Esther and Kennedy, you are familiar faces around the parish doing young adults and religious education. You are busy but you’re about to get busier. What’s going on?
Kennedy: Parish youth minister Blake Lawson has moved to Arizona so Esther and I will be taking over for him.
What’s your background in youth ministry?
Esther: I have been involved in youth ministry since ninth grade. In college, I became a youth minister following those who taught me when I was in high school.
Kennedy: I interned here for a few years following Blake around as an assistant youth minister. I helped do all the local high school and middle school events that we had here. I chaperoned the Steubenville youth conference trips. I got to know the parish kids and to see how youth ministry works. Last year, the Church of Saint Mary hired me as a middle school youth minister. I’m excited to be back now working with the high schoolers.
What is your vision for youth ministry at the Church of Saint Mary?
Esther: One of the goals I have for myself is to teach by example. I want parish youth to live as children of God. I want them to know that it’s okay to pray in public – not just at Mass. It’s okay to talk about God and about faith to a friend at school.
At some point they’ll get a question: “What’s your church?” I would like to think that we can help them be brave and answer those questions.
What kind of programming changes will we see?
Kennedy: We’re bringing back Life Teen to the parish. It was here a while ago when Esther came here, before we had a youth minister on staff. We’re really excited to bring that back. Life Teen is for high school. Life Teen’s Edge program is what we’ll use for middle school.
What is Life Teen?
Esther: It is a Catholic program created in Tuscon, Arizona in the 80s and 90s. Life Teen is based on four– or five– week modules offered every month. There are teachings, guest speakers, and social nights. It’s very well planned out.
For kids in the parish who are already active in youth group, what do they need to do to sign up for Life Teen or Edge?
Kennedy: It will be like our normal sign-up that we have every year. There will be registration offered for religious education classes, the sacraments, and youth group. That process will look the same. The difference will be when they get to youth group.
For the high schoolers, we will follow a similar structure to previous years. The difference is that the content will come from Life Teen.
For parishioners who have not been involved in parish youth ministry, is this a good time to get in?
Esther: For adult volunteers, there are some returning ministers who said that they would come back. When they get in touch with Kennedy or myself, they can ask what it’s all about. We will help them discern if they wish to get involved in high school or in middle school. Some could be intimidated because they’ve are unfamiliar with Life Teen but the program speaks for itself.
Many parish youth have participated in retreats or have gone on the Steubenville trip. Will you continue to offer those things?
Kennedy: Yes, we will continue to go to Steubenville with the high schoolers. For middle schoolers, Life Teen puts out some resources for lock ins and day retreats.
Providing fun activities during school breaks is one of our goals.