I once had a youth in my ministry named Stacy. Stacy was a freshman during my second year of ministry in a parish I worked at in Texas, and she was excited about starting high school youth ministry. She was especially excited about being on our youth leadership team. Stacy was the type of young person that was easy to minister to and with. She was smart, outgoing, popular, and authentic. She attracted other teens to the ministry, and she loved Jesus. There was only one problem. Stacy never went to Mass. Okay, not never, but only about once every other month. At that parish I had a small gap set up between our leadership team meeting and our main youth meeting. After Stacy’s 1st semester I asked to talk with her during this gap to remind her that she had signed a commitment covenant as part of our leadership team to attend Mass regularly, and I asked if she had gone to Mass that weekend. She confessed that she did not and rarely ever did, because “coming to youth nights was her Church”. I stood there for what felt like an eternity as the weak and vain part of me was like, “WOOO HOOO!”, but the bigger, grounded, and Christ filled part of my person responded very quickly by saying, “Youth Ministry isn’t the Mass. We may have prayer, fellowship, and teach, but we don’t have the real presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus to give you. Stacy, you need those graces to make it through the week, and you need to offer all of yourself to Christ as He offers Himself to you in the Mass. I want you to call your dad, and I want you guys to go to the 7pm Mass at our neighboring parish tonight. Mass is a priority for our leaders here” Stacy did not like my statement, but she did it. She also started making Mass a priority. She grew as a leader, and helped us minister to a wider range of teens, parents, and parishioners. I am convinced this was because she went to Mass and not just youth nights. Getting teens to Mass, or helping teens to get the most out of liturgy is not always this easy. You don’t always have the relational rapport that I did with Stacy, and you don’t always have teens who just respond to an edict to “Leave here and go to Mass right now”. Even if you do, you might not have the parent who picks their kid up and complies (Thank’s Stacy’s Dad!). I have worked with enough youth in different parishes and diocese over the last 15 year to know that, while the resolution of my story is unique, the premise is not. A large number of our teens don’t go to Mass. If they do they they don’t usually love going. They get bored, they don’t get it, and their parents don’t want to fight with them about going. As Stacy and I talked about her Mass experiances over the next few weeks these issues all made an appearance. This is part of the reason I am so very excited about the Altaration DVD series that Ascension Press has put together.
Altaration is an amazing new video driven study by the team over at Ascension Press. 1st let me say that Ascension Press (AP) is doing phenomenal work in creating great series based resources that capture the beauty and story of our faith. They are also massively user friendly. Altaration is a 5 week long series that dives into the mystery of the Mass and focuses on not just teaching youth about the Mass, but helping them fall in love with the Mass. In a Church culture that is returning to the understanding that “catechesis is a moment in evangelization” Altaration is doing just that for the mass. The presenters (Mark Hart, Chris Stefanick, Jackie Francois Angel, Fr Mike, and Father Joshua) do a great job of communicating their deep love and personal experiences along with relevant and accurate theological and formational content. I can’t wait to use this resource in my parish this fall, and I would encourage you to use it in yours. Let me give you a run down of three reasons I love this resource and three things to consider if you want to use it also.
Why I Love It
- It’s Needed: Our youth (and adults) usually don’t get the Mass. This conversation should be central to your youth ministry cycle. If you aren’t drawing kids to Mass, your numbers on Sunday or Wednesday night don’t matter. A lot of your teaching and topics in youth ministry should flow from or point to the liturgy, but you need to make sure you intentionally focus on the Mass and it’s significance at least once in your four year cycle.
- It Equips My Leaders: AP has great Leader’s guides are great and support materials. The adult resources zoom out on the Student Work books and provide great notes and talking points for facilitator and small groups. Altaration is a series that I could easily use to equip another leader to run the whole show. It would not overwhelm them, and I would not have to worry about content. Also don’t forget to check out the online content and support materials.
- IT’S BEAUTIFUL: Seriously. The videos are well shot and visually striking, and more than just talking heads. The Student Workbooks are visually stunning and represent the relevant nature of the material in a culturally appropriate way. AP has really hit their stride in their design department and I can’t say enough about the way the materials visually pop.
Things To Consider
- Nothing Is Plug and Play: No matter what type of resource you are using you can’t just plug and play. You (or the leader on a night) can’t just expect the videos to do the work. You have to be a prepared facilitator, and your small groups still have to engage. Altaration can really lighten your load, but it’s can’t replace relationships. Remember this when you are planning.
- Not All Sessions Are Equal: As much as I love this resource I wish that they had broken Session 5 up into either 2 sessions, or that they had sprinkled the content across all 5. If you use Altaration in a week to week setting just make sure you are ready for the longer video and larger content chunk in the 5th session. I love the session, but I want you to have a heads up.
- GO TO MASS: Seriously. Don’t just talk about it with your youth. Ask your ministry team what Mass they attend (make sure they do), and then let the kids know who goes to which Masses. Encourage youth and their families to sit together, and get your small group leaders to invite youth to join them at liturgy if you have youth whose parent’s don’t attend. Meet up afterwards (Donuts!!!), and discuss their Mass experience by breaking open the readings, discussing the homily, or talking about what stood out at the Mass.
Win A Free Copy!!! (Or Don’t)
You can win you own copy of Altaration by enter our raffle below. We will announce the winner Next Tuesday August 25th @11am EDT as part of a live interview with Father Mike and Fr Joshua about how to engage young people in the Mass. To register for the live event just click here, and join us next week at 11am Eastern Time. If you can’t wait to win, or if you missed the raffle, you can pick up a copy of Altaration at the Ascension Press Website.