Here’s 10 commandments for Catholic youth ministers. They’re true but a few should bring a chuckle.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Youth ministry is always teamwork. Even in the odd case you’re alone, you’re still working with the parents and teachers. So many problems are resolved by communication. Always tell others what your doing and often ask their opinion.
2. The goal is to experience Christ not to perfect catechetical knowledge
The Devil can quote the catechism. So what! The teens we work with will be saved if they know Christ; catechesis will not save them. Catechesis still has its importance as part of complete youth ministry or provided by CCD classes, but it cannot take the place of knowing Christ.
3. The Gospel is about Christ, not just avoiding evil
Today, Christianity is often reduced to sin-avoidance or sin-management. That is an incomplete Gospel; teens should say no to sin because they’ve said yes to Jesus first; that’s how human motivation works.
4. Relationships are the #1 thing that will bring them back
What do teens want to do most after school and on weekends? Hang out with their friends. Sustainable Youth Ministry points out that this is the most important element for getting teens to youth ministry. Getting them to show up isn’t the end goal, that is helping them become like Christ wants them to be, but it’s an essential step.
5. 5 to 1: each teen must feel comfortable talking to 5 adults to maintain their faith
This may seem a little extreme: 5 adults each teen can talk to. However, Sticky Faith examined youth group members who kept their faith after high school and found that this number was an essential turning point for teens to stay connected with their faith and feel part of the larger Christian community. Help teens connect to adults.
6. Keep boys going constantly (girls are not as extreme)
Teens will cause trouble when they have down time. Don’t give it to them. Boys tend to be worse in this respect but friends tell me that girls aren’t fantastic either. You need to wear teens out and keep them without free time while at youth group, camps, or retreats. Don’t let them be bored.
7. Reach each teen where he is; care for each one
The group aspect that creates fellowship is important in youth ministry but it isn’t enough. Care for each teen. Teens come from different situations; you need to begin from where they are. This often means taking teens aside to explain things and not embarrassing them before the group. Love each teen.
8. Example is everything
Don’t ask teens anything you won’t do yourself. Teens will follow your example more than your word. Even if you’re nervous about the speech and bobble your words, if they see your charity all night, they’ll be dramatically touched.
9. Never play favorites
This is particularly tempting for parents: pick your kids for the key things even if they aren’t the best. Nepotism was part of the reason I left Cub Scouts as a kid. Even if you aren’t a parent, it’s so easy to focus on the kids you like. Don’t! It hurts the other kids.
10. Clarity is charity
When you explain rules or give out rewards, be clear! Every time you change the rules to favor one team, you teach manipulation. Every time you fail to explain one detail of the rule you create an argument. Every time you let bad behaviour go, it gets worse. Simple: being clear means being kind to all.