Like many in my community, Jesus made His first appearance in my life – rather, I first opened my eyes to Him – at a Catholic youth event. This life-altering experience was the beginning of my lifelong commitment of faith to Christ.
Almost 300 youth and adults recently attended our diocesan Beyond the Limits Junior High Conference. That’s 300 adults and middle to junior high school youth who laughed, played games, learned more about our Catholic faith, an, ultimately, were able to have a personal encounter with Christ by simply stepping away for the weekend, and reserving that time for God. There’s ultimately one thing to know about retreats like this: teens to not come back the same. The Holy Spirit shows up, works on their hearts, and, regardless of the still-present eye rolls and clothes scattered all over the rooms – slowly begins to change the lives of these youth.
Because of this, it is crucial to follow up with them afterwards. As a youth minister, chaperone, parent, or adult volunteer, there are many things you can do to help your youth remain in tune with the workings of the Holy Spirit, and keep them coming back to Christ and His Church.
Have a follow-up meeting with them.
Your teen needs to be able to debrief and find the support they need to make any changes they feel that God is calling them to make after a conference like Beyond the Limits. It might be small changes or something along the lines of giving up a habitual sin. Whatever it is, your teens need the time and space to figure out what steps the Holy Spirit might be calling them to take.
If possible, check in with your teens once a month, and offer any advice or assistance as needed.
Get them connected to other ministries.
It’s important for teens and adults to be able to use their God-given gifts to serve the Church and their local communities. If your teen likes speaking, ask them if they would like to serve as a lector at Mass. If they are musically gifted, ask if they would like to join the choir. If they are gifted with younger children, ask if they would like to help in the Church nursery.
As younger teens, they often don’t realize the options available to them to be one of use to the larger community. A simple invite can open up a world of possibility to them.
Allow them to share their story.
I once heard that the greatest story you could ever tell is the story of Jesus; but, the second greatest story is the story of how you found Him. Give your youth a chance to tell their story. Reserve 2-5 minutes in their religion class at school, in their CCD class at church, or a few minutes after Mass to allow youth to share the story of their weekend experience. If that’s not possible or you have a teen who is more comfortable writing than speaking, reserve space in your parish bulletin or even on your church’s Facebook page for your teens to share just a paragraph outlining their experience and how they plan to continue their walk with Christ.
Help them to find supportive community.
Jesus sent His disciples out two by two, and He asks us to do the same today. It’s critical that your teens find a community of friends who they can grow with in the faith. Prayer and community in their own age group can tremendously help a pre-teen navigate the waters of junior high school, and find and develop their own relationship with Christ.
Retreat experiences can change your youth’s lives forever – in the best way possible. We will be praying for you – youth ministers, adult chaperones, moms and dads – during these trying weeks ahead, that we can build villages of community right where we are. For more information on future retreat dates, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.