By Jeannette Adams
Summer is an exciting time to break from the normal juggle of work and school obligations. It is a time for families to prioritize rest, fun, and reconnect with one another. It also provides opportunity to reenergize your family’s faith. Steubenville South, VBS, Faith Camp, Cove Crest, and gatherings in between present to the youth of our Church the opportunity to experience God. These programs are designed to engage and build up those who are the future of our Church. Exciting, right! Now, let’s chat parent to parent about how we can follow up with our children after they’ve had such a unique encounter with our beautiful faith.
Youth ministry can be a very grounding experience for teens. Among the water balloon races, glitter covered crafts, and hand motions, your teen heard the most basic, fundamental message of all times: “I am loved by an amazing God.” They heard teachings about serving others, not believing the lies of this world, and about finding the courage to embrace their faith. Wow! As parents, don’t we want all those messages to be sealed within our most precious gifts. “Of course, we do,” you say, “but my teen doesn’t want me to preach at them, besides I’m not funny or entertaining like the ministry team.” Maybe that’s true, but you have been called to the most important ministry role your child will ever know, and our God always equips those He calls.
Simply start by asking your child about their experience. What did they like? What did they maybe not like so much? Listen for common points of interest between yourself and your teen. For example, did he/she recently discover a saint, verse, or teaching which really impacted them. Listen and maybe share about a saint that has touched you. The goal here being to make a connection between the freshly energized teen and the daily faith practices they have often seen but possibly not fully understood or embraced. Maybe you could find an image of their new saint friend or favorite verse and place it in their room to remind them of their summer God encounter.
Often teens will recall the time of Adoration at youth ministry events as very powerful. This is a good opportunity to invite them to join you at your next Holy Hour, or to seize the moment on a lazy summer afternoon visiting an Adoration Chapel and then out for ice cream. Teens love an experience, even simple ones. Did you just think “I don’t keep a regular Holy Hour,” or “I don’t remember the last time I spent time in Adoration?” Fear not, my friend, many parents have had a renewal of their faith through the faith of their children. If your teen needed help in school, you’d figure out a way to jump in until both of you were solving algebraic equations. Faith is no different in that here, too, you admit, “I haven’t been to the chapel in some time; maybe we could plan to go together once a week over the summer.”
Another simple way to reinforce your teen’s experience is to play praise and worship music during down times at home, like background music while everyone is cleaning up after dinner. You might start a weekly family date night of evening Mass and pizza. Be intentional but not overwhelming. A sincere relationship with Christ is what makes Catholicism come alive for adults; the same is true for teens. As parents, our job is to provide opportunity and an environment where faith can grow. Give your teens the time, space and means of experiencing God even after Church camp is over.
“What if my teen didn’t like the conference or had a bad experience?” Remember that no experience is ever a loss before God. As parents, we have been asked to love the unique children that He has entrusted to us. Use this as another opportunity to get to know your young adult. Set aside any disappointments you may have, and allow him/her to tell you why it wasn’t a good experience for them. Were the housing arrangements uncomfortable? The music too loud for them? A personality clash within the group? Listen and learn about your teen. Again, relationships are a priority to teens, and this is an opportunity to connect. Maybe your teen would benefit from a smaller group next year or a quieter retreat setting. Maybe your teen would thrive in a service role at the next event. The goal is an encounter with the amazing love of God. Always keep the goal in mind and you can’t go wrong.
Jeannette Adams, MSW, is co-founder of the women’s ministry Everyday Missionaries. Wife and homeschool mom to 6, she lives with her family in Washington, Louisiana. You can connect with her at www.everydaymissionaries.com or on Instagram.