we were jinxed or something. Especially since the year that the Bishop died it was literally the day before he was to come do our Confirmation.

As far as the kids go, I just hope I did a good job. Boy, do I want to restructure how Confirmation is done. I think there is some very real and excellent reasons to teach the adults who then must teach THEIR children. They are, after all their parents. Then, when the kids feel they are ready, or mom and dad think they are ready, bring them in to the Pastor (or someone the pastor delegates to pre-view and interview candidates for readiness) who makes the judgement on whether someone is ready for a Sacrament.

Practically, I don't know if that would work. To be honest, I wouldn't trust that some of the parents around the parish would tell the kids what the Church teaches-mostly because they are Pickers and Choosers themselves. Then again, maybe that's exactly why we should start with the adults.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Youth Specialties-I Mean Zondervan- I Mean HarperCollins Publi-huh?

Youth Specialties has been bought by Zondervan who is owned by HarperCollins.
Kinda reminds me of when Servant Publications was bought by St. Anthony Messenger Press.

I went: Huh??

Hey, I'm glad if YS is glad. But to me, as a Catholic Youth Minister type, it does even less for me. While I like a lot of the research and some of the ideas, often I find that the articles either do not apply (Freeing Your Inner Theologian) or do not hold a lot of weight for me (As a Catholic I'd love to hear more about what both Scripture and Tradition teach us, as well as the Catechism, the Early Fathers, the Popes, the Saints, St Thomas Aquainas, etc. etc. etc...have to say about passing on the Faith). I wonder if this move will deepen this divide, as Zondervan is not known for either selling truely Catholic books or even upholding that being Catholic is good, right, even True.

I don't know. I like a whole lot of what YS does. I like their passion for youth. I like their research on youth culture. I like the email updates. I like their ideas for games, even Scripture ideas. This is not personal-just wondering what this does-or doesn't do-for those of us who are the Catholic Youth Minister Type.