The Second Act

“There are no second acts in American Lives.”   – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Congratulations! You, likely, have now gotten past your opening event for your youth ministry event. No matter whether you called it a “Kickoff,” a “Spectacular,” or “Opening Night;” you have only one more thing to do for the rest of the year.

That, of course, would be the rest of the year!

In the traditional, three-act drama, Act I establishes the major conflict, Act II introduces complications which all find resolution in the climax of Act III.

You cannot sustain ministry by constantly doing and re-doing the “Big Event.” It will lose all of its specialness for you, the volunteers and parents, and, yes, even the kids. You can’t just “wash, rinse, and repeat” on previous programming because you will likely forfeit that “new car smell” that came with the awesome opening event. Far too many a youth ministry program operates only out of Act I mentality. It is often why a youth minister has a resume that reflects service for 2- 2 ½ years before moving to the next place and then the place after that. There are no second acts within their bag of flashy tricks.

As you plan for your second act, here are some key complications that need to be resolved:

· Who is getting served?

What is attracting them? Where do they need to be challenged so they might be able to grow into their own next act of the story?

· What’s not working?

Why? Is there a new approach demanded or has this effort passed its expiration date?

· Who is missing?

Who is on the outside and why? Has our invitation fallen short or is our programming unappealing?

· Who is most burdened by the effort of our programming?

If it is others, how can we get more assistance and resources to them? If it is us, we need to realize that we will be stuck in a deficit mode until we resolve it. What larger vision are we not achieving because we are mired in the details of Act I?


This is the work of Act II, facing the tougher questions and seeking deeper understanding. This is not easy stuff or towards which many aspire – – at least, if you listen to the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But our faith is full of many, many second acts. How can we choose to do less, even if the outcome is uncertain?

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out
to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.

Hebrews 11:8


What do you do after a successful opening even? Move forward for a successful year.

D. Scott Miller

D. Scott Miller is the dean of Catholic Youth Ministry bloggers which is a polite way of either saying that he is just plain old or has been blogging for a long time (since 2004.)

Scott recently married the lovely Anne and together they have five adult young people and also grandparent three delightful kids (so, maybe he is just plain old!) Scott presently serves at Saint John the Evangelist in Columbia, MD as the director of youth and young adult ministry.

He has previously served on the parish, regional, diocesan, and national levels as well as having taught within a catholic high school. He is one of the founders of RebuildMyChurch and has returned to posting regularly (keeping regular is important to old guys) at ProjectYM.

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